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SketchUp 2014 Review

SketchUp 2014, the 10th major release of your favourite 3D tool, builds on last year's foundations and begins to give us a clearer picture of where SketchUp is headed under Trimble.

We have had some extra hands on time prior to it's release and we have a full review on SketchUp Pro 2014 outlining all the new features, improvements and what exactly has been super-charged

What's New?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of SketchUp itself let's look at what externally has changed and the first major change is to the 3D Warehouse. Over the years the 3D warehouse has been a place to source all types of 3D content from Mies van der Rohe Barcelona Chairs to Klingon Battle Cruisers but it hasn't really seen an overhaul in a few years....until now!

New 3D Warehouse

Upload 50MB SketchUp files directly from your browser

The 3D Warehouse has been completely rebuilt and it shows. Not only does it look gorgeous but it is now much easier to use and it now allows you to do direct uploads from your web browser. With the added goodness of uploads as large as 50MB the 3D Warehouse is now a potentially serious collaboration tool for large projects.

New look 3D Warehouse for SketchUp 2014
New features in the 3D Warehouse
  • Infinite scrolling
  • Larger Thumbnails
  • Place models and collections in nested collections
  • Better statistics on your models
  • Integrated WebGL viewer

Now that SketchUp have completely migrated away from Google we also notice that certain features have being dropped for the time being.

Features removed from the 3D Warehouse
  • 5 star rating system
  • Post un-downloadable models
  • Keep multiple model versions
  • Invite individual collaborators
3D Warehouse

Overall, the revamp of the 3D Warehouse is well executed and reaffirms SketchUp's intentions to provide a platform to share, showcase and store your 3D content. Mixed with the better search facility, larger uploads and presentation ability it is fair to say the 3D Warehouse is now a very necessary part of the SketchUp experience.

What's new in SketchUp 2014?

So to the big news of the day...SketchUp 2014 is out! As already mentioned, this marks a milestone in SketchUp's life, the big 1-0. This 10th release of our favourite 3D modeling application has brought with some new features, bug fixes and some welcome surprises.

New tools in SketchUp 2014

The two most notable additions initially are the new Classifier tool and the additional Arc tools. Anyone currently entrenched in BIM will see and reap the benefits of having the ability to both import and export models with inherited metadata. The Classifier allows SketchUp to provide a pipeline to other building information modeling (BIM) tools.

So what does the Classifier do? In short the tool will allow you to tag geometry (groups or components) with industry standard object types: walls, slabs, columns, floors etc., to facilitate interoperability in BIM based projects. SketchUp uses it's own .skc file for importing of Industry Foundation Classes(IFC) data as well as the import of .xsd file types.

New Classifier tool for SketchUp 2014

SketchUp uses modifier keys whilst using the Classifier tool to aid the tagging procedure. Holding SHIFT makes components unique prior to tagging, holding ALT/COMMAND toggles Picker mode. You can also add classification to objects through the Entity Info panel.

To supplement this new classification system in SketchUp you can now export your tagged models to .ifc file format to be used in other BIM applications. This will be a big bonus for anyone who found themselves reworking SketchUp models in Revit, Archicad etc. It will be interesting to see how users adopt to this new workflow and if we see user generated classification systems?

New IFC export for SketchUp 2014

Next are the new Arc tools, Pie and Arc, that bring further workflow improvements to the drawing experience in SketchUp. Whilst we have had this functionality via plugins already the implementation in SketchUp 2014 is well executed. Use of the Protactor and inferencing engine make drawing arcs at any conceivable orientation a breeze and it closely bridges the toolsets already available in LayOut. Hopefully future releases will see more tools available in LayOut transitioning to SketchUp and vice versa.

New Arc Drawing tools for SketchUp 2014

One area of SketchUp that sees a huge leap is in the shadow engine. SketchUp 2014 now chews through large models with shadows set to display. The optimizations to the shadow engine can yield up to 15x better performance which is a considerable increase to say the least. While the polycount threshold for SketchUp remains the same this shadow improvement does make presentations of models to clients a nicer experience overall.

UI improvements to SketchUp 2014

Those that upgraded to SketchUp 2013 will know that the UI got a major rework that fixed the long standing 'Toolbar Chaos' scenario on Windows. Well SketchUp have listened to the user feedback and reinstated the 'stacked' toolbar we had post-SketchUp 2013 for the Large Toolset.

The new nested toolsets are a big improvement. Not only do we enjoy some new drawing tools but we have them compiled to save workspace real estate. Again this is something we have already enjoyed in LayOut and it is great to see it finally added to SketchUp.

New nested Toolset in SketchUp 2014

Other new features are mainly cosmetic- like icon re-sizing, renaming of some 'View' menu entries, exporter tweaks for AutoCad 2013 and other bugs fixes.

Overall SketchUp 2014 Pro builds on last years foundations and the additional tools and improvements are most welcome. This release certainly adds to the 'under the hood' improvements of last year with nice and shiny hood ornaments and some turbo-charging!

What's new in LayOut 2014?

New in LayOut 2014

As ever LayOut just keeps getting better and better with each release. This time we see further improvements to the 'AutoCad Killer' that really show how commited SketchUp are to making LayOut the best 2D drafting and presentation tool available.

New tools in LayOut 2014

Auto-Text Tool in LayOut 2014

Auto Text allows the user to add text tags that update automatically. You can define custom tags, or use one of the presets ones such as  and place them in your document. Any update to a tag will update all related tags, similar to components in SketchUp. Another text related addition is the how the Label Tool now respects Components labelling in the same manner that the Text Tool does in SketchUp. Labeling in LayOut is pre-populated with the assigned name from your SketchUp models. Big time saver!

Auto-Text Tool in LayOut 2014

Auto-Text Tool insertion in LayOut 2014

How you rotate entities has also changed with Rotation Inferencing available in LayOut. You can now snap to any entity in the document and it respects endpoints, midpoints and center points of that entity.

Rotation Inferencing in LayOut 2014

New improvements to LayOut 2014

LayOut can now use your GPU to improve vector rendering. SketchUp say the performance improvement can be between 10x to 100x faster. Basically the more obscured faces you have the better the rendering performance as LayOut is only investing it's time rendering what it sees. Of course, you still need to be prudent with what you throw at LayOut, asking it the vector render some hi-poly trees is not advised but for plan, elevation and sections the speed improvement is definitely noticeable.

Another speed boost comes from how LayOut handles the Active Layer. Previously, LayOut reloaded the whole document each time there was a change to the Active Layer whereas in LayOut 2014 only the current page reloads. A small alteration but one that yields further performance increases in your documents.

What's new Under the Hood?

Ruby 2.0 in SketchUp 2014

Probably the biggest change is the implementation of Ruby 2.0. Moving from Ruby 1.8 to 2.0 will mean that some of the current plugins/extensions available will no longer work in SketchUp 2014 but the fix to get them working is a slight rewrite. But what is exciting about the migration to Ruby 2.0 is the glut of new classes and methods SketchUp have added. This will mean the possibility of new plugins and extensions for areas of SketchUp that were not possible before.

There is also the relocation of the Plugins folder from Program Files(PC) installation area to the AppData area. What this means is that the troublesome Security Issues previously encountered are a thing of the past. This makes installing plugins and extensions into SketchUp less of a chore and more of an afterthought.

Ruby Console in SketchUp 2014

The Ruby Console has also being given an upgrade in that it now accepts multi line entries and it is also faster when it comes to writing errors to the console. As with the previous release, SketchUp 2014 it still very much building on the premise to provide developers a platform from which to develop custom tools and applications that will extend SketchUp's abilities.

The Verdict on SketchUp 2014....

As with every SketchUp release it is the whole that is greater than the sum of it's parts. Whilst we don't see huge performance leaps within SketchUp itself we do see some major rewrite of the core to introduce new possibilities. But the most standout elements are the revised toolbars with nested tools, shadow improvements and the migration to Ruby 2.0.

From a developers perspective SketchUp 2014 has opened up it's innards to make even more possible. That is only good news for end users. Along with the core changes and new API methods we get new exporters, UI improvements, new tools and a much better 3D Warehouse with larger file uploads.

LayOut is turning into more of a beast with each release. Performance enhancements are eeked out, new tools introduced and tighter integration with SketchUp features all playing a role to make the drafting and presentation element second to none.

Overall SketchUp 2014 is solid. New features, improvements and lots of potential to be extended in the future. It does leave you with one obvious question....what will SketchUp announce at this year's 3D Basecamp?


About the Author

rich O'Brien

This article was written by 

Rich is SketchUcation's Managing Director and Certified SketchUp Trainer. He has a background in aviation technical training and is also the editor of CatchUp WebMag