hortly after SketchUp announced their updates for SketchUp Pro 2019, I began thinking about the impact to the woodworking community. Then a few emails arrived from readers and I talked to others about the 2019 update. One thing is clear: SketchUp Pro is increasingly useful only for professionals. The weekend woodworker who happens to like creating furniture designs in SketchUp Pro will find the 2019 pricing plan hard to justify over the long run.
Is SketchUp Pro 2019 Viable for Weekend Woodworkers?
First, SketchUp has become a suite of products. Long time users will remember that the free version of SketchUp provided much of what a woodworker needed in a desktop 3D modeling solution. The only other option was the Pro version which added solid tools, (among other features) for SketchUp Pro and included two additional programs; a documentation product called Layout and a way to add illustrative looks to your model via Style Builder.
There is a saying that all good things come to an end, which isn’t always true, but it is with SketchUp. While you can still download SketchUp Make 2017 (the last of the free desktop versions of SketchUp), Trimble has been moving SketchUp to more of a web-based and subscription based product. There is SketchUp Free (web-based and free), SketchUp Shop (web-based with an annual subscription of $119) and SketchUp Pro 2019 (desktop/laptop with an annual subscription of $299). See the options for personal use here and the Pro options here. Those considering buying SketchUp Pro 2019 will notice that instead of one fixed purchase price, the Pro version is now an annual subscription. At $299 per year, the initial price is lower than the previous fixed price, but over time, SketchUp Pro becomes pretty expensive for the typical woodworker.
So let’s stop here for a moment. SketchUp woodworkers who like to use the CutList extension or any extension at all will have a hard time with these changes. I don’t use many extensions (extensions are software add ons which help automate complex tasks), but I use the CutList extension often. Extensions are only available with the Pro versions.
Woodworkers who like to add more realistic wood materials will find the current offering of SketchUp products disappointing because this ability is only available with the Pro versions. And I do this a lot and have written about such things at the SketchUp blog.
Fortunately, as an instructor at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I have a non-profit version of SketchUp Pro 2018 which is very reasonable. But, otherwise, I think the weekend woodworker will find an annual subscription of $299 per year a deal breaker (unless you are blessed with some extra money). Just think long-term – about $900 over a three-year period is a lot to ask weekend woodworker to pay.
So we have the free version and SketchUp Shop. I could see using the free version to supplement a 2D drawing on graph paper. For example, draw scale front and side elevations of a potential furniture project and then work out the details with SketchUp Free. This is doable, but for me, SketchUp Free is too limiting.
For SketchUp Shop, you get some pretty good features, but if I am going to pay for a semi-pro version of SketchUp, I’d like to have a software product which is more comprehensive for woodworking. A built-in cut list generator which creates not only a printable cut list, but also a printable material cutting diagram is a must have and a GLARING OMISSION in SketchUp Shop. There is a web page at the SketchUp site which shows a pretty weak attempt at making a cut list, and no mention of a material cutting diagram. See below…
Concerning realistic materials, I could get by with the built-in, basic materials found in SketchUp Free and Shop. One thing I am playing around with is actually hand coloring my SketchUp images. But, Trimble could at least include a couple more decent wood materials.
The New Feature
SketchUp Pro 2019 adds a much-needed line option which enables dashed lines. I have created these in the past through a tedious series of steps, so this upgrade is a nice addition. See the video below…
Beyond that, there are stability improvements and integration with other Trimble products/services (read more here). SketchUp staffers will tell you these structural upgrades are very significant, but for me, I’m not having speed or stability problems. So, no big deal really.
I have no problem with SketchUp’s pricing plan for their Pro versions. But SketchUp Shop, the best current option for woodworkers is incomplete. I highly recommend woodworkers download the free and older SketchUp Make 2017 while you still can (link above). Sadly, this means that I view none of the current versions as being ideal for woodworkers.
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