SketchUp, SketchUp Pro
Comments 12

Changes for SketchUp Pro 2019

Shortly 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. UPDATE: SketchUp Pro Classic is now available for $695.

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.

The cut list for my Modern Kitchen Cupboard created via CutList.

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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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

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During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. I totally agree with everything you mentioned. I use it to flesh out ideas and get the dimensions correct. To see if everything will work or looks good. So the free version will be ok for that I guess. I do like messing around and getting somewhat realistic looks for materials which now you can’t do.
    I will use the old version for as long as we can. Have you looked into other options? Seems like most other options have a huge learning curve which is why I never went all in on Fusion. Thanks for looking into this for us, Jeff.

    • Not really. I looked very briefly at Fusion, but I am just too invested with SketchUp which is still a very good product. I hope the next upgrade for SketchUp Shop will fix the cut list issue. Even then, $119 for Shop is still something I’d have to justify.

  2. Hate to sound like an “old fart” here but I still use my left handed Vemco drafting machine for all of my designs and work. Yes it takes longer and doesn’t allow making changes once you’ve drawn it. But if technology advances like you point out and it always does I’m not left out. My son uses sketch-up and I’m amazed at what it can do but not sure he really understands the “nuts and bolts” of the design process. I think technology is great but if you don’t understand the basic principles of the process you really don’t know what you’re doing; just how to push buttons and/or enter formulas to accomplish a task. Just FYI, I used to teach woodshop (70’s-90’s) and we always started out drafting projects by hand to understand the relationship of parts and joinery before heading out to the shop.

    • Hey John, I agree. I used to draw scale front and side elevations of my projects as well as at least a partial full size front view where I drew joinery. And I still believe these have benefits, but I like SketchUp for detailed design work and the ability to easily change joinery among other things. I may, for the fun of it, try to draw my next project totally by hand and see how I like it. 🙂

      I just Googled the Vemco drafting machine since I am not familiar with it. Looks interesting.

  3. Great info. I have an older version on my computer that works just fine for my needs. I use often and only for very basic stuff. Paying more than $25 would kill my shop budget.

    • I know. You would have to be really into SketchUp (like me) to buy the Shop version. Most casual users would probably go with the Free version.

  4. Bill Glisson says

    Hi, Jeff! Excellent article! I’m with you 100% on this. In my opinion, the free web version will be especially disappointing for anyone who has ever used the desktop version and more than likely will be for most of those who haven’t experienced the adventure. Unless things have changed, the user is allowed to save only two models at a time. To save a third model, at least one of the first two has to be deleted. I have also found it to be frustratingly unstable and at times locking up, forcing me to close out my browser and beginning again. Also, many very basic features are no longer available in this free web version. “Disappointing” is the best I can describe my experience with it. During the entire time I used this version, I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t already used the desktop version, I would never pay for ANY higher version out of fear that it would be of the same quality as the Free version. And, based on my experience with the free web-based version, I have no confidence that the Shop web-based version will work any better. In my opinion, Trimble is making a huge marketing blunder using a meager web-based version as an introduction to their incredible flagship desktop version. Like other software makers have done, they should produce and market a single “desktop” product and allow users to purchase, or lease, additional levels to “turn on” features above their Free level. I must say, however, my experience with their 2017 desktop version has been nothing but absolutely incredible! Unfortunately, I also cannot justify the $299 desktop annual lease amount and I will not lease the Shop web version.

    • Hey Bill, I am trying to stay as positive as possible about SU Free and Shop. I have used the Free version and as you say, after using the SU Make 2017, the free version does so little that it is not a consideration for me. I don’t like the idea of a web-based anything so I am cautious about recommending with SU Free or Shop. And there is very little information about what you get with a SU Shop subscription that I think the marketing staff at SU is doing us a disservice. But maybe it isn’t as bad as all this and I am being too cynical. Time will tell.

  5. It is companies like Trimble that give Chinese copiests an incentive to make look-alikes. Essentially Trimble have taken freeware and not content with a modest profit, have under supported Mac versions and free versions which we the users have paid them to develop.and manipulated users into a rental deal which will; soon migrate into a pay as you go that is you click in and the meter starts running, only a few cents per minute to use but you will pay for every second that the computer is connected to their web. Bring on another developer who will reverse engineer this product and charge a modest amount. Stupid print regime that does not work, inability to change line colors or characteristics [centreline, dotted, dashed freehand style] a warehouse that is full of user free contributions, to name but a few will not make me attend their funeral.

    • Again, I don’t have an issue with Trimble charging for their products. I alluded to the fact that we had it pretty good for many years with a mostly fully functioning desktop version of SketchUp for free. But, SketchUp Pro is now more expensive than ever and the versions likely used by hobbyist woodworkers are incomplete. Especially if you have been using SketchUp Make 2017. Hopefully, SketchUp Shop will get better over time, but right now it is missing some features.

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