The free Google SketchUp 7 provides 3D power that would be extraordinary at any price, but its export options are restricted. If you want to be able to output to other 2D and 3D formats, or to MOV and AVI video, you’ll have to pay for SketchUp 7 Pro.
These wider export capabilities remain SketchUp Pro 7’s main selling point but, with this release, Google has also added a selection of Pro-only features.
The first of these features is the ability to turn traditional components into dynamic ones, using the new Component Attributes panel. The resulting dynamic component can be quickly configured by any SketchUp user, via the Component Options panel or the Scale and Interact tools. You can also tag components with metadata – such as part number and cost – which can then be used to generate reports.
The second major new capability comes in the form of the separate Style Builder application. Here, you can load up lines of various sizes – they need to have been previously scanned and saved – to create a custom hand-drawn look for your models. Presenting a plan as a sketch makes it seem more flexible, human and attractive.
The final element in SketchUp Pro 7 is another standalone application, LayOut 2. It’s a 2D drawing partner to SketchUp’s 3D modeller and this version sees a comprehensive overhaul. Major changes include a reworked Line tool, support for text blocks, improved onscreen feedback and in-place editing of groups.
What makes LayOut unique is its ability to host embedded SKP models, to rotate and zoom them in 3D space, and to control their appearance by swapping between preset output styles. The biggest advance is the ability to choose between bitmap and vector rendering. Even better, you can now “explode” embedded models that enable bitmap renderings to be edited externally and vector renderings to be tweaked in-situ.
The free Google SketchUp is great for creating your models, but Google SketchUp Pro 7 lets you take them far further and in many different creative directions. For professionals in particular, it’s well worth the outlay.