3D Warehouse Grows up: Collaborative Design with SketchUp

Revision tracking in Google's 3D Warehouse
Revision tracking in 3D Warehouse

Reading the latest announcement from the Google SketchUp Blog, I feel that 3D Warehouse has now ascended to a whole new level – namely the realm of collaborative 3D design.

So far, 3D Warehouse has been a great addition to Google’s SketchUp software product. Designers can share 3D models, assembly plans and a whole lot more in a central, searchable and browsable location. Also, building and other component manufacturers have added design specifications for their products which in turn enables seamlessly embedding them into the planning process. Even entire cities have been “archived” in 3D using the Warehouse. And now comes collaborative design.

To understand its usefulness, imagine a case where several planners work on a 3D object, let’s say a building. Using collaborative design, each one of them can add components and refine the object in an iterative process. After each change, the entire 3D model gets saved to a central location, where all of the revisions remain accessible and can be browsed and taken as starting point for future modifications. Thanks to Google’s recent update to the 3D Warehouse, this is now possible. You can see a sample of the revision process in the image above.

Edit the model

So how does this work? Quite easy in fact. Once you create something in SketchUp, upload it to the 3D Warehouse. Do this using the “Share Model” button on the toolbar. After it is saved, you’ll find a few menu items right above the preview image in the Warehouse. Click on “Share” and make sure “Make this model publicly-editable” is checked. That’s it!

When someone wants to edit your model, all they have to do is click on “Edit Model” and then re-upload it to the warehouse after editing. You as the model owner will have to approve the change and then it gets added to the history stack in the Warehouse.

If you want to limit the editing rights to a small group of people, then don’t check this box and rather invite everyone as collaborators. In essence, Google applied a similar functionality here as is available for Google Docs.

So far, this addition looks very promising. One added feature that is lacking at this point but would be immensely useful would be branching in the history tree. Right now, there is no option to modify one of the older versions and thereby start a new “branch” or version of the design. A new version always uses the latest revision as starting point. Once this gets implemented, then design variations become a possibility.

Furthermore, a visual “Diff” feature would be useful. Similar to Google Docs or a Wiki, it would be helpful to be able to compare two SketchUp files and then display the changed portions (maybe highlighted in red). But in any case, what is available now in the Warehouse is a great new tool.

Click the image below to browse my sample (and modify it if you like):

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