SketchUp 7.1 has landed!

Yayyy!!! A new version!

Software updates are always exciting… New features are to be explored, new capabilities exploited for as-yet unknown projects. Contrary to Autodesk’s religious update schedule, Google has been only somewhat regular in providing updates. But alas, announced by today’s blog post by John Bacus, SketchUp’s project manager, the new version of SketchUp is here. And it’s a free upgrade to every Pro 7 user! (This also means that my Boulder-visit-induced gag-order has been lifted)

So what’s new in SketchUp? Let’s summarize what’s on this page.

  • A new rendering engine
    This is a major improvement to the way we can work with SketchUp. Apparently the developers replaced SketchUp’s display system with something much more efficient. Large models now handle better and if too much is being moved around visually, the view degrades and usability is preserved. This is happening concurrent to Google Earth’s rendering upgrades, making both applications much more responsive.
    My only (remaining) problem is that selecting lots of elements still slows down everything. 



    1000 Barrels
    10,000 Barrels


  • More reliable UI
    There is now a “reset workspace” button that cleans tool window placement up (for people with large monitors). Ahhh… peace! Update: My toolbars still get messed up every once in a while. Argghh…
  • Addition of COLLADA im-/export (DAE, KMZ). Removal of DWG/DXF im-/exporter (in the free version)
    While the added COLLADA exchange option is a good addition to SketchUp’s im-/export capabilities, removing the DWG/DXF exchange from the free version will cause (and has already caused) a bit of a pickle for some users. I’ll post some workarounds in a bit but this shouldn’t be too much of an issue in most cases since so many 3D converter apps are available out there. And someone (not me!) could still write a DXF import/export plugin…
  • Get Photo Texture
    This is a neat addition to the 3D texturing toolset. As you can see in the video above, facades can be identified from StreetView imagery and then applied as images to buildings.
    The main drawback of this tool is that in many cases, only portions of a building are clearly visible in StreetView (Amherst has 1 street in StreetView). However, the selection box placement tool is very sleek in the dialog – and much easier to use for novices than the classic “position texture” tool. 



    Photo texture window
    Photo texture window


  • Upload Component
    It is now possible to upload a single component rather than having to upload the entire model. This basically removes the steps of exporting portions of a file into a clean file and then uploading that file. Easier is better!
  • Nearby Models
    When modeling a city or a neighborhood, the user can now search for existing models in the 3D warehouse that are within a certain radius of the current position. This is useful for loading context models or for seeing what people have already modeled (to avoid duplicates).
    Apparently this tool uses the following undocumented 3D Warehouse search (sample shown – with 300 in meters):
    “near:42.391346,-72.524920 within:300
  • write_image() method in the Web Dialog class in Ruby
    This extension to the Ruby scripting toolset has the potential to be very useful. It basically allows to acquire the current WebDialog view as an image. This method is used currently for the “Get Photo Texture” window. How about a texture imported for common texture websites? Any takers…
    You can find an example for using this method in the file “webtextures_loader.rb” in the Tools sub-directory (starting at line 519).
  • Disable Update Service
    This will be very helpful for our lab installations. There’s nothing more annoying than having to click away the update notifier for at least 1/2 year.

The changes in LayOut are:

  • Dimensions!
    You can now use dimensions on your sheets (rather than only within the SketchUp model). To enable this, you can now also snap to the SketchUp model’s elements – quite simiar to how associative dimensions work in AutoCAD. With this final addition, SketchUp Pro is now at par for many users with much bigger and more expensive 3D modeling / 2D annotating software.
  • Improved freehand tool
    You can now draw freely and get smooth lines. Where’s my Wacom when I want to try this…
  • Improvements to lists, grid display and copy/paste
  • More on LayOut here

Overall these are a lot of great new features that should help not only the 3D building modeler, but also the professional user of SketchUp. I also very much appreciate the new Product Ideas feedback system – something that was called for multiple times.

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