Google's New Free CAD software: Want to Collaborate?

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There was a previous posting "Free Version of SketchUp" on 4/27; however, I'm starting a new thread because I think woodworkers who have any experience with diagramming software or CAD may not have realized the significance of the event: Google making available a free version of SketchUp and the fact that Google is behind it. (Maybe there always has been a free version and it just didn't catch my attention? Any rate, with Google associated with it, this is going to have some staying power.)
I was unaware of SketchUp until three days ago and have spent several hours exploring its capabilities and the Ruby API to determine what may be possible with Google's free version. Basically, I've concluded this offering by Google could be a significant event for woodworkers who are computer literate and connected to the Internet. I believe this is one of those programs where collaboration by woodworkers could prove to be something pretty significant and give Google a "Bravo!" for making this available in conjunction with a repository for sharing work.
What I'd like to do is determine how many people who read this newsgroup are actually interested in using SketchUp and collaborating on building some common components. By collaborating, I'm thinking of things such as have small components, e.g. mortise-tenon joints, dovetail joints, profiles of router cutters and other basic type components to create models from. One project that comes to mind very quickly is taking a lumber cut list in Microsoft Excel and having the final cut pieces automatically generated in SketchUp for assembly; and possibly, vice-versa -- design the components/model and then export them to Excel for a cut list.
If you think you might be interested in SketchUp and designing in it, would you please email me with the subject line: "SketchUp rec.woodworking" and a brief comment on your impressions with SketchUp and if you do any programming and would be interested in discussing what stuff could be created that caters to woodworkers. I'd really like to know if there are only a handful of people whom this might interest, or if the numbers go into the tens, or even possibly hundreds. I'll reply post to this thread with a count of responses as may be appropriate. Please ignore this request after June 30, 2006.
Email to: snipped-for-privacy@sbcglobal.net subject line: SketchUp rec.woodworking
Hope I'm not alone in being excited about this significant event, I've been thinking about a software package to design with, I used several in the early 1990s and just found them to be too cumbersome, so this was a welcomed "freebie", especially since I can collaborate.
John Poole
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John L. Poole wrote: <snip>
I should have included links:
http://www.sketchup.com/index.php?id 39 and http://sketchup.google.com /
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On Mon, 01 May 2006 03:18:43 GMT, "John L. Poole"

I played with it a bit. I got stuck trying to figure out how to get a profile to wrap around 4 sides of an object. Ie, I wanted to put a roundover on all edges. After the first side I couldn't drag the profile all the way to the edge. There must be a way around that but I couldn't figure it out in the time I spent.
Plus it doesn't seem to like working with anything less than 1/4". It'll do it, but you have to correct everything typing it in.
-Leuf
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John,
FYI.
I don't know if you saw the following links from within the SketchUp website, so here they are:
http://www.sketchucation.com/index.htm and http://www.sketchup.com/?sid8 Scroll down to find Woodworking info in each link.
They also have their own forums there as well. Hope this helps.
Peter.
subject line: SketchUp rec.woodworking

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Perfect. I was unaware of sketchucation.com. The woodworking forum therein is very much what I was contemplating. And they have a Ruby forum under the Pro Users forum.
Peter, thank you.
Peter Bogiatzidis wrote:

<snip>
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On 4/30/06, John L. Poole wrote:

Just an update: As of May 6 (about 7 days since the original posting) I have had two people contact me.
In the meantime, I have verified that SketchUp (through its Ruby Interpreter) can, with some tweaking, communicate with Microsoft Excel (and any other OLE compliant program such as MS Word, Photoshop, InDesign -- haven't tested the latter three, but I'm confident I can access/manipulate these programs as may be desired). So, a Cutlist Microsoft Excel spreadsheet based on Making a Cutlist, in the March/April 2005 issue of Fine Woodworking (#176) downloadable at:
http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworking/pages/w00166.asp
could be a source of model parts within SketchUp. Perhaps this is overkill?
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...

I downloaded and played with it, and I agree it's darned good as a freebie and a fully capable piece of softare w/r to doing what it says it will do. I'm actually impressed with many of its features and although it's no full blown CADD, it is indeed capable of almost all woodworking chores what would be required of it.
However, I'm not inclined to e-mail the poster, nor do I think it's wise to put all my eggs into that basket for the following reasons: -- I don't e-mail strangers I don't know, nor do I give out personal info of any kind online; all for obvious reasons. I might however be tempted to do so anonymously on a web site. -- At $500 a pop for retail, that's way over the top. The freebie version is obviously a great idea IFF it's not used as a bait & switch down the road, which is where I think it's headed. -- I don't see the freebie version lasting much longer. If an installed base can be confirmed, then the freebie will go to a pay-for version. So if you really like the freebie version, archive it for the future or you may be sorry. -- It's only an opinion, but I think it's being used as a puller and if enough people can be talked into creating design works in a proprietary format, they will be forced to either abandon those designs or spend the money to upgrade to the $495 full version. I saw some hype that claims it exports to common CADD formats, but I don't see anything in the freebie version. IF it's there, I haven't found it yet. Maybe I just missed it? Don't think so, but I've done stupid things like that before. The only export I've found is to .PNG graphic format. -- Another thing that bothers me is I get a Firewall alert every time I use it where it's trying to call home - I don't know what that's about. Maybe it's just trying for update info - but I don't -know- that.
-- All that said, I do have to admit that it's a pretty darned good implementation and so far bug free.
The above are some of the issues I'd have to see addressed before I'd seriously doing anything but playing with it.
Regards,
Pop
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I don't know. The cad app I usually use is near double that though it is real cad.

Doubt it's a bait and switch but they are trying to get you to buy the full version.

Good advice. There probably will be a time when it's no longer free.

Definatly. Several years ago, one of the major cad companies put out a very good, functional freeby. I messed around with it a bit but never used it for much as I knew that they were just trying to get you on the hook. It had to be registered on a regular basis or it would not run. Registration was free but I knew that a time would come when it quite working and they would say you had to buy the full version. The price was in the several thousand dollar range. No way.

I know it will export to dwg but not sure what other formats. Yes, that is only in the pay version.

Yes, it has an auto update feature.

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There is ZERO confrontational attitude in any of my response; only food for thought comments. We're all allowed our opines and such. That said:

Well, it's not really a "real" CAD(D) program, either. It's a pretty good conept, and though it can do a lot, Pro and freebie both, it is not a full blown CAD application for where those strengths would be required. Maybe someday it WILL be, but ... you can pretty much bet that the price will more than double if/when it gets to that point, and it will begin to stumble all over itself as any complex application does. From what I read that you get with the "Pro" $495 version, you aren't gaining much except the ability to actually use some real world (as in compatability with) importing/exporting and a few esoteric functions that may or may not be of value. The freebie, good as it is, is actually IMO nothing more than a good morphing engine with a couple of decent libraries tagged onto it. I AM surprised at the omission of real bugs in it though! If they continued with THAT history, user groups aside, they would definitely command a unique place in the market! But right now, it's my opinion that the $500 is way too high for what it does; they're ahead of themselves in that I see no use of the freebie version other than as a demo, which they aren't claiming it to be. Or even a Beta, for that matter. I don't know that I'd use it for ground to sky design of a house or anything larger, but it really is a pretty good woodworking tool and this will get them noticed. I admit that. Add to this my previous comments and I still feel pretty sure of my stance on it.

No, I actually think it's a form of bait & switch. It likely is headed for a $1200 or higher price tag, and if they can keep it rolling for one or two years they'll be able to, as they are presently attempting, build a fair installed base of their software. In a couple of years, things are goign to look awfully different, and if you are sufficiently embroiled in their app, you'll almost have to buy their product or go through a large investment to sidestep it. To me, that's not acceptable, and that's also why I think it should be calling the freebie a demo or Beta version; it is not what they want to sell, but they are working at getting people to become vested in the software. Today's CAD packages, and CADD packages, are all sufficiently skilled at reading each other's works where I suspect a lot of proprietory control is SU's future. I also suspect that Google may well sell it off again in a few years; they are good at the spin & collect operations there.

Yeah, like I said, it actually is a pretty good app for personal work, and not too hard a learning curve. They did do some thinking outside the box, that's for certain.

Hmm, I missed that one. My route was Generic CAD, then AutoCad and then for personal use TurboCad, which seems to interface nicely with everyone else, at least in the instances where i needed it to. I stopped at TC 7 though, finding the following versions to be more fluff than meat, and then retired. So, 7 it is, for me! I had a chance at Acad cheap, but passed on it, as I did with the dBCAD for modelling when they were trying to push it.

Anyway, them's my musings fer tadoy, sich 'sitis. For a $199 full blown Pro version and three free upgrades to the freebie, a bit more internal visibility without giving away the store, I'd be able to get a lot more behind them. From a lifetime of work, I can say this one thing with confidence: Beware the entrepreneur - 99% of them are a flash in the pan and missing a grounding in reality. The real trick's to support them to the hilt, and then bail just before they do and you'll make a buck; but don't follow them too far! Of course, I missed out once, big time, and tried to get back in too late! Ouch! <G> But the other times worked out well enough.
Regards,
Pop
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Pop wrote:

Such as...?

It is a complex application - it just has a simple interface. I believe it started life as a Mac program. It has a similarly simple interface and is surprisingly stable.

Morphing engine? I don't follow - what does that mean?
As far as the Pro version having only a limited number of additional features, I'd think that would you make you more impressed with the free version. As far as the Pro version being worth the five bills, visit the Sketchup forums and see what people have to say. The only people that seem to have issues with it are people who are used to kludgy, grown-from-DOS CAD programs - and that because they don't understand some areas where Sketchup varies from most CAD program interfaces.
Those few additional esoteric functions provide export/import features, landscape tools, and the ability to create video. The first video I did for a client paid for the program and shut up the neighbor (who was talking to her lawyer about how the planned project would decrease her property value). I emailed the video to the client, she burned a CD, handed it to the neighbor who then promptly decided that the improvement was an improvement and stopped talking to the lawyer. What's that worth?

It is an amazingly bug free program. I think it's crashed on me once in a year of use, and that was because I'd seriously overextended my system resources.

I agree with the sentiment on the present state of current CAD programs' "improvements". Autodesk takes the cake. More expensive, and more frequent, "upgrades".
If you've ever searched the internet for a CAD detail drawing, you can obviously see the benefit of having a free, searchable online database. It seems to me that is the real value of the whole Sketchup/Google collaboration.

I suppose you could classify Google as a flash in the pan - but it's an awfully big flash in a stunningly large pan. Sketchup has also been around for a number of years and is on its fifth version. In that time they've attracted a loyal following and garnered enough attention of one of the 900 pound gorillas of the computer world to be bought out. Google isn't Microsoft who buys competitors to reduce competition (can anyone say Stanley Tools?). I don't know that Google is so short-sighted as to feel that they'd need to resort to what you call bait and switch. More likely they'd have a business model like Google Earth. A free version and a more powerful version available for sale or, more likely, subscription.
But be that as it may, I for one am not against someone making a profit as long as they provide value or a service. Sketchup is a valuable tool and tied into Google Earth is an incredible service. You are free, or course, to be skeptical of Google's motives and the value of the software. In the same way that I will let people know if I like or dislike a tool or technique, I'm just pointing out that there's a lot of value and power behind the tool in question - whether it's free or purchased.
R
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I's a little lengthy and since you indicated, I think, you're familiar with the workings of AutoCad et al, I'm sure you're probably aware. That said, if you're really curious and I've misread your expertise, let me know the area/s you're intrested in and we can discuss capabilities, or lack thereof, that way. However if all you're interested in is a challenge to see if you can figure out how to do everything another program can do, I don't consider that productive. So I'll leave the choice up to you at this point. What I will say, and I think they pulled off quite a coupe with it, is they managed to take many of the steps of most CAD programs, and combine things so it's very easy to initiate a 3-D model and manipulate it. I've mentioned it to a few friends and they think the freebie is just great, and I'd have to agree with them. In my case, I like the way they've handled the Z axis and how easy it is to manipulate it fairly accurately; it's a short learning curve and almost intuitive where it isn't on the other CADs until you get used to them. So, don't say I'm wrong; I'm not saying it's no good; it definitely is a good program. The point I want to make though, is simply reality; and those are the points I've made.
...

Sorry; Morphing is simply the ability to distort something either randomly or accurately, usually with the mouse. Technically "morph" means various distinct forms of an organism or species, but in sofware it has come to mean the ability to morph shapes into different shapes.

Yeah, I have to agree on that one; very unusual in this day and age. If they can keep that up, they'd sell product almost based on just that one piece of information!
...

I'm not sure I understand that comment. There is a huge amount of CAD detail drawings spread all over the net and there has been for a long time, at least a decade in my experience. Same for converters, which work to varying degrees as I found out on one particular project <g>. Collaboration is good sometimes, and valuable occasionally, I agree. But, there is a plethora of "stuff" already out there. I didn't look beyond the first page of results, but using cad +symbols +download +free at Google got many many pages of hits for free symbols and libraries, which I assume are what you mean by detail drawings. A symbol is nothing but a CAD drawing for re-use. Often they are very, very detailed drawings.
...

Lol, no, I wouldn't consider Google a flash in the pan but that's an interesting description! They've been around quite awhile and I don't mind them making money - for the most part they've done it right.
Sketchup has also been

That I didn't know. It looks like it came from Paintlib, or something like that, back in the late 90's, but I never heard of that either. I DID just notice the Title line says "Beta" which I also didn't notice before; wish I had. THAT makes a lot of sense and puts a lot of things into perspective. I did notice the rev was 5.x.x.x. something though.
In that time

I've never heard of them, so I'd say they haven't attracted the attention publicly very much but rather a (probably) lucrative nitch. Your keen loyalty did however cause me to do a bit of research. going to http://www.sketchup.com/index.php?id 39 is a worthwhile trip and seems to give a little better, more accurate, and better spin on things than Google has done with its rename. There, I also found an easily visible, clear and concise description of what the free/pro versions do. If you haven't already, check it out; it's worth reading. There are all the answers to all the questions I had about the program. If they're on Google (and I don't doubt they are), they're hard to find compared to the single-click it took me to go to it at the link above. This freebie version appears to be the first "full blown" freebie, and it came about as a result of the Google purchase. Now, being Google, who "doesn't do cad", I had to wonder at their intentions, vs the stated intentions of the original programmers. Good money was paid for it by Google, and an even larger return is expected. I would even go so far as to label the freebie version a Very Good. But, it's a bait & switch in that it's not going to remain free, Betas in the future revs won't go out in very large numbers, the Beta's aren't going to be updateable, may ot even be worth a discounted upgrade price, and the idea is to create an installed base which will in turn switch to the retail version. I also suspect their target audience is not aware of that, and thus my view of the bait & switch arena. This isn' the first time that's been done and it won't be the last, either. My only real objection is that whatever the future plans are, their audience (installing base) is not being advised of that. Reading Google gives me no comfort in the future for the application. All that said, if I'm wrong, the people WILL speak, and the owners of the Pro versions, having spent their money, will make the noises that decides a lot of purchases and a lot of the future reputation of hte product.

Agreed, definitely. Deserved profits can never be a problem in most cases.
Sketchup is a valuable

Well, "valuable tool" by itself, is a little wide of a paint brush there IMO. I DO believe they've indentified an excellent niche market for those wishing to get into semi-serious space-modeling (3-D modelling) without knowing what it is or even what it's called; especiallly those not realizing the difference between CAD and CADD, or even in recognizing when they are misused. CADD is defined, in our use here: Computer-Aided Design & Drafting While CAD is defined as EITHER Computer Aided Drafting (usual use) OR, Computer Aided Design. Which is applicable and which context to use is dependent on the context, so most people get pretty well lost in it and consider them the same thing.

No problem; everyone is entitled to their own opinions and I can see you're loyal to the product, which also is not a problem.
In the same way that I will let people know if I like or

And I'm simply taking it one step further since value and power are so often time dependent and rely on tomorrow still needing the particular power/value w/r to the cost; "cost" meaning the overall, not just the dollars and cents. I'm not trying to change your mind at all, you know. Actually, I've found this little "debate" or exchange of ideas, whatever you wish to call it, a pleasant and mind-invoking pleasure. It's great mental exercise for me too, as I'm still recovering from a serious brain concussion about 5 years ago and have a pretty serious learning ability so discussions such as this go a long ways toward helping me recover. It's been about 5 years now and I'm finally beginning to get almost back to normal, at least with the written word, and as I see it<G>: ymmv of course! ... Regards,
Pop
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You seem to have missed my point. Lets try again. "I don't know, the cad app that I use is near double that though it (the app that I use) is real cad.

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Pop wrote:

I've been using it for about a year, and I'm still finding out stuff about it. It truly is a piece of beautiful software. The interface is very clean with relatively few buttons and functions apparent, but a lot of power hides underneath it. There's an amazing group of people on the Sketchup forums that are incredibly helpful and are constantly improving its functionality by writing Ruby scripts. It's in the middle ground of open source and proprietary software.

$500 is way over the top? I guess you aren't familiar with Autodesk products.

That's one scenario. A more likely scenario is trying to find a way to take a chunk out of the Autocad pie. Autocad is the industry standard in many industries. Trying to work your way from the top down is tough. Starting a grassroots campaign and work your way up is a lot easier.

You didn't miss it. The export functions and saving in different formats is in the pro version.

People have no problem dropping a few hundred on a good tool. This is a good tool.
R
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I doubt seriously that the developers of Sketchup had any ideas of trying to compete with Autocad. There is no comparison. Sketchup, as it's name suggests, is meant for quick concept and presentation drawings. It has no facility to do the detail drafting needed for construction plans.

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In a prior posting, John L. Poole wrote with the subject "Google's New Free CAD software: Want to Collaborate?":

Ouch!
When I went to start up Sketchup yesterday, I received a dialog box titled "Google Sketchup Update Service" that contained the following text: "Your version of Google SketchUp has expired. Please upgrade now." with a single button "Download Now". There was no "Cancel" button. If I clicked the "Download Now" button, Sketchup would close and my default browser would be taken to SketchUp's download site.
I launched SketchUp again hoping I could bypass the dialog box and just run SketchUp... even if my software was not current, I wanted to run it rather than go through the process of downloading a new version. I clicked the upper right "X" corner of the window. The dialog box closed... and so did SketchUp.
My conclusion based on these two scenarios is that SketchUp was automatically crippled based on my computer time/date. I saw one posting referring to this as a "forced upgrade."
When I downloaded Sketchup back in April, there was no indication that this software would expire on a date certain. Their current download does not disclose such now.
This kind of date-activate auto-crippling leaves the possibility that your inventory of designs is usable at the pleasure of the licensor who may determine that it is time for you to pay some sort of license fee. They could also decide that they no longer want to offer what they label as a "Free" version, leaving only their commercial version for those who wish to use SketchUp or access work product saved in the SketchUp proprietary format. The industry practice for offering software that has a limited time running ability is to disclose that it operates for a limited time, e.g. "Expires after 30 days". No such disclosure was, or is being made, here. Why is that?
Since I wanted to continue work on my current drawing, I downloaded the newer beta version. When I did, I recalled seeing something on the download page to the effect of "If you enjoyed the Free version of Sketchup, then consider buying the professional version". I just visited the download page now (hours later) and do not find that cheeky suggestion.
As I prepared this posting, I uninstalled the new version and reinstalled the older version. When I launched the reinstalled older version, I was immediately met with the same scenario: I could not get SketchUp to run other than to inform me the software was out of date. I did this reinstall to see if maybe an election I may have had made to keep the software current might be at play. I then uninstalled the older version to see what configuration files, if any, might be left in the directory ...\Program Files\Google\SketchUp: there were no files that suggested there were settings or configurations. I did this in case there was a software design "oversight" which cached a possible election to automatically upgrade. I also checked my ...\Program Files\Google\SketchUp directory for any configuration files I might edit and found none.
A better design approach would be for their software to advise that the current version may be out of date, but let the user continue working. Let the users decide if they want to upgrade, don't render their work product inaccessible by some undisclosed time limitation.
I've learned now that "Free" from Google should prompt the immediate response of "For how long?" at the minimum. I feel misled by Google and that they have played fast and loose with the term "Free."
I still believe SketchUp to be a great product.
John Poole
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On Sat, 08 Jul 2006 14:00:14 GMT, "John L. Poole"
Serve02> 3. Sketchup 3D 1.2.41 :: [ Serial : BA-001-10158-AWE ] <Serve02> 4. Sketchup 3D 1.1 :: [ Serial : BA-001-10158-AWE ] <Serve02> 5. Sketchup 3D 1.2.41 :: [ Serial : BA-001-10158-AWE ]
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SketchUp 5.0.149 S/N: User Name: Joseph King Serial Number: ja-001-00026789-alm Key: lpih-px47-el3p-rj6u
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<snip>
Maybe I'm missing something here. The Google Sketchup download page says new version, but it appears still free. Of course they would like you to buy the US$496.00 pro version, but it does not appear to be required.
Have you tried using the new version on old files?
--
Best regards
Han
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Han wrote:

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