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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

New SketchUp 2015 announced

December 17th, 2014 by Susan Smith

John Bacus, director of SketchUp product management at Trimble, discussed with AECCafe Voice the new SketchUp 2015.

SketchUp Pro 2015's Rotated Rectangle Tool draws rectangles that don’t have to be perpendicular or parallel to a default axis.

SketchUp Pro 2015’s Rotated Rectangle Tool draws rectangles that don’t have to be perpendicular or parallel to a default axis.

1.  Do you see the IFC import as the most important addition to the new release, SketchUp 2015? And if so why?

IFC import has certainly captured the attention of many of our users in the construction industry, but SketchUp 2015 contains quite a few other important features as well. I like to think of SketchUp releases as offering a balance of new features, general improvements and core performance tuning. That said, with the addition of an IFC importer, SketchUp is now capable of participating in open building design and construction processes in some important new ways.

The IFC importer plays a key supporting role in a comprehensive new working style that we’ve been building into SketchUp for the last three releases— what I’ve been generally referring to as “information modeling.” The idea is that users should be able to work as quickly and efficiently with attributes and other non-graphical metadata on their models as they can with the model’s raw geometry. We want to extend the fast and loose sketching qualities of SketchUp beyond the ‘look’ of things and into their functional semantics.

Importing an MEP reference model in SketchUp Pro using Trimble Connect

Importing an MEP reference model in SketchUp Pro using Trimble Connect

If I had to pick a single favorite new feature for SketchUp 2015, I think it would be our integration with the newly-launched Trimble Connect collaboration platform for building design construction and operation — which gives SketchUp users remarkable new power to collaborate with one another which includes working with information models. The best design work is always done in the company of others. Collaboration, particularly on construction projects, leads to faster, more efficient and ultimately better work.

2.  Having the faster core modeling performance seems like it would be dependent upon the type of processor the software is running on. Can you explain that?

SketchUp has always depended heavily on a rich, fluid and dynamic modeling environment for the sketching interface that makes it unique. We use real-time graphics to deliver that environment to users, leveraging as much performance as we can from their system. For some operations, performance is bottlenecked by the user’s graphics hardware (GPU). But for most of the core geometry editing, a faster CPU is the way to improve performance. In fact, I typically tell folks that the best thing they can do to increase SketchUp’s performance is to upgrade to the fastest CPU they can find. This of course has to be matched with a balanced overall system (plenty of memory, disk, good network bandwidth, etc.), but raw processor speed makes the biggest difference.

SketchUp 2015 is available for the first time in a 64-bit build, which is something that our expert users have been asking us to make for a long time. This improvement gives SketchUp access to much more memory than it could address in previous builds, though the real benefit to users is a bit harder to quantify. We’re building a foundation for future memory-intensive opportunities, as well as improving our development platform for folks who build memory-hungry tools like photorealistic rendering engines.

3.  What kinds of things can developers do with the Ruby API enhancements that they couldn’t do before?

SketchUp 2015 grants developers more access to our new classification systems so that they can integrate and extend our information modeling tools in powerful ways. We’ve also launched an improvement to our Extension Warehouse that allows developers to sell their products commercially to SketchUp users. This includes  a robust licensing system that helps them to protect against piracy and a fully functional app store on which developers can host products without having to worry about all the overhead associated with processing sale transactions. Trimble’s new MEP Designer extension is a great example of the powerful new tools that can now be built on SketchUp as a platform.

4.  It seems as though there is a closer association for SketchUp with information modeling these days. Can you address that?

We recognize that collaboratively designing, building and operating in the construction industry requires models that do more than just represent the appearance of things. Truly constructible models depend on richly attributed objects that can carry all kinds of additional information. We’re trying to build an open system in SketchUp that works flexibly for all kinds of information modeling. A flexible system that can adapt easily to the specific requirements of any particular project or team. The construction industry is incredibly diverse and I think it deserves tools which can adapt to that diversity rather than rigid tools that try to force the industry to adapt to them. T

We’re fully committed to open and interoperable systems and to exposing the full richness of a user’s data in any way that we can. Adoption of standards like IFC can help with interoperability, but the ultimate future is one in which products like ours are able to publish and reference a user’s data directly and dynamically, without translation through static file formats. SketchUp has always offered free SDKs and APIs to developers that expose every aspect of SketchUp’s models. We’re continuing that tradition through the launch of Trimble Connect, which also includes open APIs that make data interoperability convenient and efficient.

5.  Is SketchUp still a free product or is this release with the major enhancements, one that has a price?

We haven’t changed our basic business model, though most of the more professionally oriented features we’ve launched for commercial use in the construction industry are only available in SketchUp Pro.

SketchUp Pro is sold as a single user license for $590 per user. For organizations with more than 10 users, network licenses are available. This price includes the first year’s annual support and maintenance subscription, which entitles the user to any upgrades we release during the subscription term. This year, that included two major releases for most SketchUp users.

Trimble Connect is free to use for single users and multi-user business accounts are available on a subscription basis. SketchUp users can make the best use of Trimble Connect by installing the free Trimble Connect extension from our Extension Warehouse.

In addition, SketchUp Make remains entirely free to use and is available for download by hobbyists, kids and anyone else who wants to use the easiest, most fun drawing tool in the world.

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Categories: 2D, 3D, building information modeling, buildingSMART, Cloud, collaboration, construction, IES, IFC, Trimble

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