SketchUp is a 3D modeling program designed for architects, civil engineers, filmmakers, game developers, and related professions. It also includes features to facilitate the placement of models in Google Earth. It is designed to be easier to use than other 3D CAD programs.
A feature of SketchUp is the 3D Warehouse that lets SketchUp users search for models made by others and contribute models.
SketchUp was developed by startup company @Last Software, Boulder, Colorado which was co-founded in 1999 by Brad Schell and Joe Esch.
SketchUp was first released in August 2000 as a general purpose 3D content creation tool, with the tagline “3D for Everyone” and envisioning a software program “that would allow design professionals to draw the way they want by emulating the feel and freedom of working with pen and paper in a simple and elegant interface, that would be fun to use and easy to learn, and that would be used by designers to play with their designs in a way that is not possible with traditional design software. It also has user friendly buttons to make it easier to use.”
The program won a Community Choice Award at its first tradeshow in 2000. Key to its early success was a shorter learning period than other 3D tools.
As of SketchUp 6, features were added to allow the user to extrude and widen as well as the ability for a face to “follow” the cursor around an object.
Google acquired @Last Software on March 14, 2006, attracted by @Last’s Software’s work developing a plugin for Google Earth.
On January 9, 2007, SketchUp 6 was released, featuring new tools as well as a beta version of Google SketchUp LayOut. LayOut includes 2D vector tools, as well as page layout tools intended to make it easier for professionals to create presentations without jumping to a third-party presentation program.
On February 9, 2007, a maintenance update was released. It corrected a number of bugs, but brought no new features.
On November 17, 2008, SketchUp 7 was released, featuring ease-of-use improvements, integration of SketchUp’s Component Browser with Google 3D Warehouse, LayOut 2, dynamic components that respond appropriately to scaling and enhanced Ruby API performance.
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SketchUp holds a U.S. Patent 6,628,279 on its “Push/Pull” technology:
“System and method for three-dimensional modeling: A three-dimensional design and modeling environment allows users to draw the outlines, or perimeters, of objects in a two-dimensional manner, similar to pencil and paper, already familiar to them. The two-dimensional, planar faces created by a user can then be pushed and pulled by editing tools within the environment to easily and intuitively model three-dimensional volumes and geometries.”
The patent was applied for in November 2000, and awarded in September 2003.
On April 27, 2006, Google announced Google SketchUp, a freely-downloadable version of SketchUp. The free version is not as capable as SketchUp Pro, but it includes integrated tools for uploading content to Google Earth and to the Google 3D Warehouse, a repository of models created in SketchUp. They have also added a new toolbox where you can walk, see things from a person’s point of view, labels for models, a look around tool, and an “any polygon” shape tool.
While the free version of Google Sketchup can export 3D to SKP, .dae and Google Earth’s .kmz file format, the Pro version extends exporting support to include the .3ds, .dae, .dwg, .dxf, .fbx, .obj, .xsi, and .wrl file formats.
Google SketchUp can also save “screenshots” of the model as .bmp, .png, .jpg, .tif, with the Pro version also supporting .pdf, .eps, .epx, .dwg, and .dxf.
However, the free version of SketchUp does support Ruby scripts which has allowed many people to get around SketchUp’s importing and exporting disabilities.
GPS location information is always stored in the KMZ file. The building designs themselves can be saved in SKP.