Originally launched in 2000, bought by Google in 2006 and then sold to Trimble in 2012, many people in the US will recognize SketchUp from the home improvement show, Fixer Upper.
SketchUp is not only for home design though. It’s a powerful 2D and 3D modelling tool with a patented “push and pull” feature that can be used for wireframes, prototypes, 3D printing and more.
One of the things that’s made SketchUp so popular is that it offers a free version although it’s not exactly easy to learn, especially for beginners.
In this review, we take a closer look at SketchUp Free For Mac.
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SketchUp Free: Price
There are two versions of SketchUp: Free and Pro. SketchUp Pro costs $299 per year and yet the free version is almost exactly the same as the Pro apart from it has less import and export options.
There are two free versions of SketchUp: SketchUp Free which works in any browser and SketchUp Make which you can download on your desktop.
However, SketchUp Make is no longer being developed and won’t be supported in future versions of macOS so our advice is to use the browser based SketchUp Free.
When you sign-up for SketchUp, you’ll initially get a free 30 day trial of the Pro version and then it will revert to the free version if you choose not to upgrade.
SketchUp Free: Features
The first thing you notice about SketchUp Free is the interface is extremely simple.
The toolbars appear discreetly on the left and right hand side of the screen.
On the left are the navigational and drawing tools which is what you use the most.
On the right are a range of panels including the Instructor which provides tips on how to manipulate your designs and how to find certain tools and functions.
There are no templates as such but you can download examples of other people’s 3D models in 3dwarehouse which you can modify yourself.
There’s everything from houses to skyscrapers and a huge range of objects to choose from.
You can move the camera around your 3D design at any time and there are predefined camera angles and you can choose how long you want transitions between angles to be.
The patented “push and pull” feature in SketchUp Free is impressive and allows you to drag and manipulate designs however you want.
Although SketchUp Free is powerful, it’s certainly takes time to get results and there are far easier home design software that are much easier to use have the steep learning curve.
SketchUp Free vs SketchUp Pro
The big drawback of SketchUp Free vs SketchUp Pro are the lack of export formats.
Especially if you need to export your designs for professional presentations, you’ll definitely need SketchUp Pro.
The free version of SketchUp only allows you to export in PNG and STL but for professional needs, you’ll need to upgrade to either SketchUp Shop for $119 or SketchUp Pro for $199 which both support exporting in DWG and DXF. The same goes for importing files.
The quality of exported files from SketchUp Free is also not as good as from SketchUp Pro.
SketchUp Pro also has far more sand box tools than SketchUp Free. These are mainly used for terrain modelling to realistically simulate the environment for house designs.
There are other limitations to SketchUp Free and the best advice we can give is, if you’re a professional architect, go straight for the Pro version as you’re going to need the added powerful touches.
If you’re planning to use SketchUp for 3D modelling however, you may be better off using the free versions first to learn the ropes. There are other dedicated 3D modelling tools which are better than SketchUp so you’re better off testing it first.
Does SketchUp Work On M1 Macs?
At the moment, you can use SketchUp on M1 Macs thanks to Rosetta in macOS. Rosetta automatically translates Intel Mac apps to work on M1 Macs.
However, there is no native version of SketchUp for M1 Macs yet although it’s likely an updated Apple Silicon M1 chip version will be released soon.