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What Is SketchUp®?

By Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Updated May 16, 2024
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First conceptualized by @Last Software and subsequently marketed by Google, Sketchup® is a 3D software application for a diverse range of design professionals. Used by architects, graphic designers, engineers, game developers and even filmmakers, the software application enables users to create 3D representations of designs. Innovative features are at the core of the program to include mimicking the feel of freehand drawing with a pencil and paper. Google offers the program in both a free version and a paid professional version of which the later offers additional functionality geared towards professional usage. Additionally, Google provides an online platform for educators to collaborate with students in building designs as well as the Google Warehouse, which allows users to share designed models.

Utilizing a patented push/pull technology, the software is built on a modeling environment that allows users to draw designs in a two-dimensional format, much like an artist would with a pencil and paper. Familiarity of the process allows designers to draw out perimeters, lines, objects and outlines with ease using drawing tools. Three-dimensional design is then accomplished through editing tools built into the software, allowing the user to push and pull the lines drawn into the design. Using these editing tools, a complete 3D representation of the design is achieved, which is useful for making blueprints or manufacturing products.

Acquisition of the Sketchup® program by Google was completed in March of 2006. The deal was spurred by @Last Software's development of a plugin for Google Earth™. Thereafter, Google released various new versions of the software, often introducing new features and improvements or improving upon existing ones. Through subsequent developments, Google readied the program for integration into Google Earth™, allowing users to place models into the mapping software. Such developments eventually enabled Sketchup® users to make use of geo-location with the Google Earth™ environment.

Other important developments introduced by Google include both the platform for educators and the 3D Warehouse. Collaboration is at the center of both platforms with the 3D Warehouse enabling users to share models through search functionality and download capabilities. Users collaborating in the Educators Community give students and teachers the ability to build and share 3D models for a wide range of subjects to include history, mathematics and science. Features of the Educators Community include discussion rooms, tutorials, lesson plans for teachers, and a showcase of models developed by students. Purposefully created to extend the usage, application and capabilities of Sketchup®, Google encourages participants in the Education Community to contribute to the ongoing development of the program.

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