A New Graphics Engine, Ambient Occlusion, Improved Trimble Connect Integration, Modeling and File Format Improvements, and Better Error Handling

What’s New in SketchUp?

Introducing a cleaner UI, and Teddy!

As of yesterday, the latest version of SketchUp (2024) is available. And as it turns out, this one has several nice & visible new features and others that are more “under the hood”. On the first impression side (see image above) there is a cleaner UI: Look at the panels in the default tray and their headings and you can see how the flat graphics now look much cleaner and modern (and more consistent with the web and iPad versions). Now if we could only also have dark mode…

There is also a new scale figure, Teddy! Hi There!

New Graphics Engine & Ambient Occlusion

SketchUp’s new graphics engine

The new graphics engine is one of these features that – I am guessing – takes a lot of work to implement and then when everything goes right, things just work as normal from the user perspective. Or even better. As the SketchUp folks mentioned in their release notes, the new engine allows for better frame refresh rates and smoother work in the modeling environment, which is something that counts, especially for larger models.

But apparently there’s more to it as the next feature shows. Ambient Occlusion has now entered the SketchUp modeling window. This feature that previously was only available in rendering software (e.g. for nice-looking clay renders) or in WebGl environments now allows us to have a bit of overcast-sky realism right in our models as well. To see what this does, play with the slider in the following image.

The new Ambient Occlusion visual style adds a nice amount of visual depth to your SketchUp models

The Ambient Occlusion effect can be turned on via the Edit tab of the Styles panel (as shown above) or by picking one of several pre-made styles that include this feature:

Better Trimble Connect Integration

Once saved to Trimble Connect, a model can easily be shared as a view-only model

These days I am using Trimble Connect more and more. It is a really good file sharing service with tons of space (all free accounts get 10GB of space!), it has a great viewer for SketchUp and other 3D files, it works with 2D CAD files, and it allows you to annotate and collaborate on all of those (as well as documents).

With this version of SketchUp, Trimble Connect is better integrated than before. In previous versions you could find Trimble Connect as an extension in SketchUp’s Extension Manager dialog, but as of 2024, this connection is hardcoded into the program itself. Benefits of that are better file opening and saving (to/from TC), and (view-only) file sharing as you can see in the image above.

New Add Location Tool

The new Add Location tool provides model preview, True North support, and a better workflow

The new Add Location interface that had been available as a SketchUp Labs feature is now fully integrated into the software as well. It has a better workflow than before, shows you a scaled preview of your model in the ortho-image, and even displays True North correctly (the direction, not Canada). Add to that better terrain information (although I haven’t yet had a chance to verify its quality).

Better Extension Error Handling

Extensions that crash on loading can now be identified, deactivated, and even uninstalled

When I upgrade to a newer version of SketchUp, I usually go into the “Plugins” folder of the old version (on my hard drive), copy most of the extensions to the new version’s “Plugins” folder, and then start the new version with my fingers crossed. While this usually works well, occasionally I have come across extensions that due to some code incompatibility did not let me start SketchUp until I manually remove those. As of 2024, Sketchup now tells you if any of those copied extensions caused an error upon loading and gives you the option to disable or uninstall the offender.

Is There More?

Absolutely. There’s also:

  • Improved IFC, USDZ, and gITF file support. These file formats are useful for exchanging building data and 3D models with other software and online services.
  • Scan Essentials now has a nice Ground Mesh tool (I’ll cover that in a future post).
  • Various modeling improvements, including several new inference behaviors. There’s now also an option to turn Move-tool rotation grips off. (But why would you? I find those very useful.)
  • Mid-tool Undo. The undo functionality now works while a tool is doing “its thing”.

What’s New in LayOut?

LayOut’s new graphics engine and draft mode

The biggest change can’t be illustrated with an image: LayOut files are now also version-less. (SketchUp files have had that for a while now.) This means that you can open a newer file with an older version of LayOut. Now THAT is a nice feature for someone who teaches in a computer lab that only sees updates once a year.

The new graphics engine has also been implemented in LayOut, although there it is only in “Labs” mode and you need to opt-in via the Preferences dialog (see image above.

What is already useful, however, especially with larger models is a new Draft Mode. This – when turned on – makes it easier to move around your workspace by temporarily degrading some of the graphics. As you can see in the image above, you can tweak this to your liking.

Is There More?

Absolutely. There’s also:

  • Better inferencing. Some of the inferencing now works more “SketchUp-like”.
  • Non-scalable labels.
  • Better control over file export page ranges.

In Conclusion

Overall I am quite excited about this new version and I can’t wait to see what else the new graphics engine is capable of. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.


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