In the last couple years, the entry point for learning SketchUp has gotten more confusing because there’s been several new versions of SketchUp to come out. Before you can start learning the basics of the software, you first need to choose a version.
Let’s start with the biggest difference: SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Make 2017 are full-featured desktop applications that you install on your computer. SketchUp Free and SketchUp Shop are both web-bound tools that you run in the cloud.
The second important note is cost. SketchUp Free and SketchUp Make 2017 are both freely available, whereas SketchUp Pro ($299/year) and SketchUp Shop ($119/yr) are a yearly subscription.
I find that the web-based versions (both Free and Shop) have some shortcomings that woodworkers are likely to bump up against when designing their woodworking projects.
Navigating is more cumbersome in SketchUp for web. The online version contains all the essential tools, but their grouping hides many of them and makes it more diffucult to find and slower to select. SketchUp Free also hides the outliner, a tool which I find essential to navigating, identifying, and selecting components. An omission which is more painful as the complexity of your models grow.
Web-based versions also lack the benefit of plugins. We teach you to install and use the Cutlist plugin in our SketchUp For Woodworkers Intro course. But there are many other great plugins that are commonly used by woodworkers to add additional functionality like drawing compound curves and rounding corners in your pieces.
Custom textures and materials aren’t allowed in web-based versions. You’re very limited to the materials that SketchUp offers.
Recommended SketchUp version for woodworkers
Our Recommendation: SketchUp Pro Free Trial
The limitations on the web-based versions are likely to catch up to any woodworker that uses SketchUp frequently to design their projects. SketchUp Pro will give you access to regular updates and support, access to features like plugins and materials, as well as additional programs like LayOut for professional plan drawings. SketchUp Pro also gives you access to the in-browser tool (equivalent to SketchUp Shop) in addition to the desktop application, which can be convenient for making small edits to your design if you’re away from your primary computer or on the run.
If you haven’t yet invested in SketchUp Pro, they offer a 30-day free trial which you can take advantage of.
Our Free Recommendation: SketchUp Make 2017
If you’re on a budget, the best option is SketchUp Make 2017. On the face of it, Make is a free desktop applicaiton looks and behaves very similarly to the Pro desktop application. And it does not suffer from the same limitations as web-based versions. This makes it the best free option today.
And while the older SketchUp Make 2017 is still available to download for free from the SketchUp website, it will no longer receive any updates or support. Today, the main drawbacks to using SketchUp Make 2017 are that it doesn’t have some of the new advanced modeling tools or access to LayOut for creating professional plans. But lack of support means that Make will likely encounter future drawbacks over time.
A Note for Course Takers
We use the paid version SketchUp Pro for the recordings in this course. For that reason, it will be easiest to follow if you’re also using Pro (even if it's the free trial). However, everything we show can be accomplished in SketchUp Make 2017 which is free to download. But be aware if you choose SketchUp Make 2017, there will be small differences between the user interfaces between SketchUp Pro version and the older SketchUp Make 2017.