PROS / Extremely intuitive layout makes SketchUp Pro one of the easiest CAD programs to use.
CONS / SketchUp Pro lacks many architectural tools like a house wizard and wall tool.
VERDICT / Thanks to the thousands of models in its 3D Warehouse and intuitive toolbars, designers of all skill levels will find SketchUp Pro to be one the best CAD software programs for creating and editing 2D and 3D designs.
The phrase "easy CAD software" might sound like a misnomer, but in the case of SketchUp Pro, it's the truth. SketchUp Pro's real forte is how simple it is to use. Large icons and customizable toolbars make it easy for even CAD beginners without taking away the powerful tools professionals need to create works of art. Despite its lack of a house wizard, a tool that walks you through the process of designing a house, this software makes it easy to create designs of all kinds. Though its overall feature package is quite impressive, we would have liked to have seen more architectural tools, which is not its strong point. While SketchUp Pro may not be the best tool for architectural design, it excels in designing and editing 2D and 3D concepts, making it our choice for the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
CAD drawing software typically comes with models and symbols to get you started. What makes SketchUp Pro unique is your access to Trimble's 3D Warehouse, which is full of thousands of models you can download. So although you don’t get as many models built into the software, you'll have access to plenty of shared files and a growing number of designs. SketchUp Pro has other built-in features such as textures, lighting effects and animations for when you present your designs. Plugins are available for advanced photorealistic rendering in addition to the built-in rendering styles. There are few architectural tools, however; a wall tool and house wizard are two noticeable omissions that would have given this software an even more powerful edge.
Like the best CAD software, SketchUp Pro has the best editing tools and features. The focus of SketchUp's features are mainly geared toward 3D designing, but SketchUp Pro still has the same tools as 2D CAD software. Useful features include color and text editing and a layer manger. Editing is even easier due to the number of icons and toolbars you can add to the navigation. Style, measurement and layer toolbars make editing easier as you can quickly switch between functions and apply styles faster.
Ideally, computer-aided design software should be as intuitive as drawing with pen and paper. SketchUp Pro is one of the easiest programs to maneuver around on our CAD software list. Tool palettes are completely customizable, and you can add, remove or rearrange palettes around however you like in the software. Instead of lists of features, large icons indicate tools which makes them fast and easy to find.
Features like the setup manager, macro recordings and import capabilities also make working with SketchUp Pro more convenient. SketchUp Pro does have a command line, but you may have to spend some time researching the forum and manual to learn how to best use it. The command line is not the most user-friendly feature of this software unfortunately.
DesignCAD supports numerous file types so you can readily import existing designs and export those you’ve created using the CAD software. DesignCAD is compatible with all AutoCAD files and layouts (DWG and DXF files) – welcome news for current AutoCAD users looking to switch to a cheaper CAD software. It also imports HPGL, WMF and XYZ files and exports all those file types as well as RIB, VRML, WPG, DWF and PDF. RIB files are commonly used to send scene data in modeling software, including CAD, and computer animation programs. VRML stands for Virtual Reality Modeling Language and it’s used to interpret 3D information on web pages and other formats. WPG files are generally used for sharing clipart images in CAD software and word processing programs. DWF files are used to share CAD drawing data with outside sources.
Finally, DesignCAD supports several image formats such as JPEG, BMP and TIFF. This allows you to easily export any images of your designs including those created through photorealistic rendering. DesignCAD 3D Max does not support STL, DGN or SKP files for 3D printing purposes, so if your primary purpose is 3D printing, you'll need a different, computer-aided design software for file conversion.
Help & Support
Even though this CAD software is one of the easiest programs to use among its competitors, CAD software is complex by nature and having good support options is important. This CAD software program is backed by some great support features. Technical support is free for the first year of your license, and you can reach support staff via email or online ticket. Although it’s obviously preferable to have unlimited free technical support, one year should give you plenty of time to become adept at using the software while the technical support is still free. Phone numbers aren't listed on the Trimble website, but you can request a number for support through email. The manual, forum and numerous tutorial videos all do a great job of covering the topics and tools you'll need to know how to design with SketchUp Pro.
SketchUp Pro is rewriting the stigma that CAD programs are hard to use. The layout of SketchUp Pro is very intuitive and easy to use, even for the least knowledgeable CAD designers. The 3D Warehouse is a great resource that will provide a generous supply of models and symbols to choose from and work with. Although architectural tools are not plentiful, SketchUp Pro is still a wonderful program for designing and editing 3D models and designs.