SketchUp, the 3D tool many of us began learning 3D concepts from, has moved to a subscription payment model.
The popular 3D modeling tool is used by millions worldwide due to its availability, ease-of-use and its free plan. My first forays into the world of 3D design were with SketchUp, although I and others in the 3D print space generally moved on to other tools more suited to 3D printing.
While it is possible to generate 3D printable models with SketchUp, the tool is really designed for visual 3D modeling, rather than the production of solid 3D models. That said, many people still use SketchUp for creating 3D models for printing.
SketchUp, whose ownership has bounced around through several companies, including Google and now Trimble, announced:
“Today, we’re announcing a big change to how you purchase SketchUp products. It’s an important shift in the way we do business that allows us to continue supporting, developing, and making SketchUp even better.”
As of November 4, 2020, they will no longer be selling the traditional standalone version. But even if you were to purchase the standalone version between now and then, you’d face this:
“Please be advised: if you purchase a Classic Perpetual License or renew your Maintenance & Support license prior to November 4, 2020, you will not be able to upgrade and access additional features on that license every year as you have in the past.”
Trimble really wants you to subscribe, as they seem to be declaring the standalone version a dead-end. However, the perpetual license will continue to work, you just won’t get upgrades.
That’s fine until, for example, you upgrade your operating system and discover the old version of SketchUp no longer works. Then you’re forced to take the subscription if you intend on continuing with SketchUp.
While the software will appear to be a standalone application on your workstation, it will require a connection to the cloud at least once every 28 days to verify you’re still a subscriber. This means that for short periods you will be able to use the software offline without an Internet connection.
SketchUp Subscription Advantages and Disadvantages
There are advantages and disadvantages to the subscription model.
One big advantage is that Trimble will be able to very quickly update the software and on all participating platforms, too. Instead of seeing a big upgrade once a year, they will perhaps issue smaller incremental upgrades to features and fixes every month or even week. This is something we saw with Autodesk when they moved Fusion 360 from standalone to a subscription model a few years ago.
The disadvantage is that you’ll end up paying more. While the current standalone version costs US$695, the subscription will be US$299 per year. If you were someone who would upgrade only occasionally, you’ll likely pay more.
The subscription also comes with a web-based version that you can use on any browser, even on a tablet. This is not available with the standalone version.
Another benefit of the subscription is cloud storage, where you can keep your 3D models. This is important if you were leveraging the web-based interface as your files would still be accessible. Fortunately you can save your files directly to your computer in addition to the cloud storage, so you can potentially migrate off of SketchUp without losing your data.
SketchUp Subscription Levels
There are actually a number of different subscription levels, and let me explain them to you. Readers may be curious whether Trimble will continue to offer a free version, and it turns out they do, sort of. Here are the subscription levels:
- SketchUp Free: No cost, but only via web interface. 10Gb free cloud storage. Can import only .SKP & .STL files, and can export only .STL and .PNG files. No 2D design provided.
- SketchUp Shop: US$119/year, only via web interface. Unlimited cloud storage, more file formats supported.
- SketchUp Pro: US$299/year, desktop and web interface. Most file formats supported, many more features, such as VR headsets, advanced ease-of-use features, and more.
- SketchUp Studio: US$1199/year, desktop and web interface. Provides engineering features such as daylight simulation, energy analysis, etc.
- SketchUp Studio for Students: US$55/year, desktop and web interface. Includes engineering and advanced features, but only for students who must apply annually.
- SketchUp Studio for Educators: US$55/year, same as Student version. Educators must apply annually.
- SketchUp for Schools: Free with G Suite or Microsoft education accounts, web only interface.
Are you a SketchUp user? What will be your choice for a subscription?