16 Sep 2009

I’ve finally lost all respect for SketchUp, the “CAD” software from Google. Had I stuck with their free version I’d have written it off as a cute drawing program. However, since $12,000 for SolidWorks isn’t happening, I bought the Pro version of SketchUp because it provides output converters to allow generating files in various formats, including PDF for the book and DXF files in case I ever choose to have parts CNC-generated.

This week, DXF files were created from the A-arm drawings. The idea was to create templates to make it much easier to build up the A-arm fixtures. So the drawings were made, dimensioned, and sent off. Get a call the next day saying they won’t work, that the dimensions don’t match the drawing. What? In SketchUp, you draw something, then use the dimensioning tool to do just that. The point is, the line being measured already exists; the dimensioning tool measures it and adds the length text with lines and arrows… only, the value it comes up with doesn’t match the actual length of the line.

Example: draw a line that is 1.000″ long. Now dimension it and it will say 1.000″. Run it through their DXF converter and send it to a CNC shop, where the guys find that the actual line (which is what will be cut) is something like 0.987″ or so. WTF? I don’t know if the bug is in the core drawing package or the DXF converter, but either way it makes it useless for anything requiring precision. (Consider how a complex drawing will have these little errors accummulate…) For the book this doesn’t matter. Builders go by the dimensions listed, but it’s a complete no-go for CNC jobs.

Another very annoying bug: their PDF converter fails miserably, removing lines and adding lines as it sees fit. Completely unacceptable for book use which sucks eggs because the high-resolution looks really good. I recently read something about Google moving into products that they charge money for. One comment stuck in my head, something like “Google’s good at creating free apps but not so good at bug-free apps that people count on.” My advice is to stick with the free version which is fine for making garden sheds and such, but that’s about it.

I know this comes across as yet another rant from a grumpy pissed-off guy, but is it so unreasonable to expect people and products to do as they promise? I didn’t promise these things, they did. It’s especially irritating to have given them hundreds or thousands of dollars. All the above aside, SketchUp’s not a total loss. It serves its purpose of making drawings for the book, but that’s about it because it’s more of a toy than a serious tool.