welcome to my blog

designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
This blog is a record of my life in my studio.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sketchup v. Sketchup Pro v. AutoCad 2011

For a couple of months now, I have been using the free version of Google's Sketchup 3D modeling software to design my furniture.  It was easy to learn (once I bought a instructional book), but in just a few weeks I ran up against the free version's major limitation: it can't show and hide elements of the drawing.  So I decided to upgrade.  But to which CAD software?  I chose to take a look at Sketchup Pro ($400 retail) and AutoCad 2011 for Mac ($4,000 retail, or $400 for students). 

Downloading a free trial of AutoCad was easy enough.  And once I bought an instructional book on mastering AutoCad, learning it was also easy.  As for Sketchup Pro, I wasn't able to find a trial, so I used a friend's computer which had Sketchup Pro 7.1 installed.  So, how did Sketchup Pro compare to AutoCad 2011 for Mac?  Read on...

There's no doubt that both Sketchup Pro and AutoCad are far superior to Sketchup Free.  Both offer layer functions, allowing one to hide and un-hide components, which is critical in even moderately complicated designs.  For example, while designing a copy of Ikea's Malm dresser, I appreciated being able to hide the case in order to design the drawers. 

In addition, Sketchup Pro offers another function sorely lacking in Sketchup Free: the ability to edit the shape and position of objects by entering text values.  Sketchup Free forces one to measure each part, and change size and shape by pushing faces and edges around in the graphical interface.  This resulted in a lot of mis-placed and mis-sized parts. 

Sketchup Pro works just like Sketchup, so learning it was easy.  AutoCad, in spite of its reputation as a complicated program, was also easy to learn. 

It's clear from using AutoCad 2011 that it's a more comprehensive program, with more functionality than Sketchup and Sketchup Pro.  But is that extra functionality worth the money?  At present, I think Sketchup Pro works just fine for woodworkers and furniture designers.  AutoCad's additional features are more important to architects and civil engineers than to furniture design. 

Of course, with AutoCad, it's easy to print up industry standard blueprints, layouts, and the like.  But if you're a furniture maker and only need to use your designs for your own reference, and, perhaps, to show your client, you don't need this capability.

My verdict:  Sketchup Pro is a great buy.  Sketchup Free will soon be inadequate for anybody looking to do some serious design, and AutoCad is easier to learn than people think...though perhaps not worth the extra $3,600.

No comments:

Post a Comment