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Software Battle

SketchUp vs AutoCAD – CAD Software Compared

Picture of Genaro Ponce
by Genaro Ponce
Apr 29, 2019

SketchUp vs AutoCAD – CAD Software Compared

SketchUp vs AutoCAD: two powerful pieces of software but with different purposes. Which one is better for you? How do they compare? Keep reading to find out this and more.

SketchUp vs AutoCAD General Overview

Autocad vs SketchUp.
Autocad vs SketchUp. Source: SketchUpLab

Without a doubt, CAD software has revolutionized the architecture, design and engineering industries. However, due to the wide range of products available, choosing the right software can be a little difficult. Which is why we took a look at how SketchUp vs AutoCAD compare, as they are two of the most popular software platforms among architects and designers.

SketchUp was originally created as an easy-to-use 3D modeling software accessible for everyone. It was designed by the startup @Last Software in the year 2000. The software was then acquired by Google and finally bought by the company Trimble. The software has evolved a lot since then, with new and more complex tools, but it has never lost its essence of being easy to learn and user-friendly.

AutoCAD is the 2D and 3D drafting software from Autodesk that was originally released in 1982. The software has been adding new features with every release, becoming a very specialized and complete platform. It’s the most well-done drafting software on the market and is popular in professional industries.

SketchUp vs AutoCAD Main Aspects Compared

SketchUp tools, icons, and shortcuts.
SketchUp tools, icons, and shortcuts. Source: SketchUp

When considering the differences between SketchUp vs AutoCAD, the first thing you likely want to know is how the software itself compares. Here are the main similarities and differences (in bold) we found:

File Format Compatibility

  • SketchUp: DWG, DXF, JPG, PNG, STL, OBJ, 3DS (3D Studio) and FBX (Maya)
  • AutoCAD: DWG, DXF, PDF, JPG, PNG, STEP, 3DM (Rhinoceros), 3DS (3D Studio), IPT (Inventor), FBX (Maya)

User Interface

  • SketchUp only works with shortcut keys or by pressing the tool icons. However, it’s easy to get familiar with the basic tools. The user interface is more friendly and easy to navigate.
  • AutoCAD can be controlled using the menus and tool icons, but the best way to use it is with command lines. They allow you to realize any action in the drawing space by pressing the entire command line or its shortcut key. Once you get familiar with the shortcut, this will enhance your workflow and productivity.

Learning Curve

  • SketchUp is a 3D software that everyone is able to use within just a few hours of practice. You only need to start modeling a simple object to see what every tool does. Without a doubt, SketchUp has a better and easier learning curve.
  • AutoCAD is a more complex product. It requires a more experienced level and lots of practice to be able to operate it smoothly.

SketchUp vs AutoCAD Pricing and Licensing

Which one is cheaper?
Which one is cheaper? Source: pasja1000 / Pixabay

SketchUp 2019 has many different licensing plans for a wide variety of options, allowing you to find exactly what you need. You can find and compare them all on SketchUp.

However, here are the main options and prices available:

  • Free Online: Perfect for beginners to test the software
  • SketchUp Teacher: Free for educators and schools, includes access to the 3D Warehouse
  • SketchUp Student: $55/year for students
  • SketchUp Shop: $119/year, includes access to the 3D Warehouse
  • SketchUp Pro: $299/year, includes access to the 3D Warehouse and Extension Warehouse
  • SketchUp Studio: $1,199/year license, made for professional studios

AutodCAD doesn’t offer these different package options. There are a couple of different pricing options, but that’s just based on how often you make payments (per month, per year, per three years). They have a free license for both students and educators. If you’re looking for a professional license, Autodesk offers a Network License, which allows you to share licenses among different users.

SketchUp vs AutoCAD System Requirements

System requirements are important to take into consideration.
System requirements are important to take into consideration. Source: kampfbox / Pixabay

As the more professional option, AutoCAD tends to require a little more from your hardware. This could also be a deciding factor when deciding between the two platforms. Below are the exact requirements.

AutoCAD 2019

  • Windows: 3-GHz or higher processor, 16 GB of RAM (minimum 8 GB), and 6 GB of free disk space
  • Mac: Mojave v10.14 or later, 2-GHz or higher processor, 4 GB of RAM (minimum 3 GB), and 3 GB of free disk space

SketchUp Pro

  • Windows: 2-GHz or higher processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 3D video card with 1 GB of memory, and 700 MB of free disk space
  • Mac: 2.1-GHz or higher processor, 8 GB of RAM, 700 MB of available hard-disk space, and a 3D class video card with 1 GB

SketchUp vs AutoCAD CAD in Industry

CAD is often used to develop plans in industry.
CAD is often used to develop plans in industry. Source: Stocksnap / energepic.com

SkethUp and AutoCAD are primarily relevant for industry design, such as in architecture and engineering. They are able to create detailed drawings and models with precision, which is crucial for professional applications. When it comes to SketchUp vs AutoCAD in industry, however, an important consideration is the plugins and toolsets available, as these will dictate the capabilities.

SketchUp has tools and plugins available in an external library, Extension Warehouse, which can be accessed with a Shop or Pro license. Here you can find a plethora of toolsets that are designed for specific purposes, offering a high level of customization. For example, there are specific plugins for 3D printing, woodworking, and urban planning. SketchUp is primarily useful for 3D modeling, but also has a product named LayOut, which allows you to create 2D drawings. The downside here is you have to install each individual plugin you need.

AutoCAD has built-in toolsets for different ​​specialty areas. For example, you can use it for architectural floor plans, mechanical designs, or electrical drawings. These features allow the software to be very specific with the information it handles. Plus, the toolsets are already included in your license and are installed in the software. AutoCAD is traditionally used for 2D drawing but also supports 3D modeling.

SketchUp vs AutoCAD Final Thoughts

Create better projects.
Create better projects. Source: www_slon_pics / Pixabay

SketchUp and AutoCAD are two fantastic pieces of software that seem to be tailored for different audiences.

SketchUp is great for hobbyists and makers who are starting out. It shines specifically in its 3D modeling and visualization capabilities. The licensing options and the Extension Warehouse make SketchUp more customizable and affordable for the average home user, which can be tailored to your specific needs.

AutoCAD is the more stable and accurate software thanks to years of experience and development. It is more expensive but also the best option for technical drawings and precision. Professionals who are willing to put in the time to learn the shortcuts and abilities of AutoCAD will get the most out of it.

Feature image source: Universidad de Almería

License: The text of "SketchUp vs AutoCAD – CAD Software Compared" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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