Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp, 3rd Edition On The Way

History of a good idea

The original cover included “Google SketchUp 7”. The cover was changed after Google sold SketchUp to Trimble.

In 2010 I went out on a limb and self-published the first iteration of Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp. It was intended to show woodworkers how to use this 3D modeling software to design, plan and manage woodworking projects. At that time SketchUp was owned by Google. This was the first book to be published on the topic and it included short videos embedded in the text. It was a nightmare to get the videos to function for everyone, but it proved to be an effective way to learn, especially if a reader needed to go back and refresh their memory on a specific task. I expected that the publishing company I worked for at that time would be impressed and that this format, a PDF with embedded video would take off. But the folks I worked for didn’t get it. “That’s not what we do.” The reality was it takes creativity and planning to produce a work like that. Needless to say, creativity and planning weren’t strong suits at that company. Other publishing companies saw my success and soon there were a bunch of print-only books with similar titles.

Woodworker's Guide to SketchUp

The revised version was released in 2015. Videos were place online in 2022.

In 2015 I produced a revision, the “New Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp”. One of the challenges of writing about how to use software is that the subject it a moving target. There had been a number of changes to the software in those five years, and with an additional five years of experience using (and teaching others) my techniques improved. By this time, getting the videos to function was easier, but every new version of operating systems and every update to Adobe Acrobat Reader brought a round of scrambling to figure things out. I don’t mean to bite the hand that feeds me, but Adobe never really supported the concept of video embedded within the text in a PDF.

Then in 2020, Adobe’s Flash software reached its “end of life”. Flash was problematic on a lot of levels. Over the years there were periods where one needed to use Flash to play the videos, followed by periods when one had to use anything but Flash. As Flash’s murder end of life approached I wasn’t concerned because it was no longer a good video player for readers. What I didn’t know was that Flash was essential to the appearance and function of the videos within the PDF. The controller for the videos was based on Flash and when Flash went away, so did the controller. The videos were still there, and still functioned, but there was no longer a way to pause, rewind or control the volume. You can read about this in detail in this post.

The five years between 2015 and 2020 meant that the book was in need of an update, but I didn’t want to dive into that. I truly expected that someone at a software company a big as Adobe would realize that they needed to fix their publishing software, InDesign, to allow a video controller to display in Adobe Reader. After two years of waiting I realized that Adobe had abandoned the concept. The best solution I could see was to move the videos to this website, go back through the book and add links to each video in the book. It wasn’t an elegant solution, but it worked. Over the course of another year I came to realize that despite corporate incompetence I had important information for a sizable audience. I not only needed to update the book, I needed to rethink the format. I’m still committed to offering my methods for using SketchUp in print and in video, but for practical reasons the two forms of instruction can’t be as tightly connected as they were originally.

Time to Move On

I decided that the best way to move forward was to revise the book in a way that wasn’t as dependent on the videos to convey the information, and to redo the videos so that they weren’t as dependent on the text. The book would now be printed in addition to the PDF format, and the videos would live online. The book would need more images, and what began as a simple update became a major rewrite. The videos still follow the content of the book, and tell the same story in a different way. Like any good idea it took a lot of work to put it all together. Work on new videos is now underway, along with an update to this website.

I rewrote the entire 200+ pages of text to address changes to the software and more efficient techniques, and captured hundreds of screenshot images. I was close to completion last summer when another curve ball appeared from left field; Trimble, the company that now owns SketchUp decided that their program was in need of a cosmetic update and changed all of the screen icons. That left me with the choice of releasing a book that appears to be out of date or go back to square one and redo all of the visual elements, no small task. I went through the entire book and updated all of the images using the latest available version of SketchUp. Again.

If you want to learn 3D modeling with SketchUp I offer a method that has been successfully used by thousands of woodworkers and others. I focus on the relevant tasks and present efficient methods and specific things to practice. You won’t need to wade through hours and hours of YouTube videos for tidbits of useful information. From one source you’ll get a complete course from setting up the program, to building models that contain all the information you need to build anything from a simple cabinet to a complex piece of furniture. If you have a better learning experience from a book, or from videos I have the resources you  need in a variety of media. SketchUp is still the best tool I know of for planning, managing and presenting a project.

What’s the Plan?

Click the image for a large version.

Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp, Third Edition, revised and updated is now complete. I’m waiting for proofs of the print version to arrive and expect to make this available for sale in the next few weeks. You can reserve your copy at this link.

The new book will also be available in PDF format for immediate download at the price of the current version, $34.95. One of my pet peeves is being asked to pay full price for an update to something I’ve already purchased. If you bought Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp after January 1, 2023 you will get the new PDF version at no charge, all you have to do is ask. The PDF will be released at the same time the print version becomes available. Reserve your copy at this link.

If you bought Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp earlier than 2023 you can upgrade to the new PDF version for $20. Reserve your copy at this link.

At the same time the book is released I will be launching an Online SketchUp Class with videos that follow the book content. This will be a subscription site and purchasers of the book will have free access for a period of time, and at a discount after that. If you’re only interested in the videos, you can subscribe without purchasing the book. In addition to the Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp videos there will be a significant amount of other videos along with the opportunity to participate in live, online class sessions.

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Bob Lang

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