SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet

SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet
Sketchup on an Acer 8″ Windows 8 Tablet

I recently had the opportunity to try using SketchUp on an Acer Iconia 8″ Tablet. You can install standard Windows applications on this tablet. What you see on the left is screen capture on the tablet of a SketchUp model I downloaded from ShopNotes magazine. The user interface in SketchUp was designed for use with a mouse so I was curious to see how it behaved on the Windows 8 tablet interface.

I was disappointed to find out that SketchUp ignores the Windows 8 tablet right-click function (press and hold). Since the use of context menus via right-clicking is critical for efficient SketchUp use, you’re pretty much limited to the native, default tool functions. I also discovered that using my large fingers for drawing functions was pretty frustrating. So I switched to using a capacitive stylus which gave me much more control of precise cursor movement. But I still wasn’t able to access the context menus normally available by right-clicking.

I quickly learned that to be as productive on the tablet as I am on my laptop or desktop PC, I need to use a mouse. Since I didn’t have a bluetooth mouse, a USB mouse worked great. (You’ll need an adapter to convert from the micro USB port on the tablet to a standard USB port.) I felt more at home using the mouse.

But there was still the issue of using the keyboard for input into the Value Control Box. Using the popup Windows 8 keyboard didn’t seem to work for me. Fortunately, Acer makes a bluetooth keyboard that also serves as a stand for the tablet. It’s a $60 option, but if you want to do any serious typing while sitting at a coffee shop or at home, it’s the way to go. With the keyboard connected, entering values was a cinch. The setup I use for serious SketchUp modeling while on the go is shown in the right photo.

Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet
Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet

There was one other annoying thing I noticed when using SketchUp on the tablet. When drawing objects, it leaves ghost images trailing the mouse movement. As soon as you change views by zooming or orbiting, the artifacts disappear, but they can still be a little bothersome.

Overall, I was thrilled to have an option for using SketchUp on the road. It’s great for showing clients your and their design ideas in real time. Or if you’re just killing time at the local coffee shop, it’s a great way to “sketch up” some new designs of your own.




The passing of a computer pioneer and woodworker

If you appreciate the history of woodworking, you know that computers and woodworking haven’t coexisted until recently. In a former career, I was a computer geek. I got paid to teach and consult with others about how to maximize their productivity with CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting/Design) applications, specifically AutoCAD.

When I first learned CAD software back in the 1980’s I immediately started to put it to use designing woodworking projects. I would produce working drawings that I could take to the shop.

My career changed directions as I become an editor for Woodsmith and ShopNotes magazines, but I still dabble with CAD software, primarily Google’s SketchUp.

So, it was with interest and sadness that I read about the passing of one of the early pioneers of the personal computer as we know it. Dr. H. Edward Roberts was the inventor of the Altair computer. And he was a mentor to none other than Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft. What I found most interesting was that Dr. Edwards never lost his love for tinkering and was an accomplished woodworker.

Who says woodworking and computers don’t mix.

Here’s the article in The New York Times. It’s worth reading just for the historical information.