A SketchUp Ruby Script ListingYesterday one of my readers sent me an email and asked if I might consider a series of tutorials on how to write Ruby scripts for SketchUp. I thought about that for a while. It seemed to me that the typical approach would either be to address an audience that already had some programming experience, perhaps even with Ruby, or in the other extreme to use the least common denominator approach and assume the reader had no programming experience. At first glance the latter seemed undoable because it meant teaching basic programming techniques, then Ruby and finally the SketchUp Ruby API. But as I thought more about it, including all last night, while trying to sleep, I believe I have come up with a way to teach script writing to lay people; a practical approach to SketchUp’s Ruby API and the Ruby language. And so, such a series would be possible and I believe productive.

A Google LayOut PageHowever, the real question is, what would my readers like to see in the next series of tutorials. Another idea I had was an Advanced SketchUp tutorial focused on the Pro version of SketchUp, including LayOut and one or two rendering plugins. This tutorial series would emphasis polished and professional presentation of furniture pieces; material that could be used to sell a client for example. In addition, the more powerful solids tools would be introduced and used in furniture modeling. As I thought about this opportunity I realized the target audience might be limited also; not everyone would buy a SketchUp license just to follow a tutorial.

Mastering Google SketchUp DrawingThat led me to a third option. That is to start at the beginning of SketchUp, but this time in stead of jumping in and drawing a piece of furniture, each part would focus on one SketchUp tool and delve into it in detail. For instance, many people don’t realize that there are numerous ways to use the Select tool. We tend to use tools the one or two ways we see someone else do it and stick with that method, never bothering to explore other functions of the tool. This series would be akin to a Master’s Degree in a field of study. To make it interesting to woodworkers I would use common furniture parts or joints in each tutorial; and each tutorial would also use different parts or joint so that there would be some woodworking learning as well.

So, as it stands there are three options for a path the next tutorial series might take:

  1. Ruby Scripting
  2. SketchUp Pro
  3. Mastering SketchUp

You might have yet another idea, and if you do I would like to hear it. Please comment your thoughts and ideas on this post and help me design a tutorial series you the readers would want.

Leave a Reply

20 Responses to “What Path Should Chief’s SketchUp Tutorials Take?”

  1. Sandy says:

    I like your idea for the next session to be Mastering SketchUp. I can follow your lead and understand what I am doing when you approach a design. Your method of teaching sketchup is consistant and logical which makes everything very easy to understand.

    But when I try to design a piece on my own I get into all kinds of jambs; because of my approach and sequences. My approach to drawing a 3D 5 point star was a lesson in frustration. I guess I need a few more years in the school of hard knocks.

    Thank you for your blog

  2. Joe says:

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for the feedback. I don’t think your experience is too much different than other beginners. Just stick with it and you will see the results soon enough. And then SketchUp will become second nature to you.


  3. Walt says:

    I agree with Sandy. Only been following your blog for a week and have learned more than any other way on my own. I’m currently on part 6 in the beginners tutorial and would like to see the Mastering SketchUp.
    Thanks for all your time and help.

  4. Joe says:


    You are moving along quite quickly; 6 tutorials in a little over a week is serious work. Thanks for you opinion on future tutorials. It will be a while before I decide and begin them. I have a few live summer courses to prepare for and give. One of them is developing photos with Adobe Lightroom, which is different and should be fun.


  5. Gene Reilly says:

    Dear Joe,

    thank an awful lot for your SketchUp tutorials. They are a true gift to the woodworking community. I’m still using SketchUp version 7, which I downloaded several years ago but could never figure out how to use. I’m running it on my 2004 vintage Apple iBook–that’s what they called it at the Genius Bar at the Apple store. Unfortunately, I can’t run version 8 on my machine, which can no longer be upgraded. My next gift to myself will be a new machine that can handle version 8 and maybe even the pro version–if I can put off buying a couple of specialty planes and a new set of chisels.

    Nevertheless, please know that following your clear and stepwise beginners’ and intermediate tutorials turned a frustrating application into great tool for designing woodworking projects and just having fun as I make fantasy shapes using the tools whose use you explained and demonstrated so well.

    The time involved was basically the time needed to watch the videos and draw the table. Even before I had finished the video set, I started a drawing of a Shaker dresser I have been making. In this case the SketchUp drawing followed the construction of the dresser.

    Particularly helpful are the times when you start out in a direction and then decide to change, or when you seem to make a mistake or just don’t get the outcome you expect and then show us how to recover so skillfully and calmly. Those instances are a great lesson for us to stay calm, reverse course and try something different to get the result we want.

    As far as what I would like you do next in the way of tutorials, item #3, Mastering SketchUp, is what I would like to see. I’m a user rather than a developer and would be unlikely to spend much time writing ruby scripts. The developer types probably don’t need much coaching. As someone who is also likely to pop for the pro version in the distant rather than near future, tutorials on it would be lost on me.

    Thank you again for the great service you have done to help all of us tentative users to start climbing the SketchUp learning curve.

    Gene Reilly

  6. Joe says:


    Thank you for the compliments and interest. It seems all the feedback I have gotten so far, save one, is for the Mastering SketchUp approach. I may put a poll on my blog soon to get a better handle on it (most people don’t write comments but will enter a selection in a poll).

    I can’t help you on your hand tool vs. computer dilemma; it’s a tough call. But I would definitely put the SketchUp Pro license at the bottom of the list. Unless you do woodworking for commission it isn’t worth the $500 to the casual user.


  7. Luca says:

    Hi Joe, I like the way you run your website and your blog. I think that any help can be given to the community about SketchUp is always well accepted. I don’t know anything about Ruby, so if that is your intention, I’ll be your first follower! 🙂

    Keep up the good work!


  8. Joe says:


    Thanks for the feedback and kind words. I would love to teach a Ruby and SketchUp Ruby API series, since I find it fun, challenging and very useful. It is one of the best aspects of SketchUp. But most of the feedback I’ve gotten is for a Mastering SketchUp series. Maybe I will do both.

    I went to your website and looked around. Great site. I really like it. I especially like your style of documenting your plans. I take it you dimension them in LayOut? The tutorials are great too.

    By the way, I am jealous. I am an instrument rated private pilot. I owned my own plane(s) for years but never got to fly an F104 or Airbus 320. How cool!

    I intend to mention your site in my next newsletter. Nice work, think my readers will like it.


  9. Luca says:

    Thank you Joe, that’s very kind of you! Yes, the pdf for the plans is made with LayOut, a very useful tool, I find.

    I also intend to mention you trough my outlets, I believe that the only way to help people to learn something is letting them know all the resources available in this magic world called internet.

    So you are a pilot, too? Nice to know we have another thing in commmon.



  10. Chris says:

    Joe, first of all, a big thanks for doing these… I’ve learned a lot from you.

    I vote for #3… I assume you mean that you would make a series of short videos pertaining to each tool, rather than a lengthy video covering many.

    My second choice would be a series of beginner level Ruby scripting.


  11. Joe says:

    Hi Chris,

    Your interpretation is correct, though I am struggling to figure out how to make them interesting. A lot of short videos simply explaining the use of each tool will not keep people interested. I have a few ideas but nothing concrete yet. Your feedback is very helpful and in line with the majority of comments I have had on this. Thanks,


  12. Rick says:

    First off, thanks for your tutorials. Best I have seen yet
    by far. I agree with most of the others on the next set of
    tutorials, 3,1,2. But I’m sure I will enjoy watching them, what ever you decide.

  13. Joe says:


    Thanks for the feedback and compliments. Most people are leaning toward three and I guess I am too. I am not going to decide for a while though. I need time to figure out how to make whatever I do appeal to a wide array of woodworkers. Thanks again.


  14. Dave says:

    I think the Ruby Scripting would be great…

    SketchUp Pro would only appeal to those that have it or want to have it,

    Mastering Sketchup would really come by practicing the basics that are taught in the begginers and intermediate tutorials.

    Ruby Scripting would add a whole new topic to the mix. My 4 cents (2 cents with inflation).

  15. Joe Zeh says:

    Hi Dave,

    By far and away most of the feedback has been for Mastering SketchUp, but Ruby Scripting would be the most challenging and fun for me from a teaching stand point. I may have to figure out how to do both and still leave room for woodworking and woodworking posts.

    Thanks for the feedback.


  16. Ken says:

    Even though I do not have SU Pro, if I were able to see how it would benefit me and how to use it I might be inclined to buy it. If I find that it would be a useful tool for my purposes then it would be worth buying. After all, it is at a very reasonable price.

    I would also be interested in the “Mastering SU” as well

  17. Joe says:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the input. I am going with the Mastering SketchUp idea. Still working on what it is actually going to be. But I am slowly settling on an idea. And yes, for what it is capable of the price is very reasonable.

    Would you be using it for personal use or business? Or both?


  18. Ken says:

    I use SU for personal as well as for my custom woodworking business.

  19. Mertie Langston says:

    Hi! I’ve been reading your web site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  20. Joe says:

    Thanks Mertie,

    I’ll try to keep the information on this site current and useful. Say hello to folks in Houston TX for me;<) Joe....