Sketchup is more popular than Rhino in a few categories, but why exactly?

My intent here is to see if I can stir up some discussion. Obviously I chose to use Rhino rather than Sketchup after rigorously testing out both programs and I feel like Rhino wouldn’t have to flex very hard to exceed the results in any of the categories mentioned. But none the less these are examples of where I’m seeing Sketchup is achieve better results than Rhino.

Four examples of such include:

  1. Fully documented projects,
  2. plugin development,
  3. architecture (in general),
  4. and the availability of content.

Item 1: I’ve used Layout a bit and didn’t like it. I like layouts/viewports in AutoCAD/Rhino. There’s no denying that people have created some amazing work with it. Google “Sketchup Layout Architecture” and you’ll see some cool stuff. Rhino has it’s own iconic style for visuals but fully documented projects are quite rare.

Item 2: Not to dis any of the talented plugin creators. It’s just worth mentioning that there are some pretty amazing plugins available for Sketchup. I think a key factor in success with Sketchup is choosing the right plugins.
One subjective reason why I think Rhino lags behind here is that many developers are basically one man bands. Not a lot of developers collaborate and many have different goals. Many of the short comings with out layouts and project documentation could be solved quite easily with plugins, but creating these would be torturous for . Of course the popularity of Sketchup means more incentive for people to develop plugins; Rhino is a much smaller community.
I’ve dabbled in the .NET API and overall found it better than AutoCAD’s. But… the documentation left me hanging at times; I wasn’t able to find the help I needed and spent hours on relatively small things. Some of the examples need to be translated from Python into C# which I find silly. It might be worth improving the documentation but maybe the barrier to entry is by design?

Item 3: Not much to say here other than I think Rhino should be the program of choice when it comes to general architecture. I’m talking about everything; the whole big picture, including the boring little jobs that actually bring in the revenue. For a while it felt like Rhino was gaining ground in this area. But I don’t see many ‘everyday’ firms using Rhino.

Item 4: Sketchup Warehouse is much like thrifting (shopping at a thrift store); you have to search through a bunch of junk and you might find something good. Fixing Sketchup models also takes time (but I’ve had to spend time on Rhino models too, and ones I’ve paid for). But… the amount of content available is undeniable and many Rhino users have a Sketchup account for the sole purpose of accessing the warehouse.
Rhino should have a better library of models. It’s way quicker to model something even mildly complex in Rhino compared to Sketchup. And you actually sometimes even need to purchase plugins to do tasks in Sketchup that we take for granted in Rhino. I’m trying to find ways to make people more motivated to upload their models to Food4Rhino (I’m a bit of a hypocrite here as I don’t even upload anything). If anyone’s interested in collaborating it might be worth getting some sort of project together.

1 Like

on popularity, it has to be a significant factor that google gave sketchup away for free for years, to entice millions of people to build their 3d world for them, until they figured how to automate that task and get rid of the people, and sketchup

I find sketchup to be easy for writing trivial plugins, far less so for non-trivial ones; I find the situation to be similar in rhino, but with python + eto being superior, once you want much of any gui and don’t want to have to write a whole website for it, with the fun of sending data between ruby and javascript

idk if we can make a proper plugin using python (meaning a proper installable .rhp that just happens to use python instead of c#), but that would put rhino ahead of sketchup, for the type of plugins you can do in ruby without creating a native library

and once you need to wrap native code, I’ll take dotnet over ruby

Your criteria are confusing.

SketchUp is a mesh based tool intended for quickly building models to sell an idea. It uses gaming technology to make low count polygons look better than they are.The deliverable product is an image. It does this very well.

Rhino is a NURBS surface modeling tool intended for Industrial Design. The deliverable product is a model accurate enough for manufacturing. It also does this very well.

To compare them for your own specific needs is fine, but they are not intended for the same purpose, and are based on very different technology to efficiently accomplish what they are for.

It would be like comparing a farm tractor to a delivery truck.
They both are good at what they are intended for, but to compare them based on some other unintended use is folly.


Your criteria are confusing.

Not really. But I am focusing on the architectural realm.

SketchUp is a mesh based tool intended for quickly building models to sell an idea.

Ignoring very simple objects, Rhino is probably faster in the hands of an experienced user for speed modelling.

Rhino is a NURBS surface modeling tool intended for Industrial Design.

Now this is confusing. A surface is a surface and in reality can represent just about any object. So whether the intent is industrial design, Landscape Architecture, or whatever else, why not embrace it? Sketchup’s initial purpose (as already pointed out above) is quite removed from what it’s used for today.

It would be like comparing a farm tractor to a delivery truck.

More like a pickup truck to a van. Or maybe two different models of pickup trucks, but Rhino is clearly the better of the two, but just with a stick shift.

They both are good at what they are intended for, but to compare them based on some other unintended use is folly.

Thankfully I’m avoiding such folly by comparing them to things that they are both used for. Are you saying that anything other than industrial design is an unintended use? I know that’s not what you meant. If it was then the website is going to need a huge overhaul :wink: . Rhino is good at so many things. The things I’ve listed above are areas where I feel Sketchup is “ahead” (in various ways) but Rhino could surpass it without much effort.


on popularity, it has to be a significant factor that google gave sketchup away for free for years, to entice millions of people to build their 3d world for them, until they figured how to automate that task and get rid of the people, and sketchup

Quite true. Plus the marketing budget.

I find sketchup to be easy for writing trivial plugins, far less so for non-trivial ones

It must have taken a bit of effort to learn both Python and Ruby?

but with python + eto being superior

Eto looks really good I’ve just had trouble finding resources for it. For a couple different reasons I went the direction of C# but I wonder if I should have went with Python…

SketchUp is simply much more accessible, has integrated Warehouse, in default shows textures on all objects. Can display specific complex 3D models of architecture without lags.
By stepping into BIM, Trimble is focusing strongly on architects.

Rhino has its own advantages and I prefer it now, also because I stopped doing architecture and Rhino + Grasshopper is the ideal toolset in my current field.

1 Like

python is a good choice for rapidly solving a problem, and for sharing across different operating systems, since you avoid dealing with compilation, just copy/paste the code and go

c# may need a bit more setup, with a proper project & compilation (ignoring the case of typing some c# into grasshopper), but you will always have better IDE support (intellisense, etc) than with a dynamically-typed language like python, so it is a good choice for learning

rhinocommon/eto will work the same in either case (it will be the same physical libraries being used), so the difference is more about adapting to the different syntaxes and idiosyncrasies of the languages; c# will be more preferable the more complex the problem/plugin, since the IDE will encourage project structure, and because compilation will catch classes of error that are only detected in python when the code is actually run

so I would not say you have made any mistake by choosing to tackle c# – just open view > object browser in visual studio to look over the interfaces of eto/rhinocommon, bookmark the developer samples, hit google or search/ask here when you run into an issue, and you can get where you want to go

seems funny to say, but I do not actually remember much about learning either one; once you get the general principles down by learning one language well, others may come fairly easily


@keithscadservices Am not quite sure if you’re really looking to have a cognitive discussion here, but as John pointed out, these are two different tools. Maybe what may make more sense for you is to understand where these might be used.

Sketch Up is great for concepting and design iteration without huge overhead in terms of cost or skill set. Rhino would then be a step up from that, especially when creating more organic forms over the tools found in Sketch Up. Last in the line is Revit or ArchiCAD for full construction BIM modeling. Each have their place and for some users Sketch Up provides enough.

Secondly there are major differences between mesh modeling and NURBS modeling. There are times when similar results can be achieved and other areas where there are clear departure points. If you’re on Rhino7 I’d say take a look at SubD modeling and it’s approach and how fundamentally different it is than modeling with the more traditional NURBS modeling tools. Each has a place but there are major differences that can be achieved.

1 Like

Am not quite sure if you’re really looking to have a cognitive discussion here

I am and there is no evidence to the contrary.

Maybe what may make more sense for you is to understand where these might be used.

I understand just fine. But since we went down this road, here’s a link (veering off topic but drives home the points here) that kind of contradicts your statement about NURBS:

An Introduction to SubD (Subdivision Surface Modelling) in Rhino3d v7 - Rhino 3D.

So no Rhino is not just a NURBS modeller.

Secondly there are major differences between mesh modeling and NURBS modeling…

Ultimately NURBS or no NURBS it’s not even really relevant, especially in the context of what I’m talking about here. Are you saying that simply because Rhino is a NURBS modeller it cannot be used for certain things? You aren’t really connecting your argument to what I originally posted.

1 Like

It sounds like you’ve used both extensively! I’ve done a little bit of work in Sketchup and completed very small projects. I saw the potential for Sketchup to be better than Revit in a lot of areas. There are a small handful of companies that are seeing really good success with Sketchup. They’ve likely either perfected their workflows and/or have carefully chosen (and potentially developed in house) custom plugins.

Here’s an example worth skimming through:

My goal when starting this discussion was to see what people think, that is, if Rhino could compete in this space. I think it’s a better starting platform for these things than Sketchup is.

1 Like

@keithscadservices Did not say that Rhino was NURBS only. In fact I use it for mesh editing, point cloud reverse engineering, etc. The point about mesh modeling is that is all that Sketch Up is but that there are times and places for it.

Overall you’re stuck on Rhino being “a better platform” and, again, if that is what works for you perfect. There’s a much bigger overhead that you’re not considering when it comes to training and design skills needed. As I previous outlined is the stages and you’re holding on to this line that it is the be all. That’s what I mean about cognitive conversation. You’re not wanting to understand why those that use Sketch Up are. Why it’s good enough for them and they don’t need more. That they could somehow be perfectly content with the functionality within Sketch Up covers, say 70% - 90% of what they need to do.

Yes Rhino can do 99% of what Sketch Up can… what does that mean? That they should all use Sketch Up? No it means that there are more factors involved with using the platform than just modeling only. Maybe price is a factor…$199per year vs $1K up front means more people with Sketch Up in their hands and designing for the same price as one.


Did not say that Rhino was NURBS only

NURBS should have never even entered the discussion. It would be more relevant in the hot topic of edge fillets where people are comparing it directly to solid modellers.

Overall you’re stuck on Rhino being “a better platform”…

You’ve correctly identified my discussion topic hence why I’m ‘stuck’ on it, so to speak; it’s basically the foundation of the topic itself. My point being that Rhino has potential to become more popular in areas where Sketchup is currently far more widely used. I’ve actually put a lot of thought into this and I know many of Sketchup’s shortcomings. And Revit’s for that matter. There’s a reason Rhino inside Revit is so popular.

Maybe price is a factor…$199per year vs $1K up front means more people with Sketch Up in their hands and designing for the same price as one.

Price is absolutely a factor but many people don’t know how much Sketchup actually costs.

Sketchup ‘Pro’ currently costs $299 per year. Maybe it initially cost $199 when they first went to subscription? The price different is relevant because the average yearly cost of Rhino verses the yearly subscription cost of Sketchup (Pro) ends up being roughly equal.
At face value it looks equal, but to actually get production out of Sketchup you need to carefully choose an assortment of plugins suited for your needs. Costs go up fast and can quickly start approaching that of Archicad and Revit. Many plugin developers also like to do the yearly subscription thing…

Sketchup ‘Studio’ costs $699. It most notably includes V-Ray. V-Ray alone costs over 70% of that amount. So this ends up being a pretty good deal. Seeing some of the images from R8 (and R7 from people who really have it figured out), Rhino and Cycles might still offer the better value.

@keithscadservices The crux of your POV is very much skewed. Not everyone needs everything that Rhino is capable of. That you “think” they do is a bias on your part. It’s not like I’m some diehard Sketch Up fan or anything but you presume to think that there’s no reason for designers to use the software and I’ve given several reason.

Going deeper on the ROI. You just put cost averages out over time and I’d again say that if 3 designers are using Sketch Up at $300 a pop vs 1 designer using only Rhino that creates a bottle neck of productivity. That a company would rather have less than 100% perfect (aka your Rhino) to trade off and have 60% of the functionality for throughput.

By your argument you using Rhino instead of Revit or ArchiCAD for Architecture is a waste. Granted there are forms that are more challenging to create in those softwares but once construction document level of BIM is needed you’re just not seeing most firms using Rhino for that. Revit and ArchiCAD are way better tools suited to that need.

Last time I’ll point this out… a user/company/firm is ok with less than, in your opinion, than what you’re considering to be better. This is your choice and by all means use what works for you, but you can’t turn around to others and say they’re losing out because they use Sketch Up. That would be no different than me point out all of the shortcomings of Rhino when it comes to true BIM modeling.


Of course not. Everyone knows this. This has nothing to do with anything in this topic nor does it affect anything I’ve stated in this post.

No I did not “put out cost averages over time”. I went to Sketchup’s website, took the time to verify the actual pricing, and shared those figures. I also correctly stated that many people using Sketchup also opt to purchase various plugins. These are very accurate and objective statements.

Nowhere have I suggested that a firm should have 3 Sketchup seats and 1 Rhino seat. Nor is this really a realistic situation.

I think your point might be lost in your grammar here but I’m not comparing Rhino to Revit or ArchiCAD. I did point out that Rhino inside Revit is very popular and makes up for many of Revit’s shortcomings.

You seem to be reading between the lines and coming up with many conclusions that are far removed from not only the topic but also my own opinions. You also seem to be taking offense to me even comparing Rhino to Sketchup, when in reality I’ve made a few flattering remarks about Sketchup. I know Sketchup quite well actually as I looked into it quite extensively before choosing Rhino. I’ve also seen really great results with Sketchup (consider re-reading my first post). Credit where credit due and I would love for one of the Sketchup experts who creates those amazing drawings to share their two cents. Only a relatively small number of people have really explored Rhino’s capabilities in this area, meaning that in my opinion, there’s still lots of potential to be uncovered.

1 Like

Rhino’s the dominant product in markets Sketchup has zero presence, I’m not sure what this comparison even matters except to a handful of users…


This goes to the heart of your post. You’re looking to understand “why” there are people that are using the software. If you’re admitting that this is a given then you already have an answer. What other criteria would you need to hear as to why someone would use Sketch Up over Rhino?

Nowhere have I suggested that a firm should have 3 Sketchup seats and 1 Rhino seat. Nor is this really a realistic situation.

This is a simplified scenario, clearly this is meant as a base line, do the math, multiply this times 5 or 10 or whatever number you want. How is this escaping you?

I think your point might be lost in your grammar here but I’m not comparing Rhino to Revit or ArchiCAD. I did point out that Rhino inside Revit is very popular and makes up for many of Revit’s shortcomings.

What I’m going at is the bigger premise here that you are going after. No you didn’t compare Rhino to Revit or ArchiCAD, what you are doing is comparing two different tools used in different ways and trying to say that the superior one (Rhino) is what others using (Sketch Up) should be using. What I’m doing is saying that (Revit/ArchiCAD) is a better tool than (Rhino) and you’re saying that can’t be part of the conversation and I choose not to adhere to that.

It’s not that I’m offended by any stretch. It’s that, based on your own post and words, that there is a “better” platform (Rhino) and that you can’t understand why it isn’t more wide spread, in certain markets, than Sketch Up. Have given you several points as to why. You can choose to accept them or not.

1 Like

Anyways… I want to get this back on course so I worked up an example:

All this really represents is some typical conditions you might see on the upper levels of a cast in place concrete tower. Simple enough but I’ve seen such things botched in Revit countless times, some of which causing major delays on projects.

The very top is easy enough. Just a parapet curb sloping inwards. And the roof slab is sloped towards a single scupper. Very fast to model in Rhino. Also quick to model in Sketchup but not as fast as Rhino. And a bit of a pain in Revit:

The second slab down is a bit more complex. It looks simple but modelling multiple slopes on a slab is actually quite hard in many BIM programs. Revit isn’t good at it. Sketchup is better. And Rhino is better yet. With both Sketchup and Rhino things can go sideways fast if you don’t stick to a process. But once you figure it out it’s very efficient. Why go through all the trouble? Why not just ignore the slopes? I’ve seen extremely costly mistakes from inaccurate Revit models. But even ignoring that there’s still a few advantages. For example, I can get very accurate concrete volumes from a closed polysurface:

The lower slab is more of the same, but highlights a couple things that Revit doesn’t do well: There is a slab step as well as a soffit step two feet back from the face of the step. Modelling a realistic slab step in Revit is actually quite hard. Sketchup is better at it and Rhino, again, is better yet:

And although one would be right to argue that it’s not that important, it’s nice to have section cuts without lines all over the place and pour breaks that reflect what we’d see in real life:

All the slabs I’ve shown have flat soffits but sloping tops. It’s quite easy to create slabs with consistent thicknesses as well:

Although this might be picking and choosing Rhino’s strong points, these are typical concrete modelling challenges. As a frame of reference I’ll mention that there are people who are modelling things like these using Catia (which costs like $20,000 per year) and charge a lot of money to developers for accurate models.

1 Like

This is kind of the problem. You’ll type something with a bunch of assumptions about what you think my underlying motives are; you’re trying to read between the lines. But at the same time I don’t think you’re actually reading any of my posts. Which is fine because in reality this is just a discussion. I’m genuinely curious to hear peoples opinions. But if that opinion is something along the lines of “I think Rhino sucks because it’s cloudy outside today” I won’t take it seriously.

To be honest I thought someone would burst in here trashing Sketchup. In two of my posts above (and I’ve already mentioned this in one of my responses to you) I’ve given examples of where Sketchup does really well. I’ll say it again: I don’t think you’re actually reading my posts.

I’m first/foremost a software developer; however, I spent much of my career at a VC firm where I managed the intellectual property among 120+ businesses in which we invested. My job was essentially making comparisons similar to Rhino-v-Sketchup from a business-potential/marketing perspective.

In short, this is squarely within my professional experience.

In most cases where I conduct analysis, I’m examining products/businesses that are superior to alternatives that are far more successful.

In simple, modern terms… I focused on objective data to understand counter-intuitive market trends akin to the reason Kim Kardashian is exponentially more popular than, say, Stephen Hawking.

To develop this data, the first rule is to separate my own views and beliefs. To begin with empirical data sourced via ML/sentiment analysis, etc.

A quick review of correlated search terms, keywords will expose some misunderstandings in this post. In simple terms, @KeithsCADservices poses an entirely valid question that posits the potential of Rhinoceros if provided greater exposure.

Several people appeared to miss @KeithsCADservices point, instead focusing on the technical reasons why the two should not be compared. This completely ignores the salient point of the question, which is why a tool that can do as much (and far more) than a tool that overlaps market-niches / competes for revenue to some degree.

The point was raised that SketchUp enjoyed a good deal of free marketing. To be clear, this was between 2006-2012 under Google’s ownership. That’s somewhat accurate; however, the bulk of that marketing occurred within the first two years before Google began abandoning their interest/intended purpose.

While that provides SketchUp with valuable brand “authority” and legacy, it’s not the sole reason for its success as a software product. If it were, Microsoft Internet Explorer would continue to outpace all other browsers 30:1; reality is the opposite.

While it’s certainly a factor, there have been opportunities to surpass SketchUp as the most popular rapid/easy 3D-massing tool. One example is Autodesk’s FormIt.

Because SketchUp is based upon a relatively simple codebase, Autodesk was able to build FormIt to a formidable SketchUp competitor with a very small team in 2-3 years, releasing around 2012.

Despite the brand-recognition of Autodesk, advertising resources, or FormIt being given away free, it has failed to consequentially encroach on SketchUp’s market-share after 11 years on on the market.

Returning to the “Kim Kardashian”-effect… Free-publicity and word-of-mouth is far more difficult than most people realize, and random luck can be the lynchpin to surpassing the point of critical mass. This is something SketchUp has in spades, typically a combination of brand equity and ease-of-use.

No competitive product comes close to SketchUp in simple, turnkey “tutorials”/videos/etc. Rhino has many tutorials, yet none are sufficiently targeted towards beginners who want to 3D print something with less than an hour learning.

Simply put:

Brand-equity, Market-positioning/impression (clean, easy, modern/uncluttered welcoming interface), Advertising-budget, Ease-of-Use …breed… word-of-mouth / viral spread.

Back to @KeithsCADservices salient point –

Why doesn’t Rhino appear to be interested in taking some of the market?

After all, Rhino is the superior product. Adding a “Quick Massing” UI mode wouldn’t take much.

Best of all, if people have never used either product, there is no requirement to compete with a “sticky geometry” as FormIt was forced to contend with.

Simply put: streamline the boolean operations and UI in a “Quick Massing” mode, create an affiliate program encouraging reviewers/youtubers, offer an inexpensive/free version that is very feature-limited to those interested in quick-massing, and spread a minimum of 50+ articles around the 'net on how:

“Rhino offers the same ease of use as SketchUp, along with a path for building more complex 3D models in the future. SketchUp’s ease-of-use has always been plagued by shortcomings; however, the more comprehensive modeling tool Rhino is now able to offer a similar ease-of-use, without the limitations of SketchUp.”

This will guide/create a narrative as well as feeding the LLM’s (eg chatGPT) for those creating articles in the future and create interest/motivation for others to spread the word in a manner similar to SketchUp.

Whether Rhino can surpass SketchUp or receive the marketshare it deserves is not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that the ROI will be magnitudes higher than nearly any other investment by Rhino’s team when executed properly.

In my humble opinion, I think Keith raises an excellent point. Regardless of whether Rhino is an entirely different tool, it doesn’t change the fact that it overlaps w/SketchUp and exceeds Sketchup in most regards.


For those that wonder whether a software developer/I.T. person has the background to appreciate the subjectmatter-- I began using AutoCAD R12 circa 1992 and I’ve designed/built two dozen houses since. Architecture has been my lifelong hobby.

I went through a period where I used Rhino extensively (returned recently for a new project), I’ve spent hundreds of hours in SketchUp because it’s my brainstorming/rapid-massing tool-of-choice, I’m decent in Revit (although I prefer Vectorworks, one of three BIM apps owned by Nemetschek).

While not as relevant, I’ve invested 30-60 days learning/testing every BIM tool available to feel confident in my preference, including: BricsCAD BIM (often overlooked; has potential for Sketchup/Revit Massing+BIM hybrid), ArchiCAD (Graphisoft, of Nemetschek), Allplan (Nemetschek), ARCHLine.XP, Chief Architect, and the fairly new Edificius (by ACCA; not ready for primetime, IMHO).


Tiffany: Thanks so much for taking the time to make such a detailed reply. It reads more like a well-written thesis than a typical forum post. I guess in a way it is similar in that it reflects of years of research.

I’ve also tried a few of the programs you’ve mentioned as well. Choosing Rhino wasn’t a completely random decision. I’ve spent most my time with (of course) Revit, Sketchup, BricsCAD BIM (but really just spun my wheels the whole time which was a shame).

1 Like