Installing Plugins for Google SketchUp 17

There are many, many, many plugins available for Google SketchUp offering powerful features and enhancements allowing the users to customize SketchUp to their needs.

However, there is no single repository or store for obtaining these plugins. You have to locate the various community-driven sites yourself. There is also no one-click installation for these plugins. Some times they come as a single .rb file, some times as a .zip archive, on rare occasions they come with an installer.

Installing can be a bit of trial and error. Extracting the .zip archives correctly isn’t even straight forward. Different extracting packages will behave differently – some times creating extra folders or even ignoring the folder hierarchy in the .zip archive all together.

Then there is the matter of where to install it, this is particular troublesome under OSX where a user can easily mistake similarly looking locations for the correct one if the user isn’t paying attention.

The Easy Way – RBZ Packages

As of SketchUp Maintenance Release 2 Google introduced a new feature which made the process easier. They introduced a new file format for distributing plugins, or “extensions” as they prefer to call them, in the shape of .rbz packages. Technically a .rbz file is nothing more than a renamed .zip file.

Unfortunately this method of distribution hasn’t gained widespread usage yet. However, if you have a plugin distributed as .zip you can in many cases just rename it to .rbz and use the Install Extension feature in SketchUp. But beware that there could be plugins that need special actions in order to install correctly so always read the instructions first!

The Simpler Way?

In an attempt to make the process easier, with less clicks and more compatible with legacy distribution I wrote a small utility: Simple Plugin Installer.

It allows for installation of single .rb files as well as legacy .zip packages and the newer .rbz format. Available from Plugins » Install – a place that requires less clicks than the native Window » Preferences » Extensions. You still need to be using SU8 M2 in order to use this utility to install .zip and .rbz packages.

It lets you browse and select the plugin package you want to install and it will be installed to the correct location and also automatically loaded, avoiding the need to restart SketchUp in most cases.

The caveats are that under Windows the path where the file is located cannot contain any characters outside the ASCII range, this is due to a limitation of SketchUp’s version of Ruby (1.8).

Another bug in the SketchUp API is that one cannot present a file dialogue that filters for multiple file types, which is why there is a menu item for each file format.

When Internet Explorer 10 is released it will be possible to create a cross browser solution where one can drag the plugin package files onto a webdialog drop-pad in SketchUp, making for a very easy installation.

The Old Fashioned Manual Way

This is where many, especially those new to SketchUp plugins, run into problems. Users of SketchUp versions prior to version 8 M2 must use this method.

Single .rb Files

If the plugin you downloaded consisted only of a single .rb file you only need to copy it to SketchUp’s plugin folder.

Under Windows this folder is located where SketchUp itself is installed. On Windows 7 64bit the default location for SketchUp 8′s plugin folder is:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins
C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8\Plugins

OSX users will find the plugins folder under:

/Library/Application Support/Google SketchUp 8/SketchUp/Plugins
/Library/Application Support/Google SketchUp 8/SketchUp/Plugins

Note that this path is under the root HD location and not the user folder! It is also not inside the SketchUp application package. Both of these locations are something that OSX users often mistakenly pick first time they try to install a plugin.

ZIP Packages

One frequent problem is that different decompression software extracts .zip files differently. Some extract additional wrapping folders, some ignore the original folder structure completely.

To be sure that you do thing right, follow this check list when extracting:

  • Extract to a temporary location first, not directly into your plugins folder. This way you can verify the extracted content first.
  • Ensure your extraction utility preserves folder structures.
  • Read the plugin’s description from where you downloaded it and check if it describes which files goes where.

Normally a .zip package contains a .rb file and a folder – the folder containing additional support files for the plugin. The files you place in your plugins folder should be this .rb file and the supporting folder.

If your extraction software added a folder that wraps these files, usually with the same name as the .zip file, you should make sure you don’t move that wrapping folder. Instead find that .rb file and supporting folder and move those. SketchUp needs to find that .rb file directly in the plugins folders.

But remember to always check the description for a plugin because there are exceptions to the rule. My TT_Lib² library for instance does not place a .rb file in the plugins folder, it only has a TT_Lib2 folder. It is important not to get confused and put all the .rb files in that folder into the roof of Plugins.

Should you encounter problems when installing, contact the author and describe exactly what doesn’t work (What did you expect should happen – and what happened?) along with any error messages you might have encountered. The error messages are very important feedback when debugging an issue – never ignore them!

When you copy files to the plugins folder under Windows ensure that you have administrator rights as you might otherwise run into issues. Vista tends to place files in a hidden Compatibility Files where things appear upon first glance to be in order. But it usually cause problems, and you should move the files into the correct folder with admin rights.

The Future…

A much better user experience would be to have a plugin manager from within SketchUp that let the users browse an online repository like people are used to from smart phones. A manager that let you install the plugin you find interesting with a single click, keep it updated and let you disable or uninstall with ease.

Such solution doesn’t exist yet, but it will come. It is a large undertaking but there are already people working on such a project. Dana Woodman is at the time of writing this article working on EXTENDSketchUp – a repository and plugin manager.

Keep an eye out for activity on that site. It will make it much easier for users to manage plugins and provide a simple way for developers to distribute their plugins.

17 thoughts on “Installing Plugins for Google SketchUp

  1. Pingback: Procrastinators Revolt! » Blog Archive » QuadFace Tools 0.7.0

  2. Reply polarbr Feb 10,2012 19:19

    When you talk about a “Simple Plugin Installer” above, is this an . exe file or something that I need to download and intstall into SketchUP 8?

    I’m trying to download and install the plugin from Skelion and am having the same issues as many other – with the .rbs file needing to be an .rbz. And changing the .zip folder extension to .rbz is just creating a unrecognizable file.

    I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just create a .rbz file to begin with if that’s what you need to work in SketchUp, but then… I’m not a software engineer.

    Can you offer any help?

  3. Reply Thomas Thomassen Feb 10,2012 19:42

    “Simple Plugin Installer” is a SketchUp plugin that adds a menu within SketchUp to make the installation easier. Follow the link in the article. (Click on Simple Plugin Installer.)

    However, I’d forgotten about .RBS files when I made “Simple Plugin Installer”, I need to make a small update to account for these types.

    Basically, if all you have is a single RBS file, put it in your SketchUp Plugins folder.

  4. Reply RealSpace Jul 5,2012 17:20

    The checklist was really helpful, thx.

  5. Reply louise Aug 2,2012 12:22

    is it possible to use the .rbz in sketch up 7?? I really want to install the building structures pluggin but have no idea how to install it on sketchup 7 – windows

  6. Reply Thomas Thomassen Aug 2,2012 21:01

    You can not install .rbz directly into anything older than SU8.

    But you can rename the .rbz into a .zip files and extract that content into your SketchUp plugins folder.

  7. Reply louise Aug 4,2012 02:15

    Cheers! Got it to work!
    Thanks for your advice and the install pluggin.

  8. Reply JB Feb 1,2013 06:06

    One thing: it would be great if Trimble had a plugin “store”, such as Apple’s store. A centralised system allows for better control (in many areas). Also, user reviews are really handy. Also, a good description for a plugin helps a lot, along with a proper name.
    There’s a reason I pay for certain apps on the app store.

    Thanks for this plugin. It works great.

  9. Reply JB Feb 1,2013 06:10

    A question: where can I find a plugin that calculates the total length of a selected batch of lines? I downloaded a plugin that spat out errors, and then gave me a wrong number.

  10. Reply Thomas Thomassen Feb 1,2013 09:42

    Last year, after they where bought by Trimble, there was a Reddit chat with the SketchUp team. There, and at Basecamp 2012, they indicated they where looking into something like a repository. :)

    As for the total length so selected edges, no need for a plugin, the Entity Info window displays this.

  11. Reply J Jan 2,2014 22:27

    Does anyone know how to associate the RBZ extension with the -native- Windows 8 explorer tool that jumps into zip files ? In order to look at the ruby innards of an RBZ file, I have to rename the RBZ to ZIP, then look and then back to RBZ if I want to install it.

  12. Reply Thomas Thomassen Jan 3,2014 10:45

    That’s a good question. I’m not sure how or if it can be done though.

  13. Reply halil Jan 9,2014 19:11

    I uninsstall sketch up 8 and install sketchup 13 and I can use my serial number.What can I have to do?

    Please help me

  14. Reply Thomas Thomassen Jan 9,2014 19:19

    I’m sorry, but is your question about whether you can use SketchUp 8 serial to activate SketchUp 2013? That is something you need to contact SketchUp support or the vendor your purchased SketchUp from. However, I don’t think it’s possible. If it was related to some plugin, then you need to contact the author of the plugin.

  15. Reply zu Feb 3,2014 23:58

    thank you so much! the whole day I couldn’t find out how to install and open my plugin in sketch up. But thanks for your advice regarding “simple plugin installer”, I could open plugin a lot easier!

  16. Reply venktesh Feb 26,2014 11:55

    what to if install button is not showing in my skp 8 pro

  17. Reply Thomas Thomassen Feb 27,2014 11:11

    Then you have the original release of SketchUp 8. The Install Extension button was introduced in Maintenance Release 2. Update your SketchUp to see it. It’s worth keeping your software up to date regularly to get all bug fixes. Normally you should be notified by SketchUp when there is an update – unless you have disabled it or you’re behind a firewall that blocks it.

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