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Initial thoughts on FormZ Free vs Sketchup Make


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#1 jonmoore

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 10:07 AM

I downloaded FormZ free over the weekend to see how it compares to Sketchup Make. On the surface it compares very well and in certain places it exceeds the featureset of Sketchup Make but there are some severe handicaps in comparison to Trimbles free software and a major pre existing problem with shading errors (on curved surfaces that have been through boolean operations).
 
I've attempted to be frank and fair in my assessment but I believe Autodessys will need to reassess their offering if they want FormZ Free to succeed in the same manner as Sketchup Make. I really want AD to succeed as I think the three tiered offering AD now have is a very smart one and the more successful AD can be with this strategy, the more resources they will potentially have to invest in Jr & Pro - to the benefit of all.
 
For my assessment, I've taken the Sketchup Make feature set and provided notes on how FormZ Free compares in essential areas:
 
Using SketchUp Make, you can:
 
- Draw, modify, measure, rotate, scale, and move geometry.
FormZ Free provides a far richer set of modeling tools than those provided by Sketchup Make but Trimble provide access to a far richer palette of tools via the Extension Warehouse. Many of these extensions are mature, well maintained and free (extensions such as 'Fredo Tools' are a prime example here).
 
- Modeling aids (snapping, guides etc)
This is FormZ Pro/Jr's biggest strength and it's great to see the toolset is 95% intact in FormZ Free. Sketchup isn't even in the same ballpark here.
 
- Use accurate dimensions, and communicate them with text tools.
FormZ Free provides a far richer toolset.
 
- Place section slices to view and work on model interiors.
FormZ Free's section tools are superior
 
- Add pre-made textures like brick, wood, shingles and glass to your models, or create new textures.
Sketchup Free has a more friendly materials system. The SKP and DAE export files import into third party 3d software far more reliably too.
 
- Add pre-made components like trees, cars, doors and windows, and people to your models, or create new components.
Sketchup Free has a far superior components system and and this stage AD can't compete with the wealth of assets in the Trimble 3d Warehouse. You can of course import SKP assets into FormZ Free but there is no AD equivalent to the 3d Warehouse at this stage
 
- Soften and smooth faces.
FormZ free provides far more control over smoothing
 
- Cast real-time shadows for any location on earth.
​No equivalent in FormZ Free for accurate sun position based on geographic location.
 
- Simulate movie camera placements.
FormZ Free provides a far richer and more professional toolset.
 
- Perform walk-throughs.
FormZ Free lacks any form of animation toolset. I had hoped for at least a playback engine so FormZ Free could be used as a client presentation tool (to playback walkthroughs created in Jr & Pro, utilising FZ's superior real time OpenGL engine).
 
- Create presentation tours.
See above
 
- Use organic modeling (Sandbox).
Neither product excels here and IMHO they're on a par with each other.
 
- Import 2D images
On par with each other.
- Import 3D models and information:
On par with each other.
 
- Export 2D images of your models:
On par with each other.
 
Export 3D assets
On par with each other.
 
- Export animations and walkthroughs as MOV or AVI files.
Not available in FormZ Free.
 
- Create geo-located models and place them in Google Earth.
FormZ offers only basic geolocation export settings in comparison to Sketchup Make.
 
- Export a Google Earth file directly in KMZ format.
On par with each other.
 
- Create/download extensions via the Extensions Warehouse
FormZ LAB extensions are only available to Pro users
 
- Rendering
Non-existent in FormZ Free. And third party renderer available for Sketchup Pro can also be used with the free product (one of the prime reasons so many third parties develop for Sketchup)
 
- Boolean operations
Sketchup only provides the real-time push/pull boolean tools. Union/Intersect/Difference etc are only provided in Sketchup Pro. However the results of curved surface booleans in FormZ result in smoothing errors as can be seen in the screenshot below (which limits their usefulness). I've reported this bug on many occasions in relation to FormZ Pro to no avail. You don't see the smoothing errors until the geometry is tessellated but because FormZ Free lacks the ACIS engine of Jr and Pro the smoothing errors are evident straight away as curved surface booleans always result in tessellated geometry.
 
18dYb.png
 
The overarching weakness of FormZ Free is it's lack of extensibility through community created extensions (it's the community that provides the real value with Sketchup). I understand that Autodessys don't want to cannibalize their existing product portfolio but FormZ Free ends up as a weak product in comparison to Sketchup Make. The other core weakness of the current FormZ Free offering is that it doesn't play nicely with third party 3d packages. The DAE exports it produces are a pain to work with due to FormZ's native materials system and if you make use of FormZ's Boolean tools on curved geometry you end up with horrendous smoothing errors. Sketchup Make on the other hand provides seamless exports to 3ds Max via SKP and proficient/predictable exports to most other 3d packages via DAE. It's for this reason that many pro users make use of Sketchup for rapid prototyping and then finish their modeling/rendering tasks in their 3d studio product of choice.
 
So all in all, I'm left with the impression the FormZ Free is caught between 'pillar and post'. I can't see it being an attractive option for existing Sketchup Make users, it's no real use for rapid prototyping and it lacks the tools to make it a useful walkthrough presentation tool for FormZ Pro/Jr users. For FormZ Free to succeed it needs to be a product that a passionate community can support. Community is the real secret of Sketchup's success (not that the product used to be owned by Google). Trimble have been very smart in their licensing terms too. Sketchup Make can only be used for non commercial projects but in most other ways (other than IO capabilities and the lack of Layout) it's uncrippled and provides the same rich feature set of the pro product. Sketchup Make not only fulfils a great need in the hobbyist/education sector, it provides an uncrippled experience that helps convert Pro trialists into fully fledged customers. I'm not so sure the same can be said for FormZ Free in it's current guise. Sketchup Pro and FormZ Jr have very similar pricing but FormZ Jr far excels Sketchup Pro's capabilities so it's a real pity that FormZ Free can't compete on a more equal footing with Sketchup Make.
 
As I said at the beginning I've attempted to frank and fair in this assessment and I'm sure not everybody will agree with my conclusions but I think Autodessys have missed a very real opportunity to make very serious waves in the marketplace with this first iteration of FormZ Free. 

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#2 Tech

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 11:39 AM

Hi Jonmore,

 

Thank you for taking the time to make this comparison. First allow us to make one correction. form•Z Free does have the ability to Cast real-time shadows for any location on earth. Please see the form•Z Free Sun Palette that allows for full control over geographic location and date and time. In addition to real-time visualization, the animated shadows can be exported as an animation (as a QuickTime of AVI file).

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.24.19 AM.jpg

 

We should note that a major difference that you did not discuss is the quality of the underlying geometry. form•Z Free creates clean solid models. This is very important as these models can be used in advanced modeling operations and 3D printing where Sketchup models often fail.

 

The extensions community for SketchUp did not happen overnight. This has evolved over many years so it’s not quite a fair comparison against a new offering like form•Z Free. Rest assured that we are working on support for Python scripts and plugins for form•Z Free and we embrace extension development for all levels of form•Z.

 
Regarding the image that you post, the geometry there is fine and would not have any issues 3d printing, but there is an issue with the rendering Normals in this case, and we are working on a solution for this.   :)


#3 jonmoore

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 01:21 PM

 

We should note that a major difference that you did not discuss is the quality of the underlying geometry. form•Z Free creates clean solid models. This is very important as these models can be used in advanced modeling operations and 3D printing where Sketchup models often fail.

 

The extensions community for SketchUp did not happen overnight. This has evolved over many years so it’s not quite a fair comparison against a new offering like form•Z Free. Rest assured that we are working on support for Python scripts and plugins for form•Z Free and we embrace extension development for all levels of form•Z.

 
Regarding the image that you post, the geometry there is fine and would not have any issues 3d printing, but there is an issue with the rendering Normals in this case, and we are working on a solution for this.   :)

 

 

Hi Tech,

 

Thanks for correcting my error with regard to geolocated sun position and shadows. I tried to be thorough by reading all of the FormZ Free help files when creating my comparison but somehow missed any reference to the Sun Pallette

 

With regard to scripts and extensions I was basing my assessment on the fact that the Extensions Manager in FormZ Free lacks the load function that is present in Formz Pro/Jr plus I saw no mention of Extensions (or an SDK for the matter) on the FormZ Free product page or within the FormZ Free online manual. I'd agree that it would be unfair to expect FormZ Free to compete with the wealth of extensions available for Sketchup at launch but the point I was making was that community created extensions do not appear to be part of the FormZ Free tool set at all. It's very encouraging to hear that extensions and scripts will be loadable in FormZ Free as well as the rest of the FormZ product range.

 

On the last point (smoothing errors), it's frustrating that you refer to a feature I've not even made part of my my assessment (watertight STL export), and dismiss the actual bug that I reported (and provided lengthy documentation via private mail long ago) as something that's not very critical. Smoothing errors caused by bad Normals (on tessellated geometry) have been the bane of FormZ for quite some time (as has been reported many times on the old forum). I really do hope you've finally found a solution to this MISSION CRITICAL bug for many use case scenarios (other than 3d printing).

 

And with regard to 3d printing, I applaud that this has been a central focus for Autodessys for a good many years but Trimble have never claimed that Sketchup is designed for 3d printing, so the feature is fairly irrelevant in terms of the comparison points I was making. The type of hobbyist that has the finances for a 3d printer is far more likely to be using a a pro solids modeling package such as FormZ Pro or Jr anyway. 

 

As I originally mentioned, I really hope that FormZ Free can succeed because a vastly larger FormZ community will be a huge benefit to all your paying customers too. I urge you promote extension development as a priority and allow the community to enrich your products with both free and commercial extensions. The evidence so far has been that FormZ LAB is for Pro users only, and as great as the Catenary and Profiles tools are I'd hardly position them as reasons to upgrade to Pro.



#4 Tech

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 02:19 PM

Dear Jon,

 

We mentioned the quality of the geometry because you said:

 

So all in all, I'm left with the impression the FormZ Free is of... no real use for rapid prototyping...

 

 

We actually have a number of videos showing fabrication and prototyping here:

 

http://www.formz.com...inarReplay.html

 

Regarding the image that you post, ... there is an issue with the rendering Normals in this case, and we are working on a solution for this.   

 

And yes, we will do our best to promote the new scripting language when it is available.



#5 rhodesy

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 02:46 PM

Not tried the free version yet but looking at the spec sheet I'm very impressed with the offering and I'll certainly be pushing some clients to try it as an alternative to sketchup.

I think the main problem and difference between formz and sketchup is the display quality as a presentation image. Sketchup has a whole host of cool line work options that have a certain charm and are very effective. Formz on the other hand looks pretty basic and no good for that sketch like finish that someone can show a client. The AO feature is nice an all but not the same thing really.

I've raised this a couple or maybe three years ago now and was told this was something that AD would definitely like to do. Is this something that could happen soon?

#6 jonmoore

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Posted 03 November 2014 - 02:49 PM

Dear Jon,

 

We mentioned the quality of the geometry because you said:

 

 

We actually have a number of videos showing fabrication and prototyping here:

 

http://www.formz.com...inarReplay.html

 

Regarding the image that you post, ... there is an issue with the rendering Normals in this case, and we are working on a solution for this.   

 

And yes, we will do our best to promote the new scripting language when it is available.

 

It worries me that you seem to take so much out of context. I referred to 'rapid prototyping' in relationship to prototyping the 3d design (effectively a digital sketch/massing model) before refining and rendering that 3d design in another 3d package. This has nothing to do with digital fabrication. Many design studios use Sketchup in this manner and it's actually one of the things that I think FormZ could excel at (if only it could export reliable geometry).

 

The term rapid prototyping is used in many different contexts in design businesses. For instance web designers explore wireframe designs before building the website. This is considered to be a rapid prototyping within that context even though it doesn't involve fabrication.

 

You seem to ignore all of the positive things I said about FormZ Free in my assessment and take some of my criticisms out of context. Hardly a professional manner of dealing with constructive criticism. :(



#7 Des

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 03:52 AM

Hi Jon,

Your input to this forum is excellent and thank you for the comparison, keep it up. You know your stuff and I enjoy reading your posts.

 

I cannot blame Fz for being a bit defensive however, after all it's only been a few days since Fzfree was released. If there is one company who listens to it's users, it's Autodessys. Their support is the best, even if the uZers community is small compared to the SKP one.

I've been a long term user of FormZ and have been watching it's development. But in the last few years, the improvements and changes have been stellar, obviously AutoDessys have a long term plan they are pretty much sticking to. I have to admire their tenacity.

 

I'm sure that FzFree will move forward alongside it's big brothers and that it'll evolve to being a real alternative option (I believe it already is btw) to SKP.

On a side note; I use FormZ Pro now exclusively. It took me a while to readjust from v6 to v7, but my workflow and speed while modelling has increased no end. In fact, a client of mine who uses contractors has said to me that the FormZers produce models faster with cleaner geometry, so he prefers to use them rather than others. So, for that reason among others, I think there is a great future for AutoDessys, albeit getting a bigger megaphone to get the word out will definitely help.

 

Des


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#8 jonmoore

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 12:57 PM

Thanks Des, it's great to know that somebody appreciates my posts.  :)

 

I understand that it's hard to hear criticism when you've been working hard on something but I am of the belief that the points I made were balanced, fair and constructive. Autodessys may have more open plans than the product/help pages for FormZ Free make evident; but from what I see at the moment, FormZ Free looks like nothing more than a sales channel strategy. Get people to sign up for FormZ Free then attempt to convert them to FormZ Jr/Pro licenses through email and direct sales channels. And to be totally frank, the recent focus on subdivision modelling tools and 3d printing are in my opinion driven more by sales channel requirements than customer needs. That's not to say that these new features aren't appreciated, but I would have preferred that bugs and user experience problems that have been much discussed over the last few years here on the forum had been addressed first.

 

I work with a number of design businesses here in the UK (the majority of which specialise in Architectural/Design visualisation) and I have long looked to convince those businesses of the benefits of FormZ as part of their pipeline. These companies work with both Autodesk portfolio products (AutoCad, Revit, 3ds Max & Maya) and Nemetschek portfolio products (Archicad, Vectorworks, Allplan and Cinema 4d). The main reason I haven't been able to recommend FormZ to my clients is the issue I reported earlier in this thread regarding smoothing errors that arise from bad normals. There's no point in using a product for it's rapid modeling capabilities if you then have to spend an age in your main rendering package cleaning up the resulting geometry. I reported this problem when FormZ 7 was launched and then again through the FormZ 8 beta program and provided extensive documentation about the issue to the Autodessys development team via email. So on that basis I don't think I'm being unreasonable to bring it up again. Originally I thought the problem was being caused by the export plugins but with FormZ Free I was able to see that the problem exists with the base FormZ engine itself.

 

The only reason I spend time reporting these things on the forum is that I believe Autodessys have a great product (with some critical flaws), however it frustrates me greatly that I appear to taken as nothing more than a 'fly in the ointment' by the Autodessys support team.



#9 DanM

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 04:58 PM

One thing that makes me happy about FZ Free, is that finally there's something similar to a FZ viewer.

It's not a perfect solution but, I can finally share models with clients.

I would like that FZ free will be able to display Smooth objects created in FZ pro or jr without converting them to faceted objects.

ADS can place a limit that smooth objects can't be manipulated in any way until they are converted.

 

Dan



#10 jonmoore

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 05:20 PM

Dan, I'd agree that FormZ Free could be a perfect viewer application for sharing projects with clients but as far as I can tell (and this is only a guess) Autodessys aren't allowed to use the Spatial ACIS engine in FormZ Free - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACIS- I'm presuming this is down to license costs or something similar. The lack of ACIS means that Free isn't able to display projects in the same manner that they're displayed in Pro/Jr. I have no idea of what the licensing terms involve but it's a pity that Autodessys weren't able to come to terms with Spacial to include ACIS in FormZ Free for viewing purposes at the very least.

 

As I mentioned in my original assessment I would have liked FormZ Free to be able to play back animations created Pro/Jr too. For both of these reasons I believe FormZ Free is limited as a client viewer/presentation tool in its current guise.



#11 Alan Cooper

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Posted 05 November 2014 - 07:13 PM

Jon, thank you for sharing your comparison.

 

A very important comparison you did not include concerns that of licensing.

 

Trimble Sketchup's 'Make' licence disallows commercial use.

 

FormZ Free currently is free for all types of use so seems a great opportunity for new commercial users to try it out for the odd small project before making greater commitment or to train up staff without committing to a new license until pro features are required.


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#12 jonmoore

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Posted 05 November 2014 - 08:18 PM

Hi Alan,

 

I did mention the difference in licensing in my original comparison as I believe the Sketchup Make model of offering a more full featured product (even though it can only be used for non commercial purposes) is a smarter offering. I also mention in my original comparison that FormZ Jr is far superior to Sketchup Pro yet they are both priced at very similar levels so FormZ Free is the perfect opportunity to sell the benefits of FormZ (over Sketchup Pro) without the limitations of a time limited demo version. Even the smallest of design businesses can afford the license cost of either product and shouldn't really be using Sketchup Make or FormZ Free for commercial work.

 

To be clear, the criticism points I've put forward are things that I would like Autodessys to consider changing because I want FormZ Free to succeed. The reality is that Autodessys has a very small install base in comparison to most of the other major 3d packages on the market. To put things into context, today I filled out my annual Maxon (C4D) customer survey and when they ask about what other products I use in my pipeline (my clients pipelines to be more accurate), FormZ isn't even mentioned (in a very exhaustive list that includes most of the the main CAD players too, not just entertainment packages such as 3ds, Modo, C4d & Maya).

 

The good side of a small install base is more personal support from both official channels and the tight, loyal user base. The downside is that packages with small install bases are often under resourced. FormZ Free is a perfect opportunity for Autodessys to reach a wider audience and put more resources again behind a once market leading product that has sadly lost market share in recent years for one reason or another.

 

It's all well and good to show loyal support for your package of choice but you can't be myopic about where FormZ sits in the wider scheme of things. Even If you look at specialist CAD packages such as Archicad & Revit on Facebook you'll see that they have hundreds of thousands of 'fans', Autodessys at last count had 552.

 

I've long believed that FormZ is the quickest and most intuitive modeling application on the market but it has some critical flaws for those of us who wish to use it as part of a wider pipeline. I was hoping that this new three tiered strategy for the FormZ portfolio would help rebuild Autodessys's market share, which would in turn benefit all users of their products in the long run.

 

I've been involved in design businesses of one kind or another for over 30 years, ran a 50 employee plus full service design agency for a good many of those years and now provide consultancy services to a portfolio of clients that include some of the UK's largest architects, advertising agencies & product design agencies so hopefully my opinions are well informed. I'm not suggesting for a second that all of my critical points are relevant to all potential users but it is my considered opinion that FormZ Free in it's current guise is unlikely to make much of a dent in the wider marketplace and will most likely appeal more to existing FormZ customers so that more of their employees (or clients) can have a version of FormZ running on their local machine.



#13 ASONE

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 11:07 AM

If you think that SketchUp Make is ONLY being used for non-commercial projects because of the license agreement - you would be very much mistaken.  Most every architecture firm I know of has maybe one or two SketchUp Pro licenses and then an entire fleet of free versions used on every project.  


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#14 jonmoore

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 11:31 AM

If you think that SketchUp Make is ONLY being used for non-commercial projects because of the license agreement - you would be very much mistaken.  Most every architecture firm I know of has maybe one or two SketchUp Pro licenses and then an entire fleet of free versions used on every project.  

 

I'm not suggesting for a second that Sketchup Make is only being used for non-commercial projects, I only stated that Trimble are now explicit on the licensing terms:

 

To be clear, this is how they discussed the license terms when they launched Sketchup Make - http://help.sketchup...article/3000023

 

"SketchUp Make is the new name for our basic version. It’s available today and still free to use. With this change, we’re also clarifying that SketchUp Make is not licensed for commercial work.

 

What is commercial work?  Is my SketchUp project commercial work?

 

Just like most companies, we’re not legally permitted to interpret our terms of use. We trust our users to choose the right version of SketchUp for them."

 

They're not heavy handed about how users interpret the license terms but enter into an agreement based on trust with their users. I applaud this approach for it's openness and the trust it places in potential customers to do the right thing. Judging by the fact that Sketchup Pro continues to grow it's user base I'd say this 'hands off' approach is proving to be successful. The Sketchup Make feature set is very close to that of Pro so trialists get a full experience of the Pro product but Trimble make it clear that Make is unsupported for professional work.

 

FormZ is in many ways a far superior product to Sketchup, the main thing holding it back at the moment is the quality of it's IO plugins and the aforementioned smoothing bug (relating to bad normals) on tessellated geometry. If Autodessys can sort these critical issues out and remove some of the shackles from Sketchup Free, I firmly believe that they can win over Sketchup customers to their superior offering. I'm not so sure this to be the case as things stand.



#15 Alan Cooper

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 08:09 AM

Thanks Jon and Asone for your insight. I have come across small business cabinetmakers and designers using pirated copies of high end CAD software and they would claim they are justified because they couldn't afford the high prices and it is the only way they can run their businesses. I don't want to take that path so have purposely sought out affordable offerings like first of all Turbocad, then Sketchup pro, then FormZ. It can be hard for small businesses who want to do the right thing and struggle to get established, especially without the buying power to get software more affordably, yet it is we who put the money into the system to make it happen, yet we are still disadvantaged compared to those who steal the cream and get to use it for free.

It makes it all the more important that FormZ is as good as it can be and there are certainly some niggles which annoy me, like not prioritising the updating of major plugins when version 8 was released, and not knowing when a promised 'we will get this fixed' statement about a problem will materialise, and there have been claims that some promises of fixes have not been kept after many years of asking. Great to see things progressing though with this new forum and new offering of 'Free' and renaming of Bonzai to FZ Junior, so hopefully things are looking up for FormZ. As I keep plugging, we need Autodessys to get a public fix and feature list running and latest situation statement so it can become a fully fledged powerhouse rather than mostly powerful but not without frustrations which eat into our efficiency.


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#16 jonmoore

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Posted 08 November 2014 - 11:01 AM

 As I keep plugging, we need Autodessys to get a public fix and feature list running and latest situation statement so it can become a fully fledged powerhouse rather than mostly powerful but not without frustrations which eat into our efficiency.

 

Very much agree with this idea. The forum software already has a vote/'like post' mechanism so it would seem worthwhile to create forum sections for bug reports and feature requests where customers and Autodessys alike can keep tabs of the state of things. It's the most transparent manner of working and will also help with prioritisation when Autodessys need to allocate tasks to the development team.

 

If nothing else it helps reinforce the impression that Autodessys are taking notice to age old bugbears and annoyances.



#17 CJT52

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 07:19 AM

 

I downloaded FormZ free over the weekend to see how it compares to Sketchup Make. On the surface it compares very well and in certain places it exceeds the featureset of Sketchup Make but there are some severe handicaps in comparison to Trimbles free software and a major pre existing problem with shading errors (on curved surfaces that have been through boolean operations).
 
I've attempted to be frank and fair in my assessment but I believe Autodessys will need to reassess their offering if they want FormZ Free to succeed in the same manner as Sketchup Make. I really want AD to succeed as I think the three tiered offering AD now have is a very smart one and the more successful AD can be with this strategy, the more resources they will potentially have to invest in Jr & Pro - to the benefit of all.
 
For my assessment, I've taken the Sketchup Make feature set and provided notes on how FormZ Free compares in essential areas:
 
Using SketchUp Make, you can:
 
- Draw, modify, measure, rotate, scale, and move geometry.
FormZ Free provides a far richer set of modeling tools than those provided by Sketchup Make but Trimble provide access to a far richer palette of tools via the Extension Warehouse. Many of these extensions are mature, well maintained and free (extensions such as 'Fredo Tools' are a prime example here).
 
- Modeling aids (snapping, guides etc)
This is FormZ Pro/Jr's biggest strength and it's great to see the toolset is 95% intact in FormZ Free. Sketchup isn't even in the same ballpark here.
 
- Use accurate dimensions, and communicate them with text tools.
FormZ Free provides a far richer toolset.
 
- Place section slices to view and work on model interiors.
FormZ Free's section tools are superior
 
- Add pre-made textures like brick, wood, shingles and glass to your models, or create new textures.
Sketchup Free has a more friendly materials system. The SKP and DAE export files import into third party 3d software far more reliably too.
 
- Add pre-made components like trees, cars, doors and windows, and people to your models, or create new components.
Sketchup Free has a far superior components system and and this stage AD can't compete with the wealth of assets in the Trimble 3d Warehouse. You can of course import SKP assets into FormZ Free but there is no AD equivalent to the 3d Warehouse at this stage
 
- Soften and smooth faces.
FormZ free provides far more control over smoothing
 
- Cast real-time shadows for any location on earth.
​No equivalent in FormZ Free for accurate sun position based on geographic location.
 
- Simulate movie camera placements.
FormZ Free provides a far richer and more professional toolset.
 
- Perform walk-throughs.
FormZ Free lacks any form of animation toolset. I had hoped for at least a playback engine so FormZ Free could be used as a client presentation tool (to playback walkthroughs created in Jr & Pro, utilising FZ's superior real time OpenGL engine).
 
- Create presentation tours.
See above
 
- Use organic modeling (Sandbox).
Neither product excels here and IMHO they're on a par with each other.
 
- Import 2D images
On par with each other.
- Import 3D models and information:
On par with each other.
 
- Export 2D images of your models:
On par with each other.
 
Export 3D assets
On par with each other.
 
- Export animations and walkthroughs as MOV or AVI files.
Not available in FormZ Free.
 
- Create geo-located models and place them in Google Earth.
FormZ offers only basic geolocation export settings in comparison to Sketchup Make.
 
- Export a Google Earth file directly in KMZ format.
On par with each other.
 
- Create/download extensions via the Extensions Warehouse
FormZ LAB extensions are only available to Pro users
 
- Rendering
Non-existent in FormZ Free. And third party renderer available for Sketchup Pro can also be used with the free product (one of the prime reasons so many third parties develop for Sketchup)
 
- Boolean operations
Sketchup only provides the real-time push/pull boolean tools. Union/Intersect/Difference etc are only provided in Sketchup Pro. However the results of curved surface booleans in FormZ result in smoothing errors as can be seen in the screenshot below (which limits their usefulness). I've reported this bug on many occasions in relation to FormZ Pro to no avail. You don't see the smoothing errors until the geometry is tessellated but because FormZ Free lacks the ACIS engine of Jr and Pro the smoothing errors are evident straight away as curved surface booleans always result in tessellated geometry.
 
18dYb.png
 
The overarching weakness of FormZ Free is it's lack of extensibility through community created extensions (it's the community that provides the real value with Sketchup). I understand that Autodessys don't want to cannibalize their existing product portfolio but FormZ Free ends up as a weak product in comparison to Sketchup Make. The other core weakness of the current FormZ Free offering is that it doesn't play nicely with third party 3d packages. The DAE exports it produces are a pain to work with due to FormZ's native materials system and if you make use of FormZ's Boolean tools on curved geometry you end up with horrendous smoothing errors. Sketchup Make on the other hand provides seamless exports to 3ds Max via SKP and proficient/predictable exports to most other 3d packages via DAE. It's for this reason that many pro users make use of Sketchup for rapid prototyping and then finish their modeling/rendering tasks in their 3d studio product of choice.
 
So all in all, I'm left with the impression the FormZ Free is caught between 'pillar and post'. I can't see it being an attractive option for existing Sketchup Make users, it's no real use for rapid prototyping and it lacks the tools to make it a useful walkthrough presentation tool for FormZ Pro/Jr users. For FormZ Free to succeed it needs to be a product that a passionate community can support. Community is the real secret of Sketchup's success (not that the product used to be owned by Google). Trimble have been very smart in their licensing terms too. Sketchup Make can only be used for non commercial projects but in most other ways (other than IO capabilities and the lack of Layout) it's uncrippled and provides the same rich feature set of the pro product. Sketchup Make not only fulfils a great need in the hobbyist/education sector, it provides an uncrippled experience that helps convert Pro trialists into fully fledged customers. I'm not so sure the same can be said for FormZ Free in it's current guise. Sketchup Pro and FormZ Jr have very similar pricing but FormZ Jr far excels Sketchup Pro's capabilities so it's a real pity that FormZ Free can't compete on a more equal footing with Sketchup Make.
 
As I said at the beginning I've attempted to frank and fair in this assessment and I'm sure not everybody will agree with my conclusions but I think Autodessys have missed a very real opportunity to make very serious waves in the marketplace with this first iteration of FormZ Free. 

-------------------------

 

To all,

 

I'm poised on being a Form.Z user for my small architectural business here in the U.K. I have a few architectural CAD programs & also SU 2015 Pro. The video demos I viewed for Form.Z free, also had built-in architectural tools, these should also be worth noting for architectural users such as me. When Form.Z Layout gets released as a stand alone for Form.Z Free & Jr. it will have my attention & the wider architectural/construction industry I'm sure.

 

As a side note, Rhino & Form.Z seem to have acknowledged the architectural/construction industry is worth some specialised tools, where as SU does not, apart from extensions. 

 

 






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