Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sketchup’s Open Source Projects on GitHub

Sketchup is hosting the STL plugin on GitHub. GitHub is a place where you can host programming scripts in order to collaborate with others. The STL plugin is Open Source, meaning it is a project that invites anyone to contribute to its development. If you’re not familiar with GitHub, it can be a little confusing at first glance is you’re just looking to download the plugin. I’ll walk you through each step.

I’d like to talk a little bit about GitHub, and the Sketchup repository over there. If you’re looking to just download and install the exporter, skip down to Step 1.


You can find the main GitHub Sketchup repository at This is where all of the official Sketchup Open Source projects are hosted. Currently, there are two projects; Sketchup-STL and Sketchup-developer-tools.

On the Sketchup-STL project page, you’ll see a number of files such as LICENSE, NOTICE,, etc. This is the area for programmers that are contributing to the development of the script. It keeps a log of the updates that are made to the files. You don’t really need to pay attention to this, although it’s fun to poke around and look at the actual programming code that makes all this stuff work. What you want to do is download the latest release of the plugin.
Step 1 – Download the plugin

Click the link at the top of the Sketchup STL Github page. Here’s a direct link to the download:

If you’d rather go to the GitHub site to download it, check out the screenshot below.

Step 2 – Install the Plugin from Sketchup

If you’re using a modern web browser, the file will more than likely go into your downloads folder. You can’t open the plugin yourself, you have to open it from within Sketchup. So don’t try to click on it to open because you’ll just get an error message. The most important thing is to know what folder the file is saved in so you can access the file from within Sketchup. If you’re not sure, you can always open your downloads folder from within your browser and copy the file to your desktop temporarily so it’s easy to find.
Once you’ve downloaded the plugin and know where it’s saved, open Sketchup. Go to WINDOW --> PREFERENCES --> EXTENSIONS.

The extensions window is where you can manage all of your Sketchup plugins. This is a feature that was introduced in Sketchup 8. Plugins, otherwise known as extensions, used to be a real pain to install. You’d have to go find the folder where Sketchup was installed and paste the plugin script into a folder named plugins. It was really hard to manage, especially when you had a bunch of plugins.

With the new plugin installer, it is a lot easier to manage plugins without having to navigate to the Sketchup folder. You can manage all of your plugins entirely from inside Sketchup.

Click on the button “Install Extension”. Find the STL plugin you just downloaded and click Open. Depending on your operating system, you may get a few security popups verifying that you want to install the plugin. Click ok on those windows. If everything went smoothly, you’ll get a window saying the installation is complete. Click ok to close that window, then click ok in the preferences window.

Now, if you go to the FILE menu, you should see a new option called “Export STL”. You’re all done! Once you’ve installed the plugin, you can delete the downloaded file if you want. If you ever want to disable this or any other plugin, just go back to this window and uncheck the box next to that plugin.

If you’d like to try installing more plugins, check out my Resources page for links to some Sketchup plugins websites.

Installing the Sketchup STL Exporter Plugin

Sketchup recently released a brand new STL exporter plugin at Basecamp 2012. It is a free plugin, and is useful for people who need to convert their Sketchup file into the more universal STL file type. In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through the steps to installing a plugin in Sketchup.

For a quick install, it’s as simple as this:
  1. Download the latest Sketchup STL plugin
  2. Remember what folder you downloaded the file to, or copy the file to your desktop temporarily. Open up Sketchup
  4. Click Install extensions
  5. Select the file you just downloaded
  6. Done! You’ll find a new option in the FILE menu labeled “Export STL”
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