Graphics Card Issues 
 
 
Are things missing in SketchUp, tools not working right or is SketchUp acting sickly?
 
Quite a few problems can be attributed to OpenGL deficiencies in the graphics hardware and/or its driver. 
 
 
A spreadsheet released by SketchUp Guide Tommy for SketchUppers to share and review how different graphics card perform with SketchUp.
 
Note: Survey Results on Google Docs can be examined and sorted as desired by clicking on View > List.
 

And check out...
User Graphics Card Feedback
..a place for SketchUp users to contribute a personalized asccount of graphics card performance.
 

 Symptoms

 
  • Blank screen
  • Lots of black
  • Modeling tools do not function
  • Selection tool does not select things you want
  • The computer refuses to open SketchUp (other problems may also cause this symptom)
  • Excessive bugsplatting
  • Selection box is missing
  • Only seeing a wireframe - regardless of face style setting
  • Cannot save files or trouble saving files (reported on a few PCs)
  • SketchUp worked when it was first open, but in later sessions the tools and display does not function.
  •  


     Introduction to OpenGL

     
     
    A deficiency with OpenGL support from a graphics driver is often the reason for the modeling misery some people experience.  With an 100% OpenGL compliant  driver, SketchUp can use hardware acceleration, and use specialized graphics RAM build on-board a graphics card in addition to the computing done through the Central Processing Unit (CPU, located on the motherboard) and the motherboard RAM.  

    Rendering calculations are initially performed on the CPU which passes on its results to the GPU to convert the information into the stuff you see on the monitor.  SketchUp rendering can either be CPU-bound (Central Processing Unit) or GPU-bound (Graphics Processor Unit) - depending on which Style settings are enabled in SketchUp.  But either way, for the best results using SketchUp, what is needed is a partnership of processing power.
     
     
    For a little background: SketchUp uses the OpenGL library for rendering 3D. When SketchUp uses a video graphics card, it's up to the graphics card manufacturer to provide the OpenGL library with a driver. Sometimes, the OpenGL library will change for various reasons.  SketchUp uses most elements in the library, including some aspects of OpenGL that aren't used very much by other applications. If there are any changes to OpenGL in the driver such that it deviates from the OpenGL standard, issues in SketchUp may appear such as issues selecting a face. If unchecking "Use hardware acceleration" fixes an issue, this is a great indicator that there's an issue with the driver's implementation of OpenGL. [SketchUp Guide Tommy]
     

     

    Yet More Background Information on OpenGL 

     
    The following is taken from an old SketchUp user manual technical reference, but the information still applies today:
     
    SketchUp and OpenGL
    3D applications, such as SketchUp, require abundant system resources. Aside from having a fast CPU and large amounts of RAM, your video card and video card drivers must be 100% OpenGL compliant.

    What is OpenGL?
    OpenGL is the industry-standard, used in numerous software applications and games, to draw 3D geometry. Most Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X operating systems come with a software-based OpenGL driver. However, these drivers rely heavily on the CPU to perform the rendering calculations of OpenGL (a task that is not done efficiently by most CPUs).

    Many video card manufacturers have also built cards that support the OpenGL standard. These cards perform the rendering calculations using a specialized chip called the Graphics Processing Unit or GPU (instead of relying on the CPU). These chips significantly enhance OpenGL performance upward of 3000 percent. This performance enhancement is known as Hardware Acceleration.

    Hardware Acceleration
    SketchUp can take advantage of hardware acceleration if your computer has a 100% OpenGL compatible video card.

    Unfortunately, only some 3D drivers in the consumer video card market are 100% OpenGL compatible and can use this feature (though many cards claim to be 100% OpenGL compatible). Most 3d drivers are designed for games, and are often not tested using other 3D programs. Consequently, incompatibility problems can occur requiring a fix from the video card manufacturer. Disable this option if you are having problems with the 3D rendering of your models or if your video card is not 100% OpenGL compatible and does not support hardware acceleration.

    Note - Hardware Acceleration might only be available on your system for certain resolutions and color depths. Check the system settings for your video card to see if it supports hardware acceleration (using the System Preferences on Macintosh OS X).

    Trimble cannot control the quality of the OpenGL driver on your computer system. Video card device drivers are proprietary and are maintained solely by the manufacturer of the video card in your system. Therefore, Trimble cannot guarantee that SketchUp will work with hardware acceleration on your system.

    Compatibility Issues
    OpenGL incompatibility is a significant system configuration issue leading to problems with SketchUp. Difficulties with Sketchup tools, performance, and rendering (such as mysterious graphics appearing on your screen) are usually the result of a video card not fully supporting OpenGL (despite claims by the manufacturer), an out-of-date video card driver, or incompatibility with 32-bit color depth. A temporary solution is to disable hardware acceleration in SketchUp while troubleshooting the problem.

    Consult the Video Card Compatibility section of the Readme file (in the SketchUp installation directory) for additional details regarding compatibility issues for specific video cards. Or, visit the SketchUp Mini and SketchUp Plus support Web site at XYZ for technical support help with your video card.

    • OpenGL  Wikipedia article gives a good, in depth summary of OpenGL function.
    • OpenGL Capabilities  Mac OS X chart for different graphics hardware.
    • OpenGL Hardware Registry  SketchUp requires OpenGL 1.5, but 2.0 support is better.  The list in the link may have additional extensions from later versions.  But nonetheless, the extension names alone indicate which things OpenGL controls -  there is a lot of 4-dimensional calculating going on for all the rendering changes that occur while modeling.
    • Review which SketchUp settings are affected by the graphics hardware - and how the settings affect modeling speed.
     
     

    OpenGL extension viewers

    View the content of your graphics card driver online.
    • OpenGL Extensions Viewer  Windows, Mac, Android
    • Seeker Compatibility Test
    • Speccy   Free system information program from Piriform, CCleaner developer.  Great utility for detailed system information, and it also detects all the OpenGL extension included in the graphics driver.  Go to Graphics > OpenGL > GL Extensions to see what your driver includes.  Windows
    •  
     

    Poor performers

    • The SU team currently recommends against ATI Rage Pro and Matrox G400 cards due to some texture issues.  Historically, ATI drivers had more deficiencies in the OpenGL library included in their drivers.  Currently though, ATI/AMD drivers have improved.  To help understand why there may be a difference between manufacturer drivers, look at the difference in OpenGL extension support offered by NVIDIA and ATI/AMD Radeon cards.  There have been some notable improvements in OpenGL support in the latest drivers by both NVIDIA and ATI/AMD.
    • Graphic Media Accelerators, GMA, and Integrated Graphics Processors, IGP, are graphics chipsets integrated into the motherboard.  There is no dedicated video memory.  They compete for the same system memory as the central processor unit, the CPU, and often use the same bus (the pathway) to access the memory.  Graphics drivers for GMAs and IGPs are notorious for not being 100% OpenGL compliant and some GMAs may only offer support for OpenGL 1.4, not 1.5 and above. 
      • On board graphics have some physical limitations.  Even if drivers for integrated graphics chips claims to have adequate OpenGL support, the drivers will temper how the chipset processes the information to avoid overheating the computer.  In contrast, graphics cards can run faster as they include on board fans and often require more power in addition to what is supplied to it through the motherboard.  
      • As an aside, back in 2008, Intel advertised for driver developers to help create world-class 3D drivers to enable their products to run demanding applications.  So future Intel products may perform better with SketchUp.  But for now, Intel graphics for Windows systems are not recommended by Trimble SketchUp.
     

     
     

     Fixing the problem

     

    Graphics card control panel tune-up

    A few people have had some success tweaking the graphics card control panel itself. 

    • Foremost, antialiasing and anisotropic filtering should be set to application-controlled - if a single, system-wide 3D setting is used.
    • NVidia OpenGL issue - Help found!  It is possible to set up graphics card settings for individual programs.  TaffGoch shows the SketchUp specific control panel settings from the partner-certified driver he uses - which has custom settings recommended specifically for SketchUp. Anisotropic filtering is toggled off for SketchUp when the graphics card settings are customized for individual programs.
    • A few people reported they needed to turn off conformant texture clamp for their NVIDIA card (the infamous 8800 mentioned above in fact). 
     

    Non-driver settings

    • Some drivers prefer if the SketchUp window is set to the maximum window size instead of a minimized state.
    • My dual graphics card problem solved  Blank SketchUp window issue solved by correcting the primary monitor assignment in a multi-monitor set-up. 
    • Some people have reported SketchUp display issues when DirectX 10 is installed on a XP system.  Many higher-end Graphic cards, like NVIDIA's 8000 series and above support DirectX 10.  Those cards can be used on either XP or Vista machines.  However, DirectX 10 is designed to run on Vista.  Downgrading to DirectX 9 may help some XP-users. 

    Update (or downgrade) the graphics driver

    It's amazing how many SketchUp issues can be resolved by updating the driver for your video graphics card.  For assistance updating the card, check out this Help Center article.
     
    Intel chipset drivers  Try getting the most from integrated Intel graphics by getting the latest driver from the manufacturer.
     

    If updating the driver doesn't fix the issue, you can try the following steps to turn off Fast Feedback or Hardware Acceleration:

    1. Click "Window"(PC) or "SketchUp"(Mac) > "Preferences" > "OpenGL"
    2. Uncheck the "Use fast feedback" box and restart SketchUp.  If you're still encountering an issue, uncheck the "Use hardware acceleration" box and restart SketchUp

      Fast Feedback, if it is compatible with your machine, won’t change anything that you can see.  Rather, it will change only the speed of your drawing actions when working with large models.  Fast feedback more efficiently redraws your screen between the front and back buffers of your video card which speeds up drawing, but it only kicks in when performance has degraded to a certain level."  SketchUp Guide Tricia
       
      Disabling hardware acceleration will force SketchUp to rely on the CPU (Central Processing Unit) to perform OpenGL rendering functions.  That can be 3000 times slower than the same calculations otherwise done through the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) on board 100% OpenGL compliant graphics cards.
       


      Hardware acceleration can be disabled at the system level if preference setting cannot be accessed through SketchUp.
      • On XP systems, right-click on an empty desktop space
      • Go to Properties > Settings > Advanced > Troubleshoot.
      • Bring the Hardware acceleration slider to None.  Select OK and OK again.
      • Check if you can go into SketchUp Preferences and adjust the setting on the OpenGL menu.
      • Close SketchUp and re-enable system hardware acceleration.  Restarting SketchUp to check for the problem.  And if SketchUp now functions, change the OpenGL and/or fast feedback settings in SketchUp preferences.
      • Restore system hardware acceleration.
       
       

       

       

       




       
       

      Additional Windows graphics-driver note:  "Newer" isn't always "better"

       On June 16,2008, the SketchUp development/support team reported the following:

      Many of you may recall that there's a known issue with SketchUp and the NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT graphics card.  After extensive testing and coffee, we found an old driver from NVIDIA that appears to resolve the issue:  

      http://www.nvidia.com/object/winxp_169.02.html

      If you're going to use this driver make sure that you uninstall your current video card driver and reboot your computer first.

      Post-script:  while this issue has been resolved in subsequent driver releases, the lesson of "newer may not be better" still applies when it comes to drivers.  
      This Windows XP graphics card driver (Forceware, version 169.02, dated October 31, 2007) is intended for the nVidia GeForce 8800GT GPU, and, according to the nVidia website, should not be used for other graphics cards.  For background information on the 8800GT 'known issue,' see this Help Group discussion.  

      If you don't have an nVidia GeForce 8800GT, this advice could still potentially help.  Some time ago, I noted that a two-year-old driver on my laptop always performed better than the "latest and greatest" driver.  You, too, could have better results with older drivers.  Collect driver versions applicable to your graphics hardware, and try each of them.  Keep in mind, while experimenting with device drivers, that Windows XP provides a feature to "roll-back" device drivers, to the previously employed driver.
       
       

        

       





      See Microsoft's description of How to Roll Back a Device Driver.

       

      "HOW TO: Use the Driver Roll Back Feature to Restore a Previous

      Version of a Device Driver in Windows XP" 

      Note that Microsoft states, "...Driver Rollback permits only one level of rollback (only one prior driver version can be saved at a time.)"  If you try a new driver, and it doesn't resolve the graphics issues you're experiencing in SketchUp, you can roll back to the previous driver.  You can NOT roll back to several drivers previous.

      It's a good idea to download drivers, always saving them in a "driver" folder of your creation.  Run the driver installations from that folder.  In this manner, you can experiment with different drivers, and can ultimately re-install that one particular driver providing the best performance.  (Keep notes while experimenting!)

      [ TaffGoch ]





       

       Alternative driver sites

       
      While not officially sanctioned, some people have had success with modified, 3rd-party drivers.
       


       
       

       Feel like shopping now?

       
      Google SketchUp Graphics Card Survey  Note: Survey Results on Google Docs can be examined and sorted as desired by clicking on View > List.
       

      So after considering all your options you're thinking about going shopping?

      • Apple Store to see which graphics cards are installed in different machines.
      • GPUReview  may help to narrow down the choices.  It usually contains several review links for selected graphics cards.  
      • Tom's Hardware also has a wealth of graphics card information.  
      • Bare Feats  for Mac graphics card speed reports. 
      • OpenGL Capabilities  Mac OS X chart for different graphics hardware.
      • NVIDIA buyer's help
        • Quadro vs GeForce  PDF article explaining the difference between professional and consumer graphics cards.  (Note, SketchUp IS designed to run on systems with 'crappy' graphics cards.  And SketchUp can be set to function without the additional rendering processing from graphics hardware albeit slower.  A professional graphics card is NOT required hardware.  Many professionals and hobbists are quite happy using a consumer-grade graphics card.  But a crappy card with a deficient driver will not run as well as a good, 100% OpenGL compliant, 3D-modeling card.) 
        • Help Me Choose  Interactive comparison guide.

      If you plan trying to upgrade your system, do your homework.  Many newer/better graphics cards also require more power.  So a higher wattage power supply may also be required.  Also older systems may have some compatibility issues with swapping out and installing a new graphics card.   In that case you are mixing old technology and its older OS chipset drivers, BIOS settings, etc. with the latest and greatest graphics card on the market.  A GPU upgrade may be possible on older machine - but there may be a few hiccups that need to be cured along the way.  And there is still no guarantee of success.

      Sick of this graphics card stuff yet?  Do the best you can with the card you have by practicing good modeling management techniques.

      [ catamountain ]

       



       Graphics Card Feedback

      And a SketchUppers' graphics card feedback page has been started.  Most review sites seem to test video game benchmark standards.  SketchUp however has more demanding OpenGL requirements than games.  The feedback page is an opportunity to record real SU-user experience with this important hardware component.

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