Google Launches SketchUp 3D Modeling Software

Google has released Google SketchUp, a 3D modeling program that it acquired last month with the purchase of @Last Software. The tool lets users design and build three-dimensional models of a dream home, a car, a skyscraper — and just about anything else that might come to mind.

Google SketchUp is a free application that targets hobbyists. Based on early reports, the SketchUp system is easy for newcomers to model designing to learn.

“It is the most intuitive 3D modeling program I have ever used — and I’ve used many,” Scott Onstott, an author of many books on CAD, told TechNewsWorld.

Google SketchUp vs. Other CADs

SketchUp doesn’t have the power found in most CAD programs, but it might open doors to a new group of users who don’t create models for a living. The tool comes with tutorials, and its interface and usability are more advanced and less quirky than other hobbyist 3D applications, commented Google Blogscoped writer Philipp Lenssen.

3D Warehouse, a companion site where SketchUp users can share and download models, offers thousands of pre-built models. Google’s 3D Warehouse is what gives the company’s tool an edge over competitors, Lenssen told TechNewsWorld.

In addition to sharing their designs on 3D Warehouse, users can place their models in Google Earth.

“[SketchUp] is meant to be complementary to CAD programs … close to free hand sketching, but with the bells and whistles and convenience of doing it on the computer,” said Andrea Vaught, an architect with Webber+Thompson.

SketchUp can import drawings along with information from AutoCAD and work between the two applications during the early design stages, she explained. Users would still have to create technical documents in a CAD program, though.

Advanced Version Available

Google also offers SketchUp Pro 5, which targets architects and professionals who engage in complex design work. Pro comes with more export capabilities and GIS (geographic information systems) data support.

SketchUp Pro 5 retails for US$495 and comes with a free eight hour trial. Both versions run on Windows 2000 and XP with a Mac version in the works.

“The free version has almost everything the Pro version has except output support for working with other programs and the sandbox, which is a useful landscape modeling toolset,” Onstott pointed out.

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