SketchUp 8 introduces tons of new user requested features including an updated user interface, added file import and export functions, improved DWG/DXF handling, enhanced sketching abilities, and some cool new tools including "The Sandbox".
Google SketchUp Editor's Review
In case you want to sketch your new home as a casual user or you are a CAD engineer and you need a tool that brings a better environmental integration to your models, Google SketchUp can be one of your best solutions. Being a Google product, Sketchup comes fully integrated into Google Earth and brings in front most of the CAD technology to a user-friendly level. Using Sketchup is like playing with 3D modeling.
Once Google entered in this market, Sketchup had to cope with giants like 3DMax, Cobalt, Realsoft3D, SolidWorks, etc. Therefore they had to come with something new or powerful to push their product in front. The first smart thing about Sketchup is the integration of the basics of CAD technology in a free and user-friendly package. Most of these basic features are translated into much more common terms easily recognized by the casual users. The second smart thing about Sketchup is its concept fully integrated into Google Earth and Google Maps through plug-ins such as 3D Warehouse (you can build and import real buildings from Google Earth into your project or tag them into Google Maps) or Photo Textures (you can import real textures from Google Earth images into your project).
Besides the casual terms used for technical ones, Sketchup comes also with an interactive help assistant which translates into text and basic animations each function present in the menu. There is also an intelligent and helpful drawing system based on start and end points which can predict where your lines intersect, without the need of manual coordinates. In this way the aplication also detects the surfaces. With the fog and shadows editor you can fully integrate your 3D model into a realistic environment that can be later exported and presented as a 2D image. In addition to these graphical details, the Paint Bucket offers a palette of material textures from asphalt and concrete to metal and textiles, which can be applied on your drawings.
Sketchup has also its issues. Because of the automated drawing system, domed figures are difficult to draw and sometimes almost impossible to manipulate. Therefore extracting buildings from Google Earth can be a frustrating operation. Of course, the free version of this application lacks any advanced features which can be acquired only in the paid version which costs around $525.
Pluses: easy modelling process, smart drawing system, full integration with Google Earth and Google Maps, free;
Drawbacks/flaws: lacks of advanced features, push/pull function not suitable for domed objects;
In conclusion: Google SketchUp is a modern approach of classic CAD technologies that offers powerful tools and an easy start for newcomers in this domain.
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