SketchUp 8 (was Google SketchUp) is an easy-to-use 2D sketching and 3D modelling tool, that makes it easy to create models, share them, use them in Google Earth, and more.
If you've tried 3D tools modelling programs before, and been put off by their complexity, SketchUp will feel very different. Not least because the program allows you to directly import models created by other users.
Click File > 3D Warehouse > Get Models, for instance, and a Google search window opens where you can find interesting models. There are landmarks, like Tower Bridge in London or St Peter's in Rome; more general building types, like police or fire stations; general scenery, such as trees or hedges; and if you're modelling the inside of a room then you'll find tables, chairs, TVs, everything you need to create a realistic environment, all of which can be imported in a few clicks.
Still not enough? SketchUp can import 3D models in the popular 3DS format, and there are thousands of great examples available online, free for the time it takes to download.
If you can't find what you need, though, or you're looking to produce a very precise model, then you can always just start from scratch. And it's far easier than you think, mostly due to SketchUp's Push/ Pull option. If you want to turn a 2D object into a 3D shape, you don't have to browse and learn complicated extrusion options - just click, move your mouse, and you'll make it happen automatically. It still takes a little while to master this new way of thinking, but once you've got it, creating all kinds of 3D models will be no problem at all.
There are plenty of other features on offer, too: accurate dimensioning, attractive colours and texturing for your work, realistic shadowing, with layers to help keep complex models more manageable.
3D walkthroughs then make it easy to move around a model for a closer look. You're able to crate animations, too. And your work can be exported in its 3D form, or as TIFF, JPG or PNG images, for easy viewing by others.
And new features in this release include model geo-location with Google maps, colourful and accurate 3D terrain, the ability to create models by tracing photographs, and the Building Maker, which helps you create 3D buildings from images in Google Earth.
SketchUp 8 Pro takes all these features, and adds valuable extras, like the ability to import and export DXF and DWG files; work on 2D vector images in the 2D LayOut program, saving them to PDF or EPS files; and export your models to 3D formats including 3DS, OBJ, XSI, FBX, VRML and DAE.