SketchUp - complete package review: SketchUp - complete package

Want your design's blue-sky setting to evoke high noon? The Shadow Settings palette is especially cool: just use the sliders to set the time of day and the month to add the properly angled shadowing effect to an object. Other neat features include the ability to display a transparent version of your model, inspect hidden geometry, walk around or orbit the scene, and rotate objects in all directions.

Google SketchUp
SketchUp can import images, size them appropriately, then apply them to objects as surface skins.

When you import artwork from Google 3D Warehouse or elsewhere to use in your model, SketchUp is intelligent about guessing your intentions. For instance, when we imported a picture of a zebra, then clicked the wall of a house, SketchUp correctly positioned the zebra as a wall mural and automatically gave it the proper perspective.

Once you've finished your model, you can upload and share it with other users, thanks to the unlimited, free storage space at Google's 3D Warehouse Web site--where you can also grab other people's models (we dropped the Taj Mahal into the center of the Pentagon). Even cooler, you can populate Google Earth with your own models. We sketched a house, dropped it into Google Earth's satellite photos, then e-mailed our street address to some friends in Japan so that they could see what we drew. Checking within Google Earth, our friends were also able to view a 3D car model that we had dropped into the parking lot of an apartment house in Japan.

Google SketchUp's support Web site offers a searchable knowledge base, FAQs, and a contact link to reach technical service via form e-mail. A user group and detailed video tutorials provide extra assistance.

The simplicity of the free Google SketchUp makes three-dimensional drawing possible even for those who lack knowledge of design or perspective. In addition to its ease of use, Google's free online storage for your designs and SketchUp's integration with Google Earth allow you not only to create your own world, but also to share it with others. We look forward to seeing how users will explore the creative potential offered by SketchUp.

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