SketchUp has been part of Google’s array of applications for several years, but was sold to Trimble in early 2012. It’s designed as a quick 3D modelling tool for creating fast realisations, mainly of architectural projects, and converting them, either on its own or in collaboration with other CAD applications, into technical drawings and more.
SketchUp, the free version, has been used extensively to create models for Google Earth, while Pro 8, the latest full version, includes Layout 3, which can take SketchUp models and produce detailed plans and proposal drawings from them.
SketchUp Pro 8 uses the same, initially simple, interface as the free product. A menu bar with a single-line icon bar underneath leads into a wide variety of versatile tools. If you’re creating from scratch, tools like Line, Rectangle and Circle put together 2D elements in full perspective, which can then be extruded using the Push/Pull tool.
Model creation is made a lot simpler by the ‘points of inference’ SketchUp maintains. These are points like corners, midpoints and alignments with other vertices. Pop-ups show when the pointer aligns with them. There are lots of shortcuts which help speed up the drawing process.
SketchUp is a surface modelling tool, equipped with Rotational tool and Follow Me Tool.
LayOut 3 powered by SketchUp
LayOut 3 , included in the package, is a companion program designed to produce dimensioned drawings suitable for construction and submission to planning authorities and other bodies. It makes it very easy to take a SketchUp model and dimension, label and annotate it.
The key thing about LayOut 3 and its integration with SketchUp is that the model and its corresponding drawings are linked. Any changes made to the SketchUp model are easily updated in the LayOut drawings, without disturbing existing elements, like dimensions, on parts of the LayOut drawing which haven’t changed.
SketchUp: Materials, Textures and Objects
Creating populated environments is made easier by the vast array of materials you can chose to face SketchUp models with. As well as the samples provided in the program, you can view Google Street map images and grab textures off walls, floors or any part of the photographic images, before applying them to parts of models.
It’s also easy to add details such as people, vehicles and vegetation to architectural sketches using the 3D warehouse, a Trimble resource inherited from Google full of objects and elements created by other SketchUp devotees. It’s easy to share models and to control who can use them, through a system of permissions. SketchUp community members can get quite excited by new models; one of the case studies on the Trimble site is full of comments like ‘I love that tree. Where did you get those trees?’
Trimble SketchUp Pro 8 is a good way to create quick 3D sketches of new buildings and artefacts. However, it can be used to take ideas much further and, worked together with LayOut 3, can produce properly dimensioned drawings, presentations and documentation. It may not have the depth of a full CAD application, but then it has only around a tenth of the price, too.
495 USD Best UK Price 245 GBP at Software Paradise
Value for Money: 3.5
System Requirements: Windows and Mac, 32/64 bit
Reviewer: Simon Williams
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Simon is a well respected freelance reviewer of computer software. He’s done regular reviews for computing titles, such as PC Advisor, and has provided copy for the Sunday Times.
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