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Software Review: Google SketchUp

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In a recent blog entry I mentioned that I was in the process of inventing something and that one of the programs I needed, or more to the point, utilized, was a newly found software from Google named SketchUp. Join me now as I provide you with a brief description of said program and why I feel it is a welcome addition to anyone’s computer.

SketchUp is a 3D CAD program designed by Google, designed to be intuitive, quick to learn and work, and very user friendly. My best guess is that the people who wrote the program were average nerds with no design experience who wanted to draw things the way we see them in real life: as a series of progressive improvements. If not, then the only rational conclusion that I must make is that the people who created this were smoking crack because it works like no other design software I ever used.

basic screen

The main screen places you in a 3 dimensional world, which may or may not contain a humanoid figure for scaling (again customizable to preferred height). This is your main and for the most part, only screen that you will likely use. You can rotate 360 degrees, zoom in/out, flip, fly, do walk a through of your designs and create/modify your work.

Every button when you over your mouse over it will show the name of said button and the program itself is very forgiving. So forgiving that it runs just like a Word application: it has the Undo feature that reverses multiple steps.

For those of you who still think this is too hard to master, Google has even offered a series of free to view videos online showing tutorials of various features that can be activated in SketchUp. My suggestion is that you view several of these first and watch what the teacher does. I didn’t and the result was that I wasted a lot of time trying to understand exactly how certain buttons worked (like the FOLLOW ME feature, which is now my favorite).



stSo on to why I think the designers of SketchUp were smoking crack: in order to create most objects, you will find it is much, much easier to create a large block, or cylinder shape (or what ever would be able to contain the design you were making) and cut away pieces until you arrive at your ultimate goal. A better way to think about this to imagine you get a box in the mail that has what you ordered and then having to slice chunks off the box until you create said object. For those who think this is still way to confusing: It is like a person who sculpts using stone or already fired clay. They chip away at it until they have their Michelangelo or Thinker. For your evaluation, just look to your right and observe this created desk, which I did not design. Notice the little cubicles for mail or keys? To do this by creating individual shelves would be much more labor intensive then just drawing a box and then slicing into them (like pushing a wall into itself).

The negative: well for those of you who only want to make one or two things, this will take some time to learn regardless of its ease of use. The market for this software is more likely to be found among building designers, engineers, and inventors. This group would be normally learning a 3D CAD program and the people who wrote this clearly wanted to make a CAD program for the beginner designer in all of us. It is free, it is quick to download, and it comes with a lot of helpful information. Download it, watch the videos, and give it a try if your are curious. My bet is that you will not be disappointed with what you find. I have added a short video clip from Google to give you a much better idea of how things are made (and is much easier to understand, unlike this review.. visuals work better for CAD evaluations).


Written by Josecito

January 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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