I’ve long been a fan of @Last’s SketchUp 3D modeling software. It’s very intuitive and allows you to create 3D models quickly and more easily than other modeling applications. They compare it to bringing your napkin sketches up into the third-dimension and I’d have to agree. Unfortunately, it’s a little too expensive to buy just for me to play with… until today.

Google bought @Last recently after they released their very cool Google Earth Plug-in which allowed architects to place building models in their actual location in Google Earth. Google said that they would not be discontinuing SketchUp or making it free, that the pricing would remain at $495 as it has been.

Of course, what they didn’t let slip was that they’d release a free, non-commercial edition for everybody to play with. This makes my day as it is a very fun application!

Unfortunately, the download for Google SketchUp still lists the Mac version as “Coming Soon”. So, I guess that drops my day back down to excited, but not ecstatic. Oh well, atleast it’s on its way!

Not only that, but they’ve also put up the Google 3D Warehouse where you can, “Search, share and store 3D models.” That’ll be lots of fun and an excellent way for budding 3D modelers to show of their talents, get hired, and buy the full version.

So, SketchUp (free) is going to be fun, no doubt about it, and dropping your models into Google Earth will be neat as well, but what’s the real difference between it and the Pro version? Here’s the list from their SketchUpdate:

  1. Pro users are able to print and export raster images at higher-than-screen resolution.
  2. Pro users have access to the following 3D export formats: DWG, DXF, 3DS, OBJ, XSI, VRML and FBX.
  3. Pro users are able to export animations and walkthroughs as MOV (Mac) or AVI (Windows) files.
  4. Pro users get the Sandbox Tools (for organic modeling of terrain, etc) and the Film & Stage Tools (for pre-viz work).
  5. Pro users have access to free email tech support for two years after they buy SketchUp Pro.
  6. Finally, only SketchUp Pro is approved for commercial use; the Free version is licensed for personal use only.

We’ll keep you posted on the release of the Mac version.

[Source: Google Blog]
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