I reviewed SketchUp
3, I was impressed with how easy it was to use. As
a tool for conceptual modeling it features a very powerful
and extensive toolkit. It is a tool which makes it very
easy for designers and laymen to sculpt and explore their
ideas in three dimensions. I had gone as far as describing
the SketchUp tools as superbly intuitive. This still holds
true in SketchUp 5. The program is further enhanced by
@Last Software's dedication to user education via new tutorials
and an excellent "getting started" feature which
guides you through using the powerful toolset and the online
SketchUp 5 a couple of months back and have had some
time to explore its tool set and try out all of the new
features. This version features some very useful enhancements,
which I will explore later in the review. Features like
the Sandbox, Stamp Tool, the Component Outliner and Replace
Selected Component are great enhancements as is the new
Extensions Manager which enables some of the new features.
The improvements to SketchUp are not only functional
but also visual as @Last, has improved the user interface
(UI) with new icons and toolbars. The new dialogs have
been designed so that they have sticky behavior to facilitate
easier positioning and use. Clicking on the title bar
of your toolbars will collapse or expand them accordingly.
enhancements include component level controls and editing
features like locking, a make-unique feature which allows
you to remove a component from a grouping, and a group
selection and smart swap feature for replacing components
with an updated or different library item. The addition
of Face Me components which work with shadows that move
with the sun but still face you is also very useful.
outliner allows for more effective and easy editing of
components, allowing you to filter and group-name components.
The Select tool has been enhanced and is now discriminating.
Selecting from left to right will only select objects
entirely within the selection window. Selecting from
right to left will select all objects that cross into
the selection area.
offset and push/pull features have been enhanced to allow
for copying, whilst image objects now have alpha channel
support for better handling of transparency. The Walk
tool now has collision detection to facilitate more intelligent
handling of elevations in your walkthroughs, as well
as the capability to handle different elevations intelligently
by trying to maintain eye level whilst on slopes, ramps
sandbox tool mentioned above is one of the better improvements
in that it enables you to build a terrain very quickly
from contours, or by manipulating a meshed surface. The
Smoove tool (no, it's not misspelled) is especially easy
to use and facilitates the building of hills and valleys.
Combine this with being able to map images onto your
terrain and you have a winning combination for creating
fairly accurate landscapes. The Drape tool facilitates
the placement of roads and paths onto your terrain. The
Stamp tool facilitates the merging of your objects and
models, like buildings, seamlessly into your terrain.
The Add Detail, Flip Edge and Soften/Smooth Edges tools
complete the sandbox toolset by adding attribute controls
to enhance and edit your terrains and meshes.
file support handling is improved with support for 3DS
import/export, digital elevation models (DEM) for terrain
elevations, United States Geological Survey (USGS) DEM,
and spatial data transfer standard (SDTS). The formats
supported for export have also been expanded with OBJ,
Softimage XSI format and FBX (Filmbox). SketchUp 5 has
also updated DWG and DXF import and export using the
latest DWG libraries, which means AutoCAD file import/export
is fully up-to-date. File format support was one of few
gripes about earlier versions and SketchUp 5 has made
rendering engine has also been improved. Bear in mind
that when I say rendering I'm not talking photorealistic,
I'm referring to SketchUp's rather nice sketch style
renders. With features such as depth cue, which adds
weight to foreground edges and lines, and Edges Off which
accents the outside edges of your objects, cool renders
possible when you add the "End Point Setting" which
accents the end points of lines in the rendering by extending
them beyond the termination points. Your sketch renders
become even more stylized.
the Depth cue feature is a way of achieving this, I'd
still like to see include a fade or fog command and an
option to transition a rendering between two different
rendering styles. It's very cool for focusing on selected
parts of a project.
features include the ability to add plug-ins like Google
Earth, as well as the powerful Ruby scripting engine.
The scripts available on the user forums and third party
sites help to extend the capabilities of this great package.
in earlier versions the video tutorials are excellent
and easy to follow. The few hours it takes to go through
them are well spent. The online support is also excellent
and continues to impress in part because of the wealth
of helpful pointers contributed by the growing user base.
I found the forums especially useful as many of my questions
were answered there without having to do extensive searches.
The FAQ area on the SketchUp web site has been improved
with excellent info on getting to know, configure and
upgrade this great tool. With support available on third
party web sites such as Pushpullbar, the SketchUp community
is a thriving one. All the support offered is excellent
and something which other vendors would do well to emulate.
lack of real curves is still an issue. An overlay for
design grids and guidelines would be a great addition.
Lack of solids and real volumes is an issue amongst many
Software has vastly improved this already great product.
Excellent user education and support. The sandbox is
a wonderful addition to the toolkit. Simple and intuitive
user interface. Unified, cross-platform experience.bAs
I said in my previous SketchUp review, "If you are
a designer, architect, engineer, modeler, carpenter or
need a tool to quickly model in 3D, SketchUp is a very
powerful and serious application which can make your
work feel like you are playing." This is still a
very cool application and I have enjoyed playing with
it. For quick studies in 3D, this program is highly recommended.
If you haven't tried SketchUp yet, you're missing something.
Give it a test drive today.