SketchUp is a powerful and yet easy to use 3D modeling software. It allows any user to build an accurate model of any idea whatsoever, from dog house to dream house. The program is so intuitive it sometimes feels too good to be true.
I discovered this software 2 years ago and it’s been getting better and better with every new version. As an architect and designer, I can’t imagine living without it. The nice thing about the software is its simplicity and speed.
A great feature is that any user can watch the free video tutorials. I found them to be the best learning tutorials I ever used. They allow you to master this program in 2-3 weekends.
The company is always offering free pre-made components for your model. For example, if you build a house and need a car in front of it, you can select a car from the extensive component library, not to mention furniture, appliances, trees, and people.
Another exciting feature of SketchUp is the ability to travel around your model and create animations of your product.
If you ever have a question or need to learn a special trick, the user forums are very helpful. Also visit http://pushpullbar.com/ for samples of great designs produced using this product.
SketchUp allows you to import and export to almost all other applications, and has plugins that continually expand its functionality beyond what it was originally designed to do.
Differences between the free and pro version: This software was purchased by Google in 2006, who made it freely available for personal use, for commercial use, however, you have to purchase SketchUp Pro. The free version cannot export to 3D format, such as VRML or DWG, and cannot export an animation. Also, with the Pro version you can print a much higher quality rendering [thanks to SJ for pointing these out; last updated Dec 28 2006].
To put it simply, this is the kind of free software that puts expensive commercial packages to shame.
Version tested: 5.0.305