Google releases free 3D sketching tool

Google has released a free version of a 3D design tool it acquired in March.

Google has released a free version of the SketchUp application for creating, viewing and modifying 3D images it acquired when it bought @Last Software in March.

Google is also launching a Web site called 3D Warehouse, where SketchUp users can store and share their designs and collaborate, the Mountain View, California, company announced Thursday.

SketchUp has also been integrated with Google Earth, so that now SketchUp designs can be integrated with that popular mapping application, Google said.

The free version of SketchUp is for personal use only. It is based on the existing SketchUp Pro 5, a fee-based version with a commercial license and more advanced features.

SketchUp is particularly well-suited for users interested in creating 3D models of structures, such as houses, sheds, decks, home additions and woodworking projects, according to Google.

The fee-based version is intended primarily for professionals, such as architects, designers, builders, art directors and game developers, while the free version is aimed at hobbyists.

The decision to release a free version of the application is congruent with Google's mission to make information "accessible and useful," the company said.

Right now, the free version is only available for Windows 2000 and Windows XP Home and Professional editions. A version for Apple Computer's Mac OS is in the works.

Other minimum requirements include 80MB of available hard-disk space, a video card that is fully compliant with the OpenGL application specification, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher and Windows Media Player or QuickTime 5.0.

SketchUp can be downloaded from http://sketchup.google.com. The 3D Warehouse is at http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/.

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