Last March, Google announced that it had aquired @Last Software, who’s sole product was a a little application called Sketchup. Sketchup is an easy-to-use simple 3D modeling application. While many questioned why Google would be interested in an app like Sketchup, @Last’s substantial userbase looked forward to seeing what kind of bells and whistles Google would develop into Sketchup.

It was quickly realized that Google coveted the application as a way to quickly create simple but detailed 3D models of buildings that could be imported into their highly acclaimed Google Earth terrestrial mapping application. But Sketchup can do a lot more. According to Google, “Sketchup was developed for the conceptual stages of design as a powerful yet easy-to-learn 3D software tool that combines a simple, yet robust tool-set with an intelligent drawing system that streamlines and simplifies 3D design.”

Well, it is about a year later and Sketchup v.6 now exists in two forms: Sketchup (free) and Sketchup Pro ($495). The main difference between the two is that the Pro version has added functionality for importing and exporting your 3D models, as well as integrating 2D and 3D elements and creating multipage ‘presentations.’

With a very simple, easy to understand toolset, Sketchup enables a user to quickly put plot shapes in a 3D space and extrude them in order to give them width, depth and weight. It also allows the user to toggle various conditions such as time of day (to control the shadows the 3D object creates) and line weight (allowing you to give your 3D model a more “painterly” or more “plastic” appearance, for instance).

Google also offeres an online “3D Warehouse” where users can upload or download predesigned items such as buildings, houses, bridges, statues, sculptures, couches, cars, people, pets, and much more.

Look for a full review of Google Sketchup in an upcoming edition of “The Projection Designer’s Toolbox.”