May 01, 2006
Free Versions: Google SketchUp and ArchVision Discovery Viewer
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Welcome to AECWeekly! This week Google launched a free version of Google SketchUp, for the creation, viewing and modification of 3D images. Available
immediately, this version of Google SketchUp is said to be a 3D design and visualization application for hobbyists who want to build 3D models for personal use or for display in Google Earth. Also announced this week is ArchVision's Discovery Viewer, written as an ActiveX control, designed to allow users to view SketchUp (.skp) and RPC (.rpc) content within Microsoft Office products such as PowerPoint, Word and Internet Explorer.

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Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Free Versions: Google SketchUp and ArchVision Discovery Viewer

by Susan Smith

This week Google launched a free version of Google SketchUp, for the creation, viewing and modification of 3D images. Available
immediately, this version of Google SketchUp is said to be a 3D design and visualization application for hobbyists who want to build 3D models for personal use or for display in Google Earth.

Apparently, the $495 version of SketchUp created by @Last Software (recently purchased by Google) is still available from Google, and has more functionality that would appeal to professionals who use SketchUp for 3D, such as greater output and more tools for creation and display.

Another offering from Google this week is the 3D Warehouse, a repository of 3D content that serves as a single source for searching, sharing and storing the world's 3D content. Available
within SketchUp, the 3D Warehouse allows users to share their 3D creations and collaboratively develop 3D content for Google Earth.

These two developments have interesting ramifications for users of the now dubbed Google SketchUp:

1) Google SketchUp has the potential to bring a lot of new people into the 3D marketplace, which is good for the 3D market.

2) The 3D Warehouse raises some interesting questions about privacy, as it is available within SketchUp and allows users to share and develop content that can be very widely distributed for Google Earth.

Randall Stevens, president of ArchVision, Inc., a company that provides tools that allow newcomers a way to move beyond introductory 3D tools, said that the purchase of SketchUp by Google is a good thing for 3D.

Interestingly, ArchVision just this week announced the Discovery Viewer, written as an ActiveX control, designed to allow users to view SketchUp (.skp) and RPC (.rpc) content within Microsoft Office products such as PowerPoint, Word and Internet Explorer. Support for native SketchUp models includes materials and textures, allowing users to put them within PowerPoint presentations or other Microsoft applications. The viewer also includes easy to use navigation tools to make it easy for beginners to interact with models in full 3D without the need for complicated or expensive software. The Discovery Viewer can be downloaded
free of charge for the purpose of viewing a presentation or web page.

Two versions of the Discovery Viewer [Desktop and Server] for publishing are available.

Although, of course, neither Google nor SketchUp would base an application on ActiveX Control, Stevens said that ArchVision's target audience is not necessarily for the people using SketchUp, but for those who want to take the models that were created in SketchUp and extend them to others outside architectural firms using Power Point and other Microsoft applications for presentations.

“There's a lot of 3D viewing technology for internet viewing and web browsers,” explained Stevens. “There's not a lot available for embedding 3D models into Power Point and other presentation tools.”

So who are ArchVision's customers? “We are looking at the new entrants to the market, i.e. people using products like SketchUp. They may start with SketchUp but may want to move upstream to more advanced visualization tools. Part of our strategy is to approach that audience with the products they're using and then start to put the tools in place to bridge that gap, and be able to bring more sophisticated rendering applications and content to play so they can use those as well. For us it's about expanding market,” Stevens pointed out. “There are a lot of people coming in who never did 3D before SketchUp and that's what interesting to us.”

Discovery Viewer replicates the SketchUp rendering style so that SketchUp models viewed through this viewer are very close to what you would see looking directly at a SketchUp model, according to Stevens.

Users of ArchVision's Discovery Viewer are already making suggestions for upgrades: most importantly, they would like to see some level of security added to protect their SketchUp models. With the release of Google's 3D Warehouse inside SketchUp, this is a very valid concern. Stevens said this will be added soon.

For ArchVision, it may be a happy accident that Google purchased @Last Software, as they are also working on other 2D-3D tools that will support SketchUp models.


Nemetschek North America announced the availability of two new telephone numbers for its Spanish-speaking VectorWorks customers and prospects to call. Individuals living within the continental United States who speak Spanish may call a toll-free phone number to speak with a Spanish-speaking representative to ask questions concerning the VectorWorks product line or seek technical support. The company has also added a phone number for international callers.

In the continental United States, individuals may call 877-202-8937 toll free. Those calling from outside the US may call 443-542-0730.

Join IDEAL, the Large Format Imaging Experts for Large Format Webinar Events. Every Tuesday and Thursday the events offer timely topics, innovative technology, and simple suggestions to help with your large format scanning and document management problems. Interactive question and answer session with every webinar. See

Riverbed Technology, Inc. announced the availability of 24x7 follow-the-sun global technical support to customers of its Steelhead(R) appliances. In addition, Riverbed(R) announced the expansion of operations throughout EMEA with new or expanded offices in the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, Spain and Switzerland. With the opening of the Amsterdam technical support center, Riverbed is now able to provide its global customers with world-class expertise and assistance regardless of time-of-day or location. Riverbed currently has support centers in San Francisco, Amsterdam, New York, Singapore and Tokyo.

Preliminary results of a McGraw-Hill Construction/National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey indicated that there was a 20% increase in 2005 among those in the home building community who are focusing their attention on green, environmentally- responsible building, which is expected to increase by another 30% this year. The research findings will be issued May 15 in the Residential Green Building edition of McGraw-Hill Construction's series of SmartMarket Reports.

Cyon Research Corporation, a provider of analysis and consulting for engineering technology markets, released a free white paper on the management of reprographics in architectural and engineering firms.

According to the study, titled “Managing AEC Print Workflow - A Look at Océ Repro Desk ® Professional,” the architectural industry still relies on paper documents for delivery to construction or production sites. Despite the large amount of IT resources committed to file management in the design process, the careful tracking of the designs ends when they the plots go out the door.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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