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How good is the new 3D toolset for virtual earth and how does it compare with Google Sketchup

First I should introduce myself as I have not Blogged on here before. My name is Chris and I am the Multi Media Developer here at Earthware. I have taken a few hours to go over what’s now on offer in  the new 3D modeller for virtual earth and how it compares with my experiences using Sketch Up.

My general impression of 3Dvia for virtual earth is a positive one although it is very much a work in progress at this time, although having said that for the first available version it is a powerful tool in the making and could soon rival sketchup if enough development is put into it.

Good Stuff:

  • Drawing boxes and lines usually gives you an accurate distance and angle for the length and/or trajectory of your construction
  • Interface is simple and colourful so novice users find it easy to get around
  • Many of the useful line and surface indicators are present that are seen in sketchup. for example 3Dvia gives clear indication when you are in line with other objects or shapes as guides appear to help you
  • The manipulate tool is very effective and gives you a lot of control of specific points on an object as well as the object as a whole. it has a very visual adjustment interface giving clear colour coded handles  for the different types of adjustment

Bad stuff

  • Internet explorer seem to be unable to run virtual earth 3D on my machine so I have had to load it in Firefox instead
  • Although great for a novice the interface is frustrating because of the lack of specified tools and presets making complex models harder to create as well as standard program operation impossible. this makes the package feel like a cheap freebie rather than a fully function program. I would hope that the developers can make this a standalone program like sketchup as I feel this will be highly beneficial to its development
  • No file and option menu is present making the publishing of models and screen grabs the only useful thing you can get out of this package
  • No ability to save a file on to your own PC
  • Copy and pasting components on larger models like windows on a building fails to create editable shapes that are part of the larger mesh
  • Not all parts of a model are similarly editable as often their handles are locked out and it is not always clear why.

To summarize I would give this first version a 6 out of 10. I think its a great little program but has a long way to go before it is as powerful as sketchup and can boast as many features. I can’t imagine it will be long before it presents a very tempting alternative. It does seem Microsoft are targeting the novice user which is an interesting decision.

Here’s what I accomplished with an hour of learning and play.

virtual earth 3D

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