In the past, 3D modeling software was very expensive, required specialized computers, and was very complicated to use. Google SketchUp is a free 3D design program that’s easy to use and works on just about any computer.

Each week, over a million people use Google SketchUp to create 3D designs of homes, buildings, landscaping, and other creations. On 1 September 2010, Google announced the release of SketchUp version 8.

In conjunction with Building Maker and the Google Earth Plug-in, you can zoom in on a building and have a 3D model created from the satellite images of that building. Or, use existing designs from the 3D Model Warehouse.

Combining Google SketchUp with Google Earth makes it possible to add your new 3D design to the precise location on the earth where it will be so you can visualize it in context and also share with others. Volunteers in many cities are creating online 3D models of communities areas using as described in the video below.

The standard version of Google SketchUp 8 is free. Google SketchUp Pro is $495 and includes many additional advanced design features and capabilities that professionals will want. Sales of the pro version help make it possible for the standard version to be available to everyone for free.

Some of the features in Google SketchUp 8 are explained in the video below.