Long before I got into the business of writing about tech and Mac stuff, I worked with 3D graphics on Macs for my father's visual analysis firm. We were hired to create 3D models of architectural projects and superimpose them on photographs of a proposed site to study how a project would look before it was built and how it would affect its surroundings.
Some of our clients wanted to make the project look nice for city officials so it would get approved by city planning departments, while others wanted to prove that the new project would obstruct the views for several homeowners in an effort to block the project. Either way, this meant that I spent a lot of time on a 350MHz blue-and-white G3 Mac (lightning fast!) using 3D graphics software, figuring out how to create models of houses, buildings, wineries, and even county dumps.
Once I started as the Mac guy at CNET Download.com, in addition to all the other exciting software I learned about, I was also introduced to several new and different types of 3D graphics programs. One that caught my eye right away for its unique process for creating 3D models was SketchUp. With this program you can sketch (in a manner of speaking) in three dimensions and extrude your outline to create 3D models instead of connecting vertices like in the old ray trace apps we used when I worked for my father.
Pretty quickly, Google snatched up this innovative program and offered the app for free. Just updated today, Google SketchUp is made for those who like to tinker with 3D graphics and bring their ideas to life on their Macs. If you've got a home-building project you would like to see before you build it, or just want to create cool stuff in 3D (including building models you can see in Google Earth), we highly recommend this free program. Google SketchUp is also available for Windows.