Google readies for Where 2.0

Right as Carol and I were readying for a flight yesterday, Google made two announcements just ahead of Where 2.0, a new version of Google Earth (4.0—beta, of course) and the availability of Sketchup for the Mac.

The latest Google Earth is quite a bit slicker than the 3.x version, and for Macintosh users, it hosts a series of nice new additions including:

  • Intel native performance
  • Ability to sign-up for the Plus (and possibly Pro versions)
  • It appears that some of the GPS features have been activated (although my USB cable is bent, so I won't be able to test this for a while)-Requires $20/year subscription
  • Compass overlays and window-internal controls are much nicer than before
All things considered, it has a nice set of improvements and is worth the (albeit free) download. The user interface still screams "Not a native Macintosh application", but I guess we're going to have to wait further on that.

Now, on to sketchup.

Sketchup is the package from Google that is used to create 3D models. It is shipped as a PowerPC binary, but "runs" on Intel Macintoshes. I definitely saw some performance issues when using it, but the UI is pretty responsive and reasonably straightforward.

To create a model in Sketchup, you usually begin by creating the shape on the "ground" as a 2D object and then use the Push/Pull tool to raise it up and give it some height.

For those unfamiliar with the product, Google has included an Instructor window, which has test descriptions and an animated example of the selected tool, making it quite easy to just play around in order to get the hang of things.

When you're done with the model, just tell Sketchup to place it in Google Earth and your drawing will be imported at some location in the GE world. For me, I always seem to end up just off the main drag in Boulder, but your mileage may vary.

All in all, easy to play with, but when you're ready to do something real, then you need to tell Sketchup (via a simple command) to import the ground plane from Google Earth and you can trace the outlines on the ground, making it much easier to bounce back and forth.

So, that's the Pre-Where 2.0 wrap-up for now and we'll be posting more as the conference continues over the next two days.

For Mac users, things are already looking brighter.