Autodesk, well known for their CAD products, had recently released a free 3D modeling application in Beta stage called the Autodesk 123D.
Something free from this software giant had never before seen the light of day, with the exception of AutocadWS which is simply a mobile viewing / annotation tool more than anything; this definitely merits a test drive.
The installer is pretty hefty at almost 521Mb, that’s plenty away from Google’s SketchUp platform, and with understandable cause. Once installed it feels very robust, like a stripped down version of a complete application, here’s what you get when you start the system up:
I’ve gone through all the getting started videos in hopes of finding some keyboard control cues but it appears to be non existent. Making and modifying objects in here relies mostly on mouse control leave for precision input through type-in dimensions. This is the screen when it is ready for you to play with it:
All the major controls are compacted into a tiny floating toolbar which is quickly becoming prevalent in their product lines.
Along with it is the navigation bar at the bottom, the snap bar at bottom right which controls the global measurement and scale plus the value to which snaps occur, the view cube at top right and the browser at the left which shows you your operation and model tree.
It seems to be leading into gesture based UI more and more in anticipation of touch type usability. Here is an example of that:
There is a learning curve to using this tool effectively. Unlike SketchUp which is attuned to quick representation and presentation, 123D relies on parametric modeling which is a set of rules that lines and shapes follow. The more apparent use for this would be for small to medium scale product design. I have used Autodesk Inventor before and this appears to be its little brother, designed to be more playful but just as powerful except for cross compatibility: it uses a proprietary .123d extension but can also output to STL and DWG among few others.
I cant really see myself being productive with it at the get go, but if I get to know the program a little better then it would most probably be fine. Props to Autodesk for making quite a powerful modeling program free, it is a pretty good tool especially for industrial engineers and product design specialists.