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The AJ takes a look at a new series of titles which aims to provide a comprehensive guide to SketchUp for users of all levels of aptitude.

SketchUp has a reputation for being an extremely intuitive program to use, but there's no denying that if you're used to more traditional modelling packages, you can end up feeling a bit wrong-footed. A PDF user guide has been available from SketchUp for some time now, but it's a fairly dry affair that describes each tool's function but doesn't tell you how best to use it.

Enter a series of titles from Bonnie Roskes that aims to take the user through all aspects of the program in a tutorial-based format. And when we say series, we mean it. Since these books are available in print-on-demand or PDF format, they're offered in a number of combinations: Basic and Advanced, in black-and-white or colour. There are also delta manuals that only cover changes between the new and previous versions. It makes for a giddying choice, but allows you to choose the title that best suits your needs.

We chose the PDF versions of the Basic and Advanced tutorials. This came in at $69.95 (£35.00) for over 600 pages, which, with the current exchange rate, makes it a bit of a bargain.

By choosing the PDF route the option to print out hard copy is always there, but the PDFs are fully searchable and hot-linked.

This means that if you double-click on a highlighted search result you're taken directly to the relevant page in the manual, which makes finding information a breeze. And, of course, if your dog eats your hard copy, you always have a backup.

The emphasis is very much on the visual, with every step in the process clearly illustrated. The basic tutorials cover the essentials of SketchUp and then move on to a discussion of components which are vital if you are to use SketchUp efficiently.

In the Advanced Tutorials section, subjects that appear in 'Basics' are covered more extensively: Advanced Intersecting, Materials and Textures, and Advanced Components. In the latter section, several solutions are given for that old SketchUp problem of making components cut walls with thickness. It's in areas like this that you can see that Roskes really knows her stuff.

Also covered in the advanced manuals is the potentially confusing new Styles feature. A good job is made of demystifying this and you're even shown how to open up a style file and modify its basic attributes directly. An entire chapter is given over to LayOut, SketchUp's new page-layout and presentation module, which is still in beta and so not fully supported by Google.

The quality and clarity of the information contained in these titles makes them a must-have for people who are serious about SketchUp.

SketchUp Basic and Advanced tutorials by Bonnie Roskes available for $39.95-$122.95 (£20-£62) depending on format. See www. f1help.biz.

For more information about SketchUp see www. sketchup. com Tim Danaher is an architectural-visualisation specialist.

www. vizarch. blogspot. com

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