News: The Latest on FormZ, Bonzai3d, SketchUp 2014, and Maxwell Render

There have been a bunch of small and large announcements recently about the tools I talk about (and use) a lot, and here they are in summary:

FormZ v7.3.4, Bonzai3d 3.2.4 Updates

Updates to FormZ v7 and Bonzai v3 are out that address many small issues, and are available from within the app when you check for updates. There are a bunch of refinements that make the apps more stable and predictable - basically better to use in a production environment. We all know how important it is to have the most stable software instead of whiz-bang new features with these maintenance releases. You can read more about the FormZ fixes here and the Bonzai3d fixes here

Maxwell v3.0.11 beta for FormZ and Bonzai3d

The latest plugin for Maxwell 3 for FormZ 7 and Bonzai3d 3 has been posted to the Maxwell Beta site. I've been beta testing this for a while and I recommend grabbing this one because it fixes a bunch of stuff. Something new is that you can now download all of the beta plugins for Maxwell so you don't have to wait for the official releases. You can read the release notes and find out exactly what the latest fixes are when you login to the Beta site. Here's how:

Next Limit is delighted to announce the launch of the Maxwell Public Beta Area. Customers can now get access to the most recent builds, and won't need to wait for official releases to get the latest fixes. It will also help us to reduce development cycles, meaning that you get better versions of Maxwell, faster! 

For more information about how to access the public beta area, please visit our forum: 
http://www.maxwellrender.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=41692

SketchUp Pro 2014

Trimble SketchUp Pro 2014 is out, and just like previous releases this is an iterative, refined and more powerful version of SketchUp. While there aren't any new features that make my eyes pop out of my head, there are a few nice upgrades to the ubiquitous modeling program that affect us architects and designers from previous versions:

  1. Faster shadows (up to 15x faster depending on your setup)
  2. New Arc drawing tools (nice, finally!)
  3. Classifier (a new way to add metadata to objects in your models - think BIM)

While these may seem small, these are very welcome updates. The Classifier alone is a great new foundation in SU because we now have the ability to tag types of geometry, do quantity take-offs, and when using the new IFC exporter you can pass that data along to a higher level BIM tool so it knows that a wall is a wall, a slab is a slab, etc. Having faster shadows is a big deal for real-time walkthroughs. I actually do our presentations on the fly right inside the program, and I'm looking forward to not have to wait for the shadows to pop into existence only when I stop moving. That's always been jarring to me and I hope this will fix that problem. If it's jarring to me, I know it's jarring to my clients watching the presentation.

There are other advancements under the hood and on the web regarding the extension warehouse, underlying Ruby API framework and more. They seem to be going more in the direction of BIM which is a big deal for a program that costs $590. I expect a lot of people to jump on making some very cool plugins for SketchUp in this area in the future because it's a huge market.

New Layout features for creating documentation of our designs include:

  1. Auto text
  2. Smart labels
  3. Improved vector rendering
  4. Much better handling of large documents

These are all things that, if you haven't tried for yourself, have been major slowdowns in previous versions. More and more people tell me they are looking for a single tool to do their architectural work in (which I don't actually condone), and the team at SketchUp is clearly listening. And I get it - learning a few programs and their quirks takes longer than learning a single program. I'll talk more about that in another blog post.

If you haven't tried using Layout in a while, I suggest giving it a try. I think it's one of the most underrated and easy ways to document and present your 3d work as printed documents, PDF's or as a Powerpoint-style presentation. While some people have dug in and have been using it for construction documents for a while now, these new enhancements will make it easier for new people to adopt the program in this way. 

Image courtesy SketchUp

SketchUp 2014 runs on both Mac and Windows. As far as I can tell, the Pro version is the one getting all these updates. There is also SketchUp Make which replaced the free version last year and is not for commercial use, but it's still free but has some serious limitations as you can see in the graphic on the right. You can read about all the upgrades in depth here on the Trimble site.

Maxwell Plugin v3.0.1 for SketchUp

More great news for SketchUp users is that there has been an update to the plugin released that fixes some important bugs in conjunction with the newly released Maxwell 3. They say this update is a must-have. I've written about the new stuff in Maxwell 3 in a previous post, so check it out if you haven't yet. You can get the update in the customer portal or on the previously mentioned Beta site if you're a current v3 customer.

Happy modeling and rendering!