Google's SketchUp has gained popularity among woodworkers as a great way to not only sketch out their ideas, but also to share them with others by exchanging drawing files. I've used SketchUp to view others drawings and even used it to model a small side table that I built for my wife.
While I saw the potential, I was frustrated by the apparently clumsy interface that required so many mouse clicks to zoom, pan, and orbit around an object. I also had problems trying to draw joinery components. The tutorials at Sketchup For Woodworkers helped, but I still didn't feel that it was as quick as drafting by hand.
Perhaps that was partially due to my background as a trained draftsman. All my drafting classes in high school and college were 'on the board', or manual drafting.. Each program introduced computer-aided drafting (CAD) the year after I completed the program, so I have very little experience with CAD.
When Popular Woodworking Magazine announced their ShopClass On Demand course "SketchUp for Woodworkers – Part 1: Getting Started", it caught my attention. The scheduled release was about the time that the Wood Whisperer Guild build was winding down and it seemed like a logical next step.
Within 7 minutes of starting the course I felt like it had already proven it's worth. I've only watched the first of the four files, but I've already learned how to easily pan, zoom, and orbit without excessive clicking. I also learned how to customize my toolbars to access features that I didn't even know existed.
It's beginning to feel a lot more comfortable to me and I'm only a quarter of the way through the course. I can hardly wait to see what's next.
I wholeheartedly recommend this product for anyone that wants to not only create their own drawings, but learn how to easily move around the many drawings that are available online.