About 150 architects showed up July 15 for a regular meeting of the American Institute of Architects’ New York technical committee to see the three-day-old release of pen-based design product SketchUp, from @Last Software, Boulder, Colo. It was demonstrated on Hewlett Packard tablet PCs. Reactions ranged from applause to cheers as the software was put through its paces creating 3D models of complex geometry with variable levels of detail and flexible dimensioning and text controls. There were a few grumbles from some veteran users about shortcomings here and there, but interest was extreme.

"You’re making it too easy. Soon, everyone is going to be an architect," laughed Michelle Jubran, an architect and principal at architectural illustrator GraphicSense LLC, New York City, as a swipe of the pen cut a 3D model to produce 2D sections instantaneously. Free trials can be downloaded at www.sketch up.com. The software, for either Macintosh OS X or Windows platforms, costs $495. Upgrades cost $95.

Pure sketching and rendering on tablet PCs now has a slick tool from Alias/Wavefront, Toronto, Canada, called Alias SketchBook Pro. It takes advantage of tablets’ ability to detect the proximity of the pen to spring up pallets of contextual tools, which can be selected with a flick. Sketches can be quickly refined to final renderings by tossing down tracing layers and using natural hand and pen gestures.

SketchBook is designed for pressure-sensitive graphics tablets and tablet PCs running Windows Tablet PC edition. A downloadable version is available at www.aliaswavefront.com for $149.

(Photos by Tom Sawyer for ENR)

he confluence of improvements in pressure-sensitive screens, tablet PCs and software that lets electronic pens emulate virtually anything in an artist’s, architect’s or graphic designer’s tool box, is generating growing interest among designers in pen-based computing.