[Cross-posted with the SketchUp Blog]

Fall is just around the corner here in Boulder, and with it comes our next release of Google SketchUp (cue the bugling elk). The team's been working long hours through the summer on projects large and small. I'm proud to announce that Google SketchUp 7.1 is available today for you to download and install. Don't you just love the smell of fresh new software?

Even though we're calling this a "point" release (you lucky Pro 7.0 users will get this update for free!), Google SketchUp 7.1 includes a lot more than just minor tweaks and bug fixes. We've added a batch of new features and functionality that make SketchUp (and LayOut 2.1 in SketchUp Pro) even more useful for everyone. Here's some of what's new:

Large Model Handling

We overhauled SketchUp's rendering engine to make it easier to work with big models. With the right setup, operations like orbiting, zooming and drawing are quicker and smoother. Of course, how much quicker depends entirely on factors like your computer's configuration and the specific model you're working on. For most people, most of the time, SketchUp should feel snappier when they're working with lots of geometry. Have a look at this article to find out how to take advantage of the improvements we made.

Better File Exchange

One of the things we're pretty concerned about around here is something called data liberation. Too often, your stuff's locked inside proprietary file formats that force you to use whatever tool you used to create it. We don't think that's right, so we're doing what we can to make it easier to move your data around.

COLLADA is a 3D file format based on open standards; it makes it easier to move your models between different pieces of software. KMZ is the standard file format for packaging 3D models together with information about their geographic locations. SketchUp 7.1 can import and export COLLADA and KMZ files, which should go a long way toward letting you do whatever you like with your data.

Modeling in Context

Whether you're building photo-textured, geo-located models that are headed for Google Earth, or just trying to cobble together some context for a design proposal, you should be interested about the stuff I talk about in this short video:

Get Photo Texture
gives you direct access to Google Maps Street View imagery from right inside SketchUp. You can use panoramic, street-level photography we've gathered to photo-texture your models. It's spooky-cool.

Nearby Models
lets you use the Component Browser to search the 3D Warehouse for buildings located near the one you're working on. Bringing in a geo-location snapshot first tells SketchUp where to look.

Upload Component
provides a shortcut for uploading parts of your model to the 3D Warehouse without having to save them out as separate files first. This is handy if you're modeling several buildings on the same block; it's also useful for preserving the functionality of Dynamic Components when you upload them.

Dimensioned Drawings in Google SketchUp Pro

We've given SketchUp Pro a big upgrade in this release; it's specially targeted at those of you who need to make professional design documents to communicate your work to clients and partners. LayOut 2.1 (included in SketchUp Pro 7.1) now includes a simple but surprisingly powerful tool for dimensioning models and creating dimensioned drawings. There's a bunch more to talk about in LayOut 2.1, but we'll save that for another blog post tomorrow.

...and if that's not enough, have you got an idea for what we should do next?

In earlier days, we used to be able to talk to everybody who was using SketchUp. Every week, well over a million of you are using SketchUp, and it's getting really hard to remember all of your names – much less the new features you'd like us to build. For this release, I've put up a shiny new Google SketchUp Product Ideas page that you can use to let us know what you think we should build next. Don't hold back – I'm listening, and I'll respond formally to (at least) the top ten ideas you post.

And if you just want to talk about SketchUp, please head on over to the Help Center where you'll see that we've done a big upgrade on our discussion forums.