August 29, 2005
Create Highly Detailed 3D Models with SketchUp's ArcGIS Plug-In
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
Each GIS Weekly Review delivers to its readers news concerning the latest developments in the GIS industry, GIS product and company news, featured downloads, customer wins, and coming events, along with a selection of other articles that we feel you might find interesting. Brought to you by If we miss a story or subject that you feel deserves to be included, or you just want to suggest a future topic, please contact us! Questions? Feedback? Click here. Thank you!

Message from the Editor -

Welcome to GISWeekly! A 3D product that has recently caught the interest of GIS users is @Last Software's SketchUp that allows users to create basically anything in 3D. The recently announced SketchUp ArcGIS plug-in enables ArcGIS users who have the 3D Analyst extension to quickly create highly detailed 3D models. Read about this technology in this week's Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at

Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News

Create Highly Detailed 3D Models with SketchUp's ArcGIS Plug-In

By Susan Smith

3D “virtual reality” has been talked about a lot in the GIS world, but most people content themselves with 2D maps and cartography. The advent of technologies as Google Earth, however, have brought home the fact that now it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to have 3D to view your maps and geometric data.

A 3D product that has recently caught the interest of GIS users is @Last Software's SketchUp that allows users to create basically anything in 3D. @Last Software is a small software company that has gained a surprising following among CAD users with its simple, but highly effective SketchUp program. Founded in 1999, SketchUp was created by a group of design software veterans who wanted to create a program that would allow design professionals to actually sketch on the computer to develop their ideas. Inexpensive and simple, SketchUp is something that nearly everyone can use, but has tremendous potential for professionals.

According to the literature, most users are able to create a useful model within the first hour of playing with SketchUp. The product is a 3D modeling tool that allows you to design in 3D. The product works will all major file formats and is designed to be compatible with most modeling, image editing and illustration applications. The SketchUp component library contains over 3,000 high quality files that allow nearly everyone to create whatever models and scenes they need for their work.

The software is priced at $495 for a single user license.

So where is the GIS tie-in? you might ask. The recently announced SketchUp ArcGIS plug-in enables ArcGIS users who have the 3D Analyst extension to quickly create highly detailed 3D models. With this plug-in, you can visualize 3D models in SketchUp then seamlessly transfer the 3D models to an ArcGIS geodatabase for further analysis. What you need to be able to do this are ArcGIS 9.X with the 3D Analyst extension, SketchUp 5 ESRI plug-in, and SketchUp 5.

Additionally, for general GIS and CAD users, SketchUp 5 has added new “snappy dialogs” which make all the settings panels stick together. New ways of managing keyboard shortcuts have been added and there are some new tools, called “the Sandbox,” which adds modeling terrain and other organic shapes capabilities. GIS users are able to bring in survey data and create a surface from contours, draw a surface from scratch, build berms and hills, put roads, building pads etc. in your model with the new Stamp Tool, and project 2D geometry onto any complex 3D surface with the new drape tool, plus add the Add Detail Tool to add resolution to any surface. Sketchup reads a
variety of file formats, including shape files, feature classes, orthophotos, and TINS, CAD data - DXF and DWG, DEMs and SDTs, raster data such as digital photos, JPG, TIFF, PNG, etc.

There is also a new TourGuide technology, a viewing tool that allows you to view a building or site from different angles, giving you the functionality of animation without long rendering times.

In addition, SketchUp 5 has focused on organizing and managing your model with the following enhancements:

- The Outliner which gives you a new view of your model

- Replace Selected lets you swap in new components, or modify a general design and make it more detailed on the fly.

- You can now lock SketchUp groups and components in order to keep from editing inadvertently.

- Select All Instances lets you select all in-model instances of a selected component, so that you can more easily replace them all at once.

- FaceMe Shadows helps you to make more realistic shadows by giving you shadows cast as if the object were facing the sun.

Import and Export capabilities allow a smooth transition in and out of SketchUp, with the new DWG/DXF export and import. If not using DWG/DXF, then the 3DS exporter is great for those other users who need options such as:

- Large meshes greater than 65K vertices or faces split into multiple meshes.

- Smoothing now supported

- The welding of vertices now supported.


Laser-Scan and Fujitsu have signed an agreement to provide Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI®) with an on-line solution to deliver mapping services via the Internet to both Government and Public users.

This project, known as CAMEO (Customer Access to Maps Electronically On-Line), will assist OSNI in meeting its 2005 e-government targets while addressing existing and potential customer requirements.

Municipal Software, a provider of business process automation solutions for government is pleased to announce that it has signed an agreement to distribute the line of meeting management products for local government application created by SOMACOS of New York, USA and Salzwedel, Germany.

CollabraSpace, a provider of secure, real time enterprise collaboration solutions, and ObjectFX Corporation, a in delivering dynamic location-enabled spatial information solutions, announce that they have partnered to develop a Collaboration Analysis, Production and Dissemination Environment (CAPDE). This solution integrates geospatial analysis and presentation capabilities directly into a collaborative analysis workspace and can provide immediate value to the three Homeland Security Communities - Defense, Intelligence and Law Enforcement.

By converting to the legal status of a limited liability company (GmbH), GfK MACON is completing its integration into the GfK AG network.

GfK first acquired a share in the former MACON AG at the beginning of 2002. The company then increased its shareholding in GfK MACON to 100% at the beginning of 2005. The change of corporate form will take place in August.


NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outlined research that has helped to improve the accuracy of medium-range weather forecasts in the Northern Hemisphere.

NASA and NOAA scientists at the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation (JCSDA) in Camp Springs, Md., came up with procedures to improve forecasting accuracy. The scientists worked with experimental data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite., the world's leading weather authority, is offering breaking news videos of Tropical Storm Katrina to Verizon Wireless' V CAST subscribers. The videos are filmed on-site from South Florida and the ensuing path of the storm, and made available on's website and wireless services.

Tadpole Technology Group announced the roll-out of GO! Sync (Redline) at JEA, a community-owned utility that serves 750,000 accounts in Northeast Florida.

In 2004, JEA selected ESRI's ArcGIS software as its GIS enterprise standard. As part of that selection, Tadpole Technology was chosen to implement a field mapping solution that supports electric, water and sewer operations. This field implementation uses GO! Sync (Redline) to enable over 300 JEA field personnel to leverage enterprise information in support of existing GIS operations.

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-- Susan Smith, Managing Editor.


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