Google has released a free version of the SketchUp application for creating, viewing and modifying 3D images. It acquired the product when it bought @Last Software in March.

Google is also launching a website called 3D Warehouse, where SketchUp users can store and share their designs and collaborate, the company announced today.

SketchUp has been integrated with Google Earth, so that SketchUp designs can now be integrated with that popular mapping application, Google said.

The free version of SketchUp is for personal use only. It is based on the existing SketchUp Pro 5.0, a fee-based version with a commercial licence and more advanced features.

SketchUp is well-suited for those interested in creating 3D models of structures, such as houses, sheds, decks, home additions and woodworking projects, according to Google.

The fee-based version is intended primarily for professionals, such as architects, designers, builders, art directors and game developers, while the free version is aimed at hobbyists.

The decision to release a free version of the application is congruent with Google's mission to make information "accessible and useful," the company said.

Right now, the free version is available only for Windows 2000 and Windows XP Home and Professional editions. A version for Apple's Mac OS is planned.

Other minimum requirements include 80MB of available hard-disk space, a video card that’s fully compliant with the OpenGL application specification, Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher and Windows Media Player or QuickTime 5.0.

SketchUp can be downloaded here. The 3D Warehouse is here.