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Live Interior 3D 1.2

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Live Interior 3D 1.2 is a 3-D interior design program aimed at consumers who want to refurnish or remodel a room, office, kitchen, or other interior space.

Software in this genre faces a dilemma: it must balance ease of use with rich features and professional results. Live Interior 3D leans toward the ease-of-use side of the equation. You draw your room in the 2-D Plan view, where it’s a snap to add walls, floors, and ceilings with specific dimensions. Adding doors and windows is as easy as finding the item you want in the library and dragging and dropping it on to your wall. The Wall tool also lets you automatically place baseboard and crown molding trim. However, this tool creates only flat top walls, and they all have to be the same height. Thus, you can’t create steps, vaulted ceilings, or angled walls unless you use the Basic Shapes tool, which lets you draw rectangular prisms and other 3-D shapes that you use to represent a wall. The drawback with this workaround is that doors and windows will not place properly. But it does provide some flexibility.

Once you create your basic room, you can place furniture and other objects from the materials and objects libraries into it via drag and drop. You can view your model in 3-D mode at any time. Most of the furniture looks nice in the 2-D view, and you can easily move and rotate the furniture into the positions you want. Some objects, however, do not present any visual information beyond a bounding rectangle while in 2-D mode. This is true, for instance, of the kitchen cabinets. So, if you try to create a kitchen, you cannot tell which way your cabinets are oriented until you view your model in 3-D mode.

While Live Interior 3D does let you view your model in 2-D and 3-D modes at the same time, the views are in the same window, so you have limited control over how you set up your workspace. Unless you have a large, wide display, you end up constantly switching back and forth between modes, even while you are building your model. A separate 3-D window would be a useful improvement, as it would allow you to take advantage of a second monitor or to place a small 3-D window on your screen when your space is limited.

Luckily, viewing your model in 3-D mode is fairly quick. I found performance to be very good on my Core 2 Duo MacBook. Once you’re in 3-D mode, there is a Look Around function that rotates your view of the model, and a Walk function that allows you to walk through the model in any direction. I found the latter most useful.

Live Interior 3D is easy to use out of the box and the interface is nice looking. Unfortunately, the program has a few quirks and flaws. For instance, the Snap feature (a common element of drawing programs that helps you place objects precisely) does not always work the way you’d expect, nor does it give enough visual feedback (such as a dot appearing next to the cursor or movement of the object) to confirm that your object is placed correctly. I had a hard time aligning cabinets and other objects in a kitchen layout I tried. I could snap to the walls, but not to adjacent cabinets. You always need to check the 3-D view to make sure your room looks the way you intend.

Live Interior 3D comes with an extensive object and materials library, which is quite fun to play with. BeLight has tried to include many products from actual manufacturers and the company should concentrate on adding more items, as it is often hard to find furniture, cabinets, or other objects that come close to those you want to see in your model.

While the included library of objects is improving (two recent updates added many new items to the library), the best overall feature of Live Interior 3D is its well-integrated access to the online Google 3D Warehouse. There are thousands of models available from this free library and you can use Live Interior 3D to browse and import most items with a mouse click. Keep in mind that many of the online models are contributed by private individuals, and are of varying quality. A growing number, however, are contributed by manufacturers. I had mixed results with the models I tried. Since there is no dishwasher available in the program’s built-in library, I went to Google to get one for my kitchen. The first one I imported would not render. The second one crashed the program. The third one worked fine. All three models were from actual manufacturers.

Macworld’s buying advice

Live Interior 3D 1.2 limits you to very basic room shapes and designs. If all you need to do is rearrange furniture—and if you are OK using furniture you can find in the library or online—you’ll be satisfied. However, the program cannot accurately design a kitchen with actual cabinets and fixtures you could find at your local home improvement store. Designing complex spaces presents too many time-consuming limitations to be practical. But this is a relatively new program: it looks very nice, is easy to learn, and has a great deal of potential. I look forward to the next major update.

[ Greg Miller is an architect and an interactive software and Web developer specializing in new media for the architecture, engineering, construction, and publishing markets .]

Live Interior 3D lets you view a complete living room model in its 3-D window.
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