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Interiors 4 review

Verdict:

Needs Power G4 or intel processor + MacOS X 10.4 + 512MB application Ram + 700MB hard disk space

Review Date: 6 Jul 2007

Price when reviewed: (£67.23 ex VAT) + Download £71 (£60.43 ex VAT)

Reviewed By: Tim Danaher

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

Kent-based Microspot really has been busy with the update to its Interiors program.

While Interiors has always been easy to use, it has been held back by its inconsistent interface and slow final rendering speed. You'll be glad to hear that these two problems have been addressed with the release of version 4.

First, the interface. Previous versions were caught in an odd Mac OS X/System 7 time warp with inconsistent button and window styles, and a plethora of floating palettes to boot. This has all been rectified, and the disparate palettes marshalled into a smart, new single window, with each palette selectable from a row of buttons across the top. The main Editor window has also gained a customisable toolbar across the top for access to frequently used commands, such as toggle between Home view and Plan view, and toggle Interactive Rendering on and off.

Since this program is about interiors, you'll start off by mapping out the space into which you want to deposit your furniture and accessories. This is done with one of two Wall tools. The Rectangular Wall tool lets you map out four-cornered spaces, while the Freeform Wall tool allows for rooms of any shape, with angled walls (but no true curved walls as yet). One apparent oddity is that as you drag out each wall, you're presented with a dialog to set its width, height, thickness and so on. Microspot argues that with a program like this, you'll be working from prepared room plans from which you can enter the dimensions anyway. It has a point, and in this mode the drawing strokes simply set the direction of the wall. However, now you have the option to alt-click on the Wall tool, enter the thickness and height, and draw the walls freehand using the measurement readout and grid snap. Speaking of which, version 4 now allows you to input dimensions in proper fractional Imperial measurements if measuring things to one sixty-fourth of an inch is your thing.

Another point worth mentioning is that doors and window openings can now be dynamically positioned in walls, and they still retain their ability to automatically resize themselves to the exact thickness of the wall.

Interiors is supplied with a library of ready-made furniture articles and accessories that you simply drag from the Library palette into your scene. Placement within the scene is controlled by various snapping options (Bounding Box, Midpoint), and you can select these through the Cursor Options palette, making exact placement a cinch. Alignments are signalled to the user by various snapping lines, and there's a useful option to snap objects to the inner face of walls, which is handy for pictures, wall cupboards and so on.

While there's a broad range of objects supplied, you may not find exactly what you're looking for: this is where the new Edit Group functions comes in. Any group or object can be selected from a scene and isolated by opening it for editing in a separate Editor window. Here, you can move, scale and rotate your objects to get the look you want. Interiors can open .3dmf files natively and import the popular .3ds format, for which there's an awful lot of .3ds content available, some of it free. Of course, access to SketchUp .skp files via Google's 3D Warehouse would be nice as well, but this is promised for a future update release.

Version 4 is now fully Intel-native, and this can be seen in the speeds of the various renderers - an area that was of some concern before. The new Preview renderer enables you to check the materials and lighting in a scene, and objects can be moved around with full shadows without breaking a sweat. The final-quality renderer has also seen a vast increase in speed, and this will auger well for animation output.

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