Recently (through Amazon.com no doubt) I bought a SpaceNavigator which is an inexpensive 3d mouse. A regular mouse only allows you to move around in two dimensions. Left and right, up and down. This 3d mouse allows you to go left, right, up, down, rotate clockwise and counterclockwise, zoom and zoom out, and tilt up, down, left, and right. The SpaceNavigator works with both Google Earth and SketchUp, so I had to play around with both of them.
In Google Earth, you don’t even need to use your regular mouse to explore every nook and cranny of planet earth. It’s even cooler with the 3d buildings turned on because you can zoom down in between buildings and pretend you are spiderman flying over a street by jumping from building to building high above the ground. With SketchUp, the 3d mouse comes in really handy for moving the camera around the 3d object that you are editing.
In order to get my hands wet with 3d modeling in SketchUp, I started out trying to model the Duderstadt Center at the University of Michigan. This is a huge building on North Campus. There was already a 3d model of the Duderstadt Center done as part of the 3d Atlas of Ann Arbor, but it was just the outline of the building in 2d raised the height of the building and images placed around the outside. I wanted to add a lot more detail. It was rather difficult at first to get all of the shapes of the building the way I wanted them. I gave up to try something simpler. So, I moved on to The Cube. I used SketchUp to model the cube in 3d, and geo-referenced it so that you can view it in Google Earth.