123D Design is a basic 3D modeling program from Autodesk. It's Maya for the masses, with a highly simplified interface, a sidebar browser for pre-built models, and the ability to save on hard disk and into the cloud. A free Autodesk account is required for some, but not all, features, and a premium account will (eventually) get you a couple more features on top of that.
It is in Autodesk's interest to keep this application significantly underpowered compared to its high-end commercial offering, Maya, so as not to cannibalize business from the latter. It should therefore come as no surprise that the 123D Design interface bears little resemblance to professional modeling programs in depth or complexity. The program's primary commercial role appears to be acting as a halfway point for partnered 3D printing services, and all the basic modeling tools are in place for that end. However, the program's support for texturing and .STL format exports does make it possible to use this as a jumping-off point for other uses, such as printing on your own 3D printer if you have one, and the simplified interface is a boon for those new to the intricacies of 3D modeling.
Sam's Protip: Because of the program's holistic approach, it's sometimes hard to tell where edges lie - and edges are vital to understanding the structure of a model. Thankfully, clicking once on an object to select it reveals its edges when the mouse hovers over them (if it has any). Also, starting a new model with a box primitive will provide the best results.
- CAD at its simplest
- Freemium aspect is perfectly valid: helpful without being intrusive
- Can import and export using hard drive or cloud
- Premium account will soon be required to access certain model templates
- Some features do not work in an intuitive way
- Only STL format fully supported