Drawing and sketching programs seem to fall into two general categories - very powerful but excessively complex, or simple to use but lacking in options and power. SketchBook Pro successfully combines power and simplicity into one package, such that even a weak artist can be productive and successful.
I ran into a problem when installing the application - the installer crashed, giving some odd internal error and number. I tried again immediately and the second try went without a hitch. I assume it is a configuration issue with my system as I have occasional strange issues when installing software.
When first launched, the application asks if you have your serial number and key handy. If you are new to SketchBook Pro, I encourage you NOT to enter them just yet but instead specify that you want a 15-day trial. The reason is that you get presented a quick pictoral tour of the feature set when you run in trial mode (which is really just a time-limited demo mode with everything enabled), which is a nice introduction. Afterward, registration information can be entered through the help menu.
Being new to SketchBook Pro myself, I was startled by the sparse interface when opening a new canvas. There was little on the screen other than the main menu up top and the lagoon in the lower left. Most drawing applications clutter the screen with an assortment of toolbars, palettes, wizards and other things that just get in the way. Autodesk keep their application simple instead, putting the essentials out there and leaving everything else off the screen until it's really needed.
Most elements of the application are available in radial menus, accessible either through clicking on icons on the lagoon or right-clicking on the canvas. All menu items have help tips to guide along the way so you know what option you're choosing. Radial menus can be a surprise to those who have never been exposed to them, but once used to them they are very powerful and easy to use.
Plunging into the various options available, I immediately discovered a couple of things I have never before used in drawing applications. First, I discovered the symmetry options, which makes creating mirror images easy. Using the axis, I was able to draw a crude figure of a person in about 10 seconds without even expending any real thought. Even more productive for me, though, was the ruler, especially in combination with the layering tool. The ruler is a slight misnomer, as it is actually more of a straight-edge against which to draw straight lines.
Another interesting surprise was the help system. When I launched the help system, rather than bring up a compiled help file, my default web browser launched and I was presented with one of the best help systems I have seen. The help is easy on the eyes and very straightforward to use. There is sufficient detail with pictures to address almost any conceivable question that might arise.
SketchBook Pro is very fast and very responsive on my system. I am running Vista with 3GB of ram and a dual-core 2.1G Intel processor, and there is only the slightest hint of hesitation on rare occasion.
Having never played with SketchBook Pro before and being a poor artist, I was shocked that I could create viable results in minutes. In the hands of a professional artist, this is a powerful and easy-to-use package. Emphasis was placed on productivity, but power was not taken away.