The Four Unintuitive, Critical Things to Learn About SketchUp

1. It Really Wants To Be Modal #

click-release-move instead of click-drag1

The common click-drag idiom used everywhere else does not work well in SketchUp

Once you are in a mode (by selecting a tool and clicking on a starting point once), you can rotate and pan the view (camera) to find and select the points you want to synchronize with your clicked-point or enter a numeric length. Then, exit the mode by clicking once or pressing Enter for the number. Holding the left mouse button makes it harder and prevents some nice features (see Control the Axes below)

2. Use the Tape Measure and Guide-Lines Constantly #

Guide-lines allow you to do what you want without fighting the model. If you want to show a dimension and you cannot find the points to connect, draw a guide exactly where you want (e.g. specify a length) and use the endpoints of the guide for your dimension2
When resizing or moving to achieve an exact size, instead of doing subtraction (e.g. desired size - current size3), draw a guide to the desired size and synchronize to that

3. Control the Axes4 #

While SketchUp will try to figure out which axis you want to use, explicitly select it by pressing an arrow key after starting a mode (this does not work if your drag the mouse)

You will become aware of the axes even if you cannot see them

4. Groups and Components Are Worlds Unto Themselves #

While groups and components are very useful, the Edit | Unhide menu option is not global; it applies only to the current context; hidden items inside groups and components appear only if you are editing that group or component (even if you select Unhide | All)
Groups and Components can have their own axes independent of the model’s axis. Inside, you can permanently set the axes with the Axes tool and change them temporarily with (right-click) Align Axes. This is a lifesaver when one object is not aligned with the rest of the model
Groups and Components can nest inside each other, and each one is its own world. The Outline in the default tray makes these hierarchies visible and manageable5


  1. except for moving items in the Outline 

  2. This dimension will not change if the size or position of any object changes 

  3. Especially with fractional inches - go metric! 

  4. Plural of axis. Go figure 

  5. You can select multiple objects even within different groups to change their layers, visibility, explode, etc. You can click-drag in the Outline to move items between groups 

 
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