1 of 10 Things I Wish I Had Known About SketchUp

I Can Get Rid of That Guy Standing in The Corner

All of us had at least one teacher in junior high who liked to point out the negative consequences of making an assumption. For me it was Mr. Sawyer, 8th grade math and football coach, in his dark suit, white socks and red tie, and I imagine him in the retired teachers home, feeling satisfaction every now and then when one of his former students remembers this lesson. When I started to learn SketchUp, I made a bunch of assumptions that made the learning curve steeper than it needed to be.  Of that bunch, one of the biggest ones was that because SketchUp was free, it wouldn’t be very flexible.

Preference Window in SketchUpWhenever I teach or give a demonstration of SketchUp, someone will ask “Where did you get those extra tools?” “How come your cursor has those colored lines?” or “How did you get rid of that guy in the corner?”

They’ve done what I did, jumped in and started using SketchUp, then assumed (yes Mr. Sawyer, I know) that there wasn’t any way to change the default settings. One of the guys who taught me about AutoCAD once said “most of what I know comes from playing around with the different buttons and seeing what happens.” So if you’re new to SketchUp, or feeling frustrated, here are some things to look at and play with.

On a PC, go to the Window menu and select Preferences (on a Mac it’s on the SketchUp menu). The picture above shows an amazing discovery I made; Display crosshairs adds a red, green and blue line to the cursor making it easy as pie to stay on axis when you draw or move. The other items in the list on the left are all worth exploring, especially the last item, Template. Scroll on down until you find Product Design and Woodworking-Inches.

Also under the Window menu is Model Info. Model Info Window in SketchUpIf dimensions expressed in feet and inches annoy you as much as they annoy me, here is where you can put things right. If your display is behaving badly, or if you want to add those jazzy slash marks that architects use for dimensions, you can do that here. You can also dump extraneous junk from your model, and fix your problems (well, problems with your model anyway).

One more window to click on is Instructor, again from the Window menu. As you learn the tools, the Instructor window will remind you what each one does, and how the different functions of each tool work. You should also keep your eye on the lower left corner of the screen. Whenever you hover the cursor over the tool, a line of text tells you the tools function. Click on a tool, and the next move, and available options are displayed there as text.

In addition to the Window menu, the View Menu is also worth investigating. The first item, Toolbars will open the door to the SketchUp version of the Lee Valley catalog. Check out the different toolbars, and use the Instructor window to find out what they do. If you’re using a Mac, this is a little different, select Customize Toolbars to add tools to your workspace. The View Menu also gives you control over the ways that faces and edges are displayed.

So don’t assume that you are limited in what you can do, or how you can do it in SketchUp. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. They are likely speaking from their own assumption, and we all know what happens when you assume . . .

You can tailor the program to the way you want to work. And you don’t need to be afraid to play around and push buttons to find out what they do. One of my favorite things about SketchUp is that you can’t really break anything, and materials are absolutely free. Those are magic words to anyone who likes to experiment.

–Bob Lang

Master the basics of 3D Modeling in SketchUp with my new book “Building Blocks of SketchUp”. It’s in enhanced PDF format, 260 pages with 50 embedded videos and a free guide to SketchUp tools.

This is number 1 in a series of 10 posts. You can read the whole series if you click here.



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2 thoughts on “1 of 10 Things I Wish I Had Known About SketchUp

  1. Thanks Bob for these series… Very helpful indeed!

  2. That is hilarious, I had a teacher and football couch named Sawyer!

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