I recently got back from SketchUp Basecamp 2018 which was held in beautiful Palm Springs, California. I had an amazing time and met so many interesting people. I started using SketchUp right around the time of Basecamp 2016 but by the time I found out about the conference I had already missed the registration. So it was a long but worthwhile wait for my first Basecamp in 2018.
In honor of SketchUp Basecamp 2018 I’d like to share the custom mouse configuration that I developed for SketchUp because it saves me time every day and I thought it might help other users too.
Remap Your Mouse’s Right-Click Button
The most useful thing that I think I’ve done relating to my setup is to remap my mouse’s right-click button. Groups are used so often in SketchUp that I wanted a really easy way of entering into a group, then into a deeper nested group, etc., and then being able to go back up to a less-nested level of that group. Without using a keyboard shortcut you do this by using the Edit menu > ‘Close Group/Component’. The default keyboard shortcut for this command is the ‘super-easy-to-press’ combination: Control + Shift + Command + G. Believe it or not I was happy when I first memorized this combination because it was easier than clicking outside the group and then reselecting, but after days of going in and out of groups in SketchUp I needed to find an alternative.
My solution was to set one mouse button to Double-Click so that I could enter into a group if I wanted, and another mouse button to ‘Close Group/Component’. This would allow me to easily go very deep into a group that had many nested groups and then ‘resurface’ back up to upper level groups. I’m left-handed and I use a regular two-button mouse with a scroll wheel (Microsoft Wireless 900) and a 3D mouse (3D Connexion Wireless Spacemouse).
How Can I Remap my right-click button?
Also, if I remap right-click then how can I invoke the right-click menu? (or ‘Context-click menu’ as SketchUp calls it)
My way of doing this is made possible by 2 things:
- Historically Macs only had 1 mouse button so Control + Click was programmed into all Macs to as a system-wide way of invoking a right-click menu in the absence of a physical right mouse button. Nowadays lots of people use 2-button mice with their Macs but nevertheless you can still use Control + Click to invoke the right-click menu. Thanks to this you can safely reprogram the right-click button on your mouse and still have a way of bringing up the right-click menu when you need it (which in my case is much less often than I need to use ‘Close Group/Component’).
- A third-party software to map a certain keystroke to my mouse’s right-click button, in this case the keystroke is Control + Shift + Command + G—the default keyboard shortcut for ‘Close Group/Component’. I’ve set this mapping so that it’s only active in SketchUp so that I can use right-click normally everywhere else. The program that I use is called SteerMouse, it works really well.
Just with that change I feel like I save sooo much time. In addition to that I also wanted it to be easier for me to not just exit groups but also to enter into groups. Double-clicking to enter into a group that’s 1 level deep isn’t bad at all; but if you’re working with a group that has 20 sub-groups in it then getting down to the deepest level of the group is pretty repetitive. To make this easier I set another one of my mouse buttons as a dedicated double-click. I’ve got one of the buttons on my 3D mouse set to do this.
The combination of these 2 changes allows you to click one button to go deeper into a group and another click will bring you back up/out 1 level. This can’t be done with keyboard shortcuts alone since your cursor needs to be hovering over the appropriate group.
It seems funny to get excited about a mouse configuration but I was so happy after I made those 2 changes because they saved me so much time and continue to do so even to this day. Hope they can save you some time too.
How to Make Your Own SketchUp Shortcuts
You can program your own shortcuts for almost anything that you can do manually within SketchUp. If you find yourself using any tool very often in SketchUp, take the time to make a keyboard shortcut for it, you’ll thank yourself for all the time saved. To make a keyboard shortcut open up the SketchUp Preferences window and then go to ‘Shortcuts’ (SketchUp Preferences > Shortcuts). Here you’ll see a list of all the commands in SketchUp that you would normally access by going through menus or by clicking buttons on the Tool Palette. Before you go to set up a shortcut, find which menu that command is in. Within the Shortcuts window all the commands are listed in reference to the menu where they’re located. So ‘Export 3D Model’ is listed as ‘File/Export/3D Model…’ Once you’ve found the command you then just choose a keyboard shortcut. ***Don’t use X or / as keyboard shortcuts since these keys are already used for multiplying (X) and distributing (/) objects when copying them.***
My Other Favorite Shortcuts:
Toggle Fade/Hide Rest of Model (J)
Another SketchUp shortcut that’s really useful when you’re working a lot within groups is toggle Fade/Hide rest of model. By default when you enter into a group SketchUp will dim the rest of the model that’s outside of the active group that you’re inside. This is great but sometimes you’d prefer if the rest of the model were to be hidden altogether instead of just dimmed out. From the Model Info (Shift + Command + i) window you can toggle this behavour between ‘Fade Rest of Model’ and ‘Hide Rest of Model’. But you don’t want to choose between the two, you want to be able to use one some of the time and the other for the rest of the time. Luckily you can set this toggle to a keyboard shortcut so you can go back and forth between having the rest of the model faded and having the rest of the model completely hidden. So I’ll go to a deep level of a group and hide the rest of the model so it’s easier to focus. Then, if I need to snap to something that’s outside that group then I’ll show the rest of the model again in the faded view.
Paste in Place (Shift + V)
This is probably my favorite shortcut. Often I find it easier to place a new object while being outside of a group since you don’t wind up accidentally pressing on edges and faces. Then after the object is complete I’ll cut it, enter into the group where it belongs, and then do Paste-In-Place.
Toggle Between Parallel Projection and Perspective (N)
Most of the time I like to model with Perspective ON. In the real world our eyes always see things in perspective, it helps our mind quickly understand things as being closer or farther away. This is why most of the time I find it very weird to be modelling with Perspective turned OFF (i.e. in Parallel Projection mode). Sometimes it is useful to have perspective turned OFF though. I use Parallel Projection when I’m positioning something on one plane within the model, for example positioning 2D graphics that are going to go on a certain face.
Toggle X-Ray View ON and OFF (U)
Makes all objects see-through, useful for seeing what’s behind something. I also find this useful when I’m scaling an object and I want to grab one of the back handles.
Edge Style > Back Edges (K)
This is similar to X-Ray view only it doesn’t make faces transparent, instead it just shows dotted lines where back edges are.
Hide (Command + E)
Hide the selected object
UnHide All (Command + Shift + E)
Unhide all hidden objects
UnHide Last (i)
Unhide only the last object that you hid
Move left/right/up/down without zooming in or out at all
Draw Bounding Box (Extension)(W)
This is an extension by ThomThom that automatically draws a bounding box around the selected object. I find this really useful whenever I’m trying to position circular or cylindrical objects. It’s hard to snap to the exact tangent of a circle so I’ll use Draw Bounding Box to draw a bounding box and then snap to the corners of the box since they’re much easier to grab.
Interact Tool (D)
I love making and using Dynamic Components, they add so much to the experience of showing a model. This tool is used to activate a dynamic component ex: clicking on a door to have the door swing open.
Make Face (Extension) (V)
This is an extension by s4u that takes a series of lines that are closed and converts them into a face. This would normally happen automatically if you’re drawing within SketchUp but sometimes I’ll be importing artwork from Adobe Illustrator that I’m then going to turn into 3D. I export the artwork in .dxf format and then import it into SketchUp. When it comes in to SketchUp it’s just lines so I select the ones I need and then use s4u Make Face to convert them into faces.
Zoom Selected (Control + Z)
Zooms in on the selected object
Zoom Extents (Command + [)
Zooms out to fit all objects that are within the file
Zoom Window (Command + ])
Lets you select a specific area that you’ll zoom in to