A new SketchUp Labs project: Trackpad Navigation

Hi everybody,

We recently surfaced a new Labs project in SketchUp for Web: the ability to optimize navigation controls for use with a multi-touch trackpad (also called a touchpad).

To try out this mode of navigating, load SketchUp for Web and open App Settings (from the ‘hamburger’ menu in the top left corner). Open the Navigation tab, then change your device from Mouse to Trackpad. There are several other settings; you can learn more on our Help Center page for this Labs project.

Setting your device preference to Trackpad will change how your trackpad responds to multi-touch gestures. Instead of zooming, a two-finger swipe will allow you to engage Orbit and Pan while you are modeling… much like pressing the scroll wheel on a mouse. In this mode, you can engage Zoom with a pinch or expand gesture.

We’re introducing this capability with a SketchUp Labs designation for several reasons. Navigation is essential to how people ‘see’ in 3D space, so we want to make sure we get this affordance ‘right’ before expanding it to SketchUp Pro or changing default navigation settings.

Second, trackpads and mice behave differently across operating systems, devices, and even web browsers. We’ve included controls to help you customize your navigation experience, but we also hope to discover if these settings work as expected, or if they create undesirable consequences. If you run into problems, please share what device, operating system, and browser you are using.

Similar to our Live Components Lab category, we’ll be listening eagerly for your feedback. Please share your impressions of this new functionality, any bugs you run into, or any other ideas for navigation improvement you think we should consider.

Happy sketching,

Mark and @Gopal, on behalf of the SketchUp team


I have not been running into problems but i find the existing tools for camera confusing and maybe, if you switch the setting to trackpad, grey out the Orbit, Pan and Zoom tool.
A gesture for ‘Zoom extents’ would be great (four finger tap?)

I do find myself lost rather quickly, while orbiting it’s harder to stay on one level.

Hey Mike, can you say more about what’s confusing about the existing tools? And why we’d want to grey them out? Love the idea of a gesture like 4-finger tap for zoom extents. I set a special key command for that myself because I use it so often.

Well, normally with the mouse the cursor changes immediately when pressing the scroll wheel. With the trackpad it stays on the active tool’s icon.
So if you select the Pan tool and orbit, that somehow confuses me.
(53 years old)

It actually feels more like the 3D connexion mouse, great enhancement!

Age is just an idea, Mike! This is great feedback. I brought it up with Sam, one of the developers working on this, and unfortunately both your suggestions are limited by the tech available to us. The OS/drivers don’t give us access to commands like “Four button tap”…we’re limited to two-finger gestures. As for the icons, it seems we can’t “read” trackpad commands the same way we can read a mouse click. And that’s why we don’t switch to orbit/pan icon when you swipe. This is actually the same limitation that prevents us from showing the zoom icon when you scroll with a mouse.

I’d say this would be great if it would evolve towards working with touch screen interfaces and pen. I use my Android tablet as drawing tablet for windows, it works great, and would love to work with it on SketchUp too.


I haven’t had a mouse connected to my computer for over 10 years, and that´s the truth :slight_smile:
Sketchup works fine with the trackpad on my MacBook Pro, and navigation is no problem whatsoever. Control-command click-drag for orbit and the added shift for panning. The same control-shift-command for panning works fine in Layout as well.
Sure its many buttons, but once you get used to it and get up to speed you will never bother again with that ancient mousy thing. The added benefit is that one can work just as easily with the laptop in the car, on the bus, on a cafe table where a nouse is totally clunky.
I saw that pinching was added to Layout with the last release ( but without option to revert direction, and set rather to the opposite of natural pinch behaviour). Pinching started on the iPhone Photos App, (and boy had they patented it, as Steve Jobs said), and you get used to the natural bodily connection between your finger closing in and the objects getting smaller. The very same is (to me) the obvious connection in 3D space, and it feels strange and unnatural if objects come closer when you pinch inwards, and this is elsewhere the “make it smaller” gesture, in absolutely all other software on the Mac at least.
But making pinching the default zooming method is not a good practise I think. The two finger scroll up and down on the trackpad is also well connected to the feeling of pushing upwards to “push the objects away”, and dragging with two finger gesture to “pull them towards you”.

The two finger scroll movement is MUCH easier in the long run, ergonomically, and you would tire very quickly, and being in need of treatment, if zooming was to be done solely with pinching. So I think pinching its nice to have, but it cannot replace the effectiveness of the two finger scroll gesture in the long run, in terms of speed, precision, and not needing medical care… But maybe you would get used to it and develop 2 enournosly muscular fingers on the right hand, like a claw., then you could only type with your left hand :slight_smile:

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I don’t know if this is currently documented anywhere, but you may also be able to zoom in Trackpad mode by holding down ctrl and two-finger scrolling. In the same way you can pan by holding down shift. That way you can get both the improved pan+orbit experience and your preferred trackpad gesture for zoom!

I like the idea of this for use with a graphic tablet, but unfortunately the two finger touch only ‘orbits’ up and down, so Helen just tilts forward and backward or does sommersaults. So it doesn’t actually orbit, it does two finger zoom with ctrl though.

The real Helen is much the same.

Early on I complained about something to do with the way invert worked. I see now that each aspect can be inverted on its own. With these settings, as a “natural scrolling” kinda user, it works very well:

What OS/machine/browser are you using?

Win 10, Firefox, Wacom Intuos

Edit: Tested in in Chrome and it does work, but even at the lowest sensitivity setting it is too sensitive. Zoom, Pan, ctrl Zoom all work.

Interesting. Orbit is nice. Pinch to zoom doesn’t feel efficient, but nice for fine control. Two finger zoom with the control key feels faster and more efficient.

Just for laughs, I thought I’d try the Wacom tablet in touch pad mode. I hardly ever use it that way. Orbit worked as well as pan with shift and two finger zoom with control, but pinch to zoom only zooms the web interface (which in itself is interesting - you can make the buttons and all huge or tiny).

BTW, one thing they have you might want to look at particularly if this is a segue into a touch interface for an iPad version. The have a way to move the cursor with the index finger and then click by adding your thumb. That would make it possible on the iPad to move and hover the cursor separately from clicking.

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I find the added movements you can get with the mouse when you leave it set to trackpad interesting.
You get to tilt with the scroll and pan up and down with shift and scroll.
This shows the various moves possible with the mouse and shift and ctrl.

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Thanks! Just to clarify, it’s too sensitive when using the intuos in touchpad mode or are you using the trackpad built in to your device? And were all the settings too sensitive or one in particular?

My Samsung tablet is very cool, especially when paired with with a pen and used on windows.

However, I’ve been thinking on a ipad for the first time because of this.l:

I much rather have SketchUp web with a pen interface though, and it would be even better if that interface would move to the windows desktop version too, where my Android could still be of use and a Surface Pro would make so much sense.

Not only Surface, the sheer amount of convertible windows laptops with pen these days… Not mentioning chromebooks…

Is there any potential to introduce multi-touch trackpad control to provide zoom+orbit functionality?

(like the Spacemouse)

This could work in combination with the mouse, perhaps?

Good question. The way I understand things, as a device, the Spacemouse makes it possible for a person to send two distinct separate navigation inputs (push/pull and tilt) at the same time. I don’t think a multitouch surface enables the equivalent data coming into the app simultaneously, but we haven’t talked much about the problem from this angle. Thanks for bringing this up!

Too sensitive on the intuos, I don’t have a touchpad. Zoom and Pan are ok, its just orbit, it moves far too fast to be workable.