Dimension and location properties

My single biggest beef with Sketchup is how involved it is to set and modify dimensions and position. Why can’t I select a cube and see L/W/H and adjust one or more of those dimensions by typing? Why can’t I select one of the cube’s points and see the X/Y/Z coordinates and adjust one or more of them by typing? I’m a current heavy user of 2D design tools, and former user of other 3D design tools, and this seems such a basic thing for this kind of software to need to nail… I just don’t get it. The lack of visibility of even initial dimensions (tucked away bottom right; implied by typing) very nearly made me give up on Sketchup entirely when I first tried it. I understand the use and value of push/pull and scale, but these seem to slow and imprecise as a foundation (rather than added value).

You may be asking for something that SU just isn’t designed to do - it is NOT a parametric modelling kind of 3D software.

You can do many nearly equivalent things with the native tools. To resize a shape, use the Scale tool and type in dimensions (using the units) - for example, to scale a cube from (say) 1’ cube to a rectangular box, start the Scale tool from a outside diagonal corner, and type the three dimensions you want it to end up as (for example, 3’, 2’, 18" - remember to type the foot and inch symbols). Or the equivalent for metric units - m, cm, or mm.

If it’s a component or group, after you scale it to size, if you want to fix it at that size, R-click on it and Scale Definition. Or to turn it back to a cube, Undo, or R-click, Reset scale.

You can see the coordinates of a cube’s corner using the Tape Measure tool, and with a little mental arithmetic, move just that corner - start the Move tool, pick the corner you want to move, then type either the absolute coordinates of the new position in square brackets [ x, y, z ], or relative coordinates in angle brackets < x, y, z > of the position or relative movement you want. [Don’t click in the Measurement box, just type.]

If you haven’t already, view the tutorials at learn.sketchup.com for Sketchup Fundamentals, and/or use the Instructor inside Sketchup - Window/Instructor.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s much easier to use than any other 3D software I know (and I’ve tried a few), especially in the fields for which it was originally designed (architecture), and others to which it has easily adapted (for example, woodworking, and 3D printing).

It can be used for modelling organic shapes with suitable plugins, but that isn’t it’s natural usage.

And there are some parametric-like options. For example, Dynamic Components (and the very new Live Components) give it some parametric capabilities, as does the plugin parametric.rb when used with other Ruby programming - for example, to draw Platonic Solids, or assorted 3D Shapes, to mention just two of the plugins I’ve written (from SketchUcation Plugin store) - with help.

PS. If I were @Box from Australia, I could illustrate these points with a GIF, but he’s better and much quicker at it than I am. Maybe he will chip in?


Then you haven’t fully understood their use. You can just type the EXACT measurements you want for both Scale and PushPull, and indeed for the Line, Rectangle, Move, and Rotate tools as well - almost anywhere that you can use the mouse to set a position, length, dimension or angle, you can type instead.

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Thank you, John, that’s a very comprehensive response! Looking at videos (from Sketchup and others) it seems it is used for anything and everything, so maybe I misjudged the fit with my needs. I wasn’t familiar with the parametric/direct modeling distinction… wouldn’t a hybrid be possible, i.e. see a direct manipulation reflected in updated dimension/location properties, and vice versa? Even if that doesn’t work in every situation, having it work with simple geometric shapes could be a huge plus.

What I would be after with push/pull is typing in the new exact total length of whatever I’m stretching, rather than an exact additional length. I can’t tell if that’s what you’re saying should be possible, but I’m having little luck getting the brackets method you describe to work. Could you point me to a tutorial specifically for using brackets? I haven’t been able to find any so far. Thanks!
(By the way, related to my initial point, if all of this is possible, then it seems providing UI for this, rather than making people know about bracket formats and typing those into nothing, would make all of this so much clearer.)

It sounds to me as if you either need to forget about trying to make SketchUp work like other CAD programs or forget about SketchUp. If you are going to spend your time trying to use SketchUp like other CAD programs you’ll just frustrate yourself and that doesn’t do you any good. If you want to learn to use SketchUp correctly, take a deep breath, set your old CAD knowledge aside, and learn how the tools work.

Push/Pull will only take the difference between where you are starting and where you are ending up. You can use the Scale tool if you want to enter an absolute dimension if you included the units.

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It’s a funny thing but many of us who were brought up on 2D CAD were bowled away when we first came across Sketchup (in my case nearly 20 years ago) because it was so intuitive and easy to work in 3D. Then when we started to use it INSTEAD of our 2D drawing software (not just alongside), we started being irritated that it didn’t work more like 2D software!

It’s difficult to get out of the habit of 2D drawing, not least because we still mainly use a flat screen or paper to communicate our ideas to others. And there are times when it is plain quicker just to use 2D. But it is very possible to use SU in that way when you know how.

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This is what I hear often from my colleagues, who are 10…35 years younger than myself. It makes me tear out what is left of my hair. In our BIM models I often find things that are indicated with just linework. I deeply disagree. Putting in a “box” shape takes absolutely not more time than drawing a rectangle with lines. It is about communication. When we discuss things with our consultants we use IFC files and screenshot views, and things drawn in 2D simply don’t exist in those.

Are you referring to examples where 2D and 3D are mixed up? I can quite see that would make for difficulties.

If you hear what I wrote from lots of other people (especially from younger ones), doesn’t that say something right there?

I can only say, speaking for myself as a building designer who communicates mainly with laypeople (clients; builders) that for very simple things, 2D is fastest I find. I probably use full 3D more often nowadays and love doing so, but it’s a horses for courses situation.

The younger ones are probably ‘spoiled’ by revise tools of AD…