Is mac SU really MDI?

Continuing the discussion from Is this normal?:

after reading julia’s comments on her dislike for MDI I dug a bit deeper re: mac’s and MDI…

I found this link

mac mdi?

I didn’t realise how different MDI is from Application Centric UX design and I wonder if we should be comparing oranges to Apple’s in many of our forum replies…

I know we [royal] often have cited MDI as the prime difference between the platforms, but should we?

@eneroth3, @Barry, @slbaumgartner, @DanRathbun



Well that blog is an open opener for non-Mac persons. I always wondered why the SketchUp team had implemented MDI on Mac and then specifically made PC edition non-MDI. Now I understand they never did either.

I also better understand that I’ll never buy a Mac if that shared menubar docked to the desktop is enforced. Which also means I don’t agree with that blog author’s reasons why MDI is bad in general. Good programmed MDI applications on PC never suffer from his “reasons” and always have his “exceptions” to his rules.
The real truth is that poorly programmed and designed applications are “bad in general.”

I can see a PC person going insane if they come from PC MDI office applications and try to work on a Mac with multiple displays and have to keep accessing the docked menubar on another display when working on a document in one of the subordinate displays. (I myself wouldn’t last a week with a Mac. I’d return it, and buy another PC.)

Anyway, back to the main question …

Well, I suppose we should not then really call SketchUp on the Mac “MDI”.

But from a extension coders point of view, you do need to deal with multiple model objects being open within the process at the same time. It would be the same as dealing with coding in a MDI process on PCs.

It also leads to an observation about applications on PC. Each application’s process can only access a certain maximum amount of memory. If we were to start stuffing more “heavy” open models into that one process, SketchUp could quickly become bogged down “memory-wise.” So working on several huge models in one MDI may not be ideal in the performance department.
But if working on small sets of components that are relatively “light” memory-wise, then an MDI interface might be better for workflow.


What does SU on Mac even look like? I’ve always assumed it listed the open models somewhat similarly to how LayOut for PC lists its open documents. How do you switch between SU models on Mac?

The fastest way is with the keyboard shortcut ⌘`
This cycles through the open windows in the current application. If you hold ⌘ down, every time you tap the ‘`’ key it switches to the next window in the list and brings it to the top.
Edit: I had ‘~’ here which is on the same key and couldn’t work out how to display the backtick but you need to do \` instead of just `.

Another way is using Mission Control. I have it set to activate with the bottom left ‘hot corner’. I move my mouse to the bottom left of the screen, then all the application’s windows swoosh into a grid to let me pick the one I want. The filenames are below the images. The row along the bottom is recently opened files with thumbnails and filenames. I then click on one of the open files and it brings it to the front. I could also click on one of the recently opened files and it would open that for me.

Mission Control Application Windows:

Another way is Mission Control with all windows instead of appliction windows. If I’m in another application (not Sketchup) I could move my mouse to the top right of the screen and it will show all windows of all applications and I can choose the SketchUp file I want and it will switch to SketchUp and put that file’s window on top.

Mission Control All Windows:

The row of icons on the top are virtual desktops which I can switch between by dragging left and right with two fingers on the Apple Magic Mouse. Or you can do ⌃→ or ⌃← .

You can even drag and drop with Mission Control. For example I grabbed the above screenshot from a Finder window, moved the mouse to top right to show all windows, then hovered over the Safari window of this forum (press space to make it instant) then drop it in this reply.

One more way is the Window menu in SketchUp which has a list of all open files at the bottom. I rarely use this method, but its there if you want it.

I’m not sure how well this works with multiple displays as I only have one.

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With multiple windows it is dependent on how you set it up in the Systems settings>Display
You can set it up as an extra virtual display, or enlarge the current.
Having two OS’s at work, I’m sometimes confused. We often show this pic, when clients ask for hardware support:


I think it is personal and I don not wanna fuel a PC<>MAC thing here on this forum.

With a iMAC 27’’, I can have LayOut 2016-2017 and 2018 open at the same time and have multiple tabs in each version and can copy-paste through all docs. Off course, I would maximize each app to a ‘virtual’ desktop. 00
Switching between (virtual) desktop with the two-fingers gesture has become a habit which, I realize when working on Windows, is part of my workflow I miss most.

As @DanRathbun said, It will become a bogey when working with large models. Often heard remark is that all the tutorial videos are made with Mac’s and that “People working at Trimble don not have a clue with what kind of models ‘profs in the field’ are working with”

Agree with @MikeWayzovski: it’s a personal choice, and I’ve felt that way for 30 years. If I’m comfortable with Win or Mac, that’s my choice, and we should try to do our best to support you (and yes, I’ve been a *nix user from day one, so I use that, too).

@Barry, what about my initial query…

if “Mac applications never had MDIs” , what does SU on a mac use?

is there a ‘Windows’ equivalent to the mac interface?


Well, companies can certainly create these on Mac. When I was at Apple post-NeXT purchase, getting Adobe & Quark to move their apps to Mac OS X was not easy. They want their app to look the same on Mac & PC. Apple & Microsoft consider that a bad thing, as they want to create a competitive advantage for their differences. Multi-tab forces all windows to be the same size, which I may not want on the Mac.

Just know that both Mac & PC generally try to do things similarly where there is NO COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE. Examples are control-x, c or v on PC, command-x, c or v on Mac, and many other similar behaviors.

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