LayOut's lost file references

LayOut’s lost references has been a bit of a pain for awhile now, and as we’ve been digging into this we think we have found a major contributor to the problem, and have a recommended workaround.

We were able to replicate this issue by deleting the temporary folder for LayOut while still having the document open, then finally saving after I deleted the temp folder. Here is why this applies:

On a Mac:

  • The mac os (since 10.5) has a utility that helps with directory cache clean up. Copy/pasted (vs inserted) images, skp geometry, pdf content, etc. is stored a temp folder until the file is closed. Mac OS checks every 3hrs and 35 minutes to see if a folder/file has not been touched/modified for 3 days. If it hasn’t been touched/modified in that time, then the os will delete the temp file contents. If the user is tech-savy, they can take a look at the plist and edit things there. The file location is below.


On Windows:

  • Same deal as Mac, except it can be from a anti-virus or the user doing a Disk Cleanup (found by typing “Disk Cleanup” from the Start menu", basically anything that will clean temp dirs for you, ie. CCleaner. This will delete the temp directory, causing the same behavior for files that have been left open for a really long time. The folder location of where the temp directory is: C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Temp<application name>.

For now the proposed short-term solution is pretty simple:

  • What we want the user to do is save the layout document and CLOSE the layout document. Basically don’t have layout running overnight/weekend, since it can potentially just delete some of the contents. We are working on a permanent fix, but please let us know if you still see issues after applying this suggestion.

It sounds like you have at least narrowed down the cause. Unfortunately I work on files for a long time. All day long and closing it and opening it all the time isn’t practical. Is it deleting the temp folder/directory while I am working on it? I am saving regularly but do leave files open while I take calls, research stuff, etc. How long is a long time to leave it idle?

Hi Alfred, frequency should not play a role in this issue but leaving the file open overnight or weekend a user could experience problems.

The best way to prevent the loss of file references is to not import files via copy/cut and paste. When the files are copy/cut and pasted they are placed in a temp folder. LayOut then hard paths the content to this temp folder on save and this is the only place that the reference files are contained. This temp folder can hang around a quite a long time, things will look normal when accessing this file at a later time.

The problem comes in when the temp file is removed (wiped by system, user or virus scanner). When LayOut is accessed it will look for the hard path temp folder for these references and now the references are lost. In the case of copy / pasting images say from the web, the temp folder was the only location of the images.

The best practice is to load reference files / images / SketchUp files / etc… from a known location either on a network or local drive. If you do this then you should not have any lost references.


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does saving immediately after a drag and drop not create the ‘in .layout’ copy?


It does but LayOut continues to use the reference in the volatile Temp folder unless you explicitly unlink the file so that LayOut will only look at the embedded file.

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How exactly can I reproduce this? If I copy image data on the Clipboard (a screenshot, for instance) and paste it into LayOut, the image shows as “Embedded” in the Document Setup>References window even before I have saved anything.

Hey Dave,
you’re on the right track but in this case the “embedded” file is the one that’s in the temp folder.

Here’s the problematic workflow in a little more detail.

  1. Add an image to LayOut using copy/paste. Since we used copy/paste, there is no “original” image file on disk, it’s just in the temp folder as an embedded reference and in memory as long as LayOut is running.
  2. Delete the temp folder. The image is still present in memory, so everything looks ok in LayOut, but the “embedded” copy on disk is now missing.
  3. Save the LayOut file. LayOut will try to gather up all of the files from the temp folder… but the temp folder is missing!
  4. Close the file in LayOut - now the in-memory copy of the image is lost as well.
  5. Re-open the file you saved in step 3. The image file is gone and you’ll see a red “X” in the document.

Contrast this with the File->Insert workflow, which is less likely to cause a problem:

  1. Add an image to LayOut using file->Insert. Since we used file->insert, there is an “original” image file on disk, plus an “embedded” copy in the temp folder and a copy in memory.
  2. Delete the temp folder. The image is still present in the original location and in memory but the embedded file is now missing.
  3. Save the LayOut file. LayOut will try to gather up all of the “on disk” files from the temp folder… but the temp folder is missing!
  4. Close the file - now the in-memory copy of the image is lost as well, but the original still exists.
  5. Re-open the file you saved in step 3. LayOut will load the image from the original location and the document will appear properly.

Note that you can still run into issues with the File->Insert workflow if you explicitly convert the file references to be “embedded” after step 1 or if you delete the original image.



Thanks for the additional clarity on this Marc… as usual, you are a wealth of knowledge.


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It sounds like you are getting closer to figuring it out. However, what happens when you take the file to another computer. No original folder, temp file, etc. Sounds like a dodgy way of doing it. Why is the image not just saved in the layout file? What about people that mentioned inserted sketchup views disappearing?
I have had images in scrapbooks for years that were copy and pasted. They are still there, but disappear from new layout files randomly. Supposedly if I leave the file open too long, or the temp file disappears. Even thou they are from my scrapbook and the images still exist in my scrapbook. I had some disappear from a file today that I was working on last night. I worked on it for 4 hours and 2 images disappeared today (not the rest). One I had copy and pasted from a web browser 2 iterations ago, one was my logo which is from a scrapbook page. The logo image in the scrap book page is inserted from a folder on my computer and is still in the scrap book.
All seems weird and not very practical.
The more you explain it, the more it sounds like there is a problem with the set up on inserting images into sketchup. Particularly since it didn’t happen in older versions.
Thanks for you replying though and for looking into it. I certainly appreciate it and in no way am trying to be difficult.
I will insert from folders in future.

I just tried to find a layout file that was saved, exported as a pdf then closed. It has not been opened since Jan 27. I have a copy of the pdf, but the layout file is just gone. Is there any way to retrieve this? Or has my disc cleaner just wiped it clean?
I can’t find the pdf either. It’s in an email that I sent but it’s nowhere to be found on my computer, on One Drive, or on my external hard drive.
Edit: Am getting an error that says Temp File is too full to produce an error report. (??)

Hi Alfred-

Sorry for the delayed response, I just saw your post.

The best recommendation I can give is to update to SketchUp 2019 - the problem was fixed in this version.


Hi Bluesquare-

The “lost file references” problem should never result in an actual LayOut file going missing, just sometimes with inserted images.

Given the “too full to produce an error report” message, I’d recommend clearing some space on your hard drive. I don’t think that’s related to SketchUp, though.

I hope you find your missing files.


Thanks for the reply. I have 400GB of free space on this computer and 2TB on the external drive. IT’s the temp file that is too full, so when I read the piece about this being related to temporary files it made me wonder if there’s a connection.
This only happens with Layout files. It’s happened twice, once with a copied and pasted model and once with a model I “sent” to Layout. Both with work I’ve done for clients so it’s freaking me out some. I’m saving things in three different places at this point, and taking screen shots.

Thanks @Marc. I have downloaded it and will swap over first chance I get. I will let you know if it happens again. Cheers.