Make it HARD to have the active layer be anything other than Layer0

Given the nearly unanimous recommendation that all geometry be kept on Layer0, and the strange problems that result when geometry is moved to other layers, I question the ease of changing the active layer - it’s just too easy for newbies to change.

In my own use of SketchUp, I’ve yet to find a reasonable use case to move anything (actual geometry, labels, dimensions, guide lines, etc.) other than groups and components off Layer0, hence if it were up to me, I’d simply remove the ability to change the active layer!

However, in order to maintain backward compatibility, simply making it very hard to change would work. Here’s just one way I thought of:

Make the appearance of the “Active Layer” selection in the Layers panel controllable through the “Window->Model Information” choices. Specifically, default it to “Not Visible” and let people who really need it (very few, I’ll bet) set it to “Visible”.

Addition March 7: I changed my mind slightly! Control should be in “Preferences”, not “Model Information”:


This has been requested before. TIG has created a plugin called Layer Watcher that helps. He also created a plugin called Default Layer Geometry which corrects the layer associations for geometry in the model.

I think in general training will take care of the vast majority of it. I learned long ago to leave that radio button alone. It shouldn’t take getting burned more than once to learn it shouldn’t be touched.

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So…what is or what could be a reason one would need to change the active layer?

I’ve never found a reason for it in my use of SketchUp. I’d be fine with removing the radio buttons altogether. On the other hand, I learned very early in my use of SketchUp to leave Layer 0 active at all times and I’ve never had a problem following that even though the radio buttons are there.

@DaveR: I did a brief (some might say perfunctory) search before I posted this and didn’t see an appropriately titled feature request.

I, as a newbie, made all the wrong choices, posted here (My 2nd forum topic!) - and you gave the solution!

Since then, I’ve seen too many other people make the same mistakes. While using @TIG’s Default Layer Geometry (to fix) and Layer Watcher (to keep from making the mistakes again) are good solutions, I think the origin of the problem lies within SketchUp - and SketchUp should fix it as I suggested.

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Maybe they could change it but this seems a bit like trying to protect users from themselves. At some point users need to take responsibility for learning how to correctly use the tools they have. It isn’t that difficult to learn to leave the radio buttons alone.

If you can’t keep your fingers away from the blade on the tablesaw, maybe you shouldn’t be using the tablesaw. :wink:

At some point you have to say “Read the manual.”


I’ve seen arguments from people who like to set the active layer while importing images or while adding dimensions or text, just so they don’t have to associate them with the layer later. These are things that are safe on layers other than Layer0 because they aren’t part of the basic model geometry. Of course, this practice saves only a small amount of time and opens the risk of forgetting to change back to Layer0 before you resume adding geometry.

I long ago wrote a extension that will move all dimensions and text to a layer visible only in the current scene (creating a new layer if so instructed). It still works and is over on SketchUcation.


That’s me. I even use a private plugin that switches the active layer to a DIM Layer when I use the Dimensions Tool, then switches back to the previous layer when the Dim Tool is switched off.


I haven’t really started using this technique, but doesn’t someone (I want to say Nick Sonder but I may be remembering wrong) have an entire approach based on having layers like “Always On” and “Always Hidden” as a way of joining objects and hiding the seams between then? He also nursed line weights out of SU by using layers. Possibly, you could put stuff on those layers by grouping them first even a single which we just saw can be done with a keystroke, but that I think may be problematic too.

While you might not ever use such a technique, it looks like someone else may rely on it. I’m positive that any beginner needs to abide by the Layer 0 rule, but I’m still not sure there isn’t a good use for a power user who knows what he’s doing with it.

in the past I have had to assign geometry to ‘other’ layers for dxf export to a particular CAM software…

assigning the groups for cuts and etchings wasn’t enough, but moving the geometry worked…



This is precisely why I think SketchUp should default to hiding the ability to change the active layer.

Despite the (relative) simplicity of SketchUp compared to other modeling programs, there are still a few things that, as evidenced by this forum, are frequent “gotchas” for the newbie, with the Active Layer problem being the one addressed here. Given the frequency with which they occur, I strongly believe that Trimble should address the problem.

True. However, in this case, I think there are enough ways that Trimble could program to avoid the problem that the onus is on Trimble to fix it.

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They did that with the Arc and Circle tools and users complained.

The onus should be on the user to learn to use the tools correctly.


I think a simple warning popup would be simple and effective.
“You are changing the active layer. All geometry should stay on Layer 0”


Table saws come with blade guards, riving knives, push sticks, and manuals with lots of warnings. A table saw user starting to use a new table saw likely already knows most or all of how to keep their fingers away from the blade.

But this is a bad analogy! Many SketchUp users are coming with significant experience in the 2D world where assigning raw geometry to layers is nearly essential. It’s these people who most predictably will assign geometry to layers other than Layer0.

To squeeze the table saw analogy, hiding the ability to change the active layer might be considered to be analogous to including blade guards, riving knives and push sticks.

SketchUp comes with manuals, too.

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…but never removing the blade.

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Indeed it does. And perhaps the complete newbie will take some time to “read” them. But some (perhaps most) won’t. And I expect the percentage who won’t is far higher for experienced users of other packages who are new to SketchUp.

I’m not advocating the complete removal of the ability to draw on layers other than Layer0, just making it harder for the newbie.

Although I assiduously subscribe to the dictum of keeping RAW geometry on Layer 0 (as do the majority of SketchUp users), many of my architectural models tend to become rather complex. I have found it useful to create a layer (or several layers) for entities that would always display as “Not Visible”.

Typically layers are established in the template used to initiate models, but some layers may be added while editing models that are close to final completion, particularly if I discover a situation where an edge should not be visible in a specific scene. In order to address such conditions, I provide a layer specifically named “Arch_Offlayer” or “3FL_Offlayer” and move the raw edge to that layer using the Entity Info box, then the scene is updated and the file saved.

This methodology works adequately for my needs and has been incorporated into my standard workflow with no significant consequences.


@jvleearchitects makes an important distinction: the dangers of edges and faces using other than layer 0 happen while you are editing a model. Once the model is complete and you are annotating it and intentionally tweaking visual effects the risk is lower (mainly that you never know if you may need to revise the model).


If you come from an AD background and have a strict discipline of ‘drawing on Layers’ I do not see major problems as long as you group the primitives immediately. Most people do not have that rigorous discipline and so a warning would be in place as long as you can turn it off.
You are getting numerous messages when you are drawing on (ungrouped) geometry but it does not say why that’s a bad thing :slight_smile:
The point is, I do not know when this whole ‘keep raw geometry on Layer0’ thing started?
SketchUp has been known to be the ‘UN-Cad’ program, but was it intentionally or a byproduct of the (more) confusing way it handles ‘sticky’ geometry across all layers?
Look what happens when you explode a group or component: The raw geometry ‘falls’ on the layer the group was assigned to. Now why is that? To be ‘UN-Cad’? If it was intentionally to draw everything on Layer0, I can not understand this behaviour.
I can, however, understand the messages you are getting when drawing on ungrouped geometry (when a layers visibility is turned off.