On the fly TOGGLING UNITS for distance DISPLAY with TAPE and LINE tools

Hello. Is it possible for you to improve the TAPE and LINE MEASUREMENT tools with a modifier key to toggle the distance DISPLAYED between inch-feet-metric on the fly without changing the units for the model? This is how it would work:

User picks the line or tape measurement tool. Selects the initial point. At this time the Sketchup will let the user to toggle the measurement units displayed every time the user clicks this modifier key . But when the user is ready to click the mouse a second time to commit to add a “guide” or a “line” the user would have to toggle back to the model units otherwise Sketchup will not let him complete the operation.

I have to convert units a lot when I am working in a model fitting parts from different country origins.

Thank you.


My first thought was “Why limit it to TAPE and LINE MEASUREMENT tools?” Why not make it apply to ANY tool that uses the Measurement window? Even the Rotate tool could toggle between Degrees and Radians! So, at least in my mind, I’d already expanded the concept.

While I personally haven’t come across a case where this would be a significant timesaver, I can see how it might be useful. Then my thoughts turned to what key might be used for the toggle.

As I’ve never used SketchUp on a Mac, my analysis of keys is Windows centric.

My first thought was “This is, functionally, a temporary change to how dimensions are displayed in the Measurements box - each time you hit the toggle, you get an Alternate measuring system. That let to my thinking the “Alt” key would be perfect for this!” I wonder if it’s taken?

Alas, it is already taken. By (at least) the Move tool, where the Alt key toggles auto-folding on and off. Ctrl is also taken (toggles between Move and Copy). As is Shift (constrains movement to current direction). All 4 arrow keys are already taken (toggling movement direction constraints in various ways).

Then I thought of the TAB key. Hmmmm. I can’t recall it being a modifier to any existing drawing tool. But it might interfere with custom keystrokes associated by an individuals Preferences/Shortcuts. Then I realized that I didn’t know if TAB was even ALLOWED to be a shortcut key, so I tested and …

SketchUp doesn’t ALLOW the TAB key to be a shortcut! In this context, that’s a good thing! It makes it a possible modifier toggle key for this purpose.

Then I tested using TAB while the Move tool is actively moving an object. And it DOES have an effect - It goes into the Measurements window as entered text!

Now I can’t think of a circumstance where anyone would ever actually want to enter a TAB character in a measurement.

So my conclusion is:

The TAB key is available for this function - as long as the Measurement window is somehow changed to ignore TAB characters.

I’m neither agree or disagree with this proposal. While the fact that I don’t see it useful to me, I wouldn’t care if it’s implemented. What I DO think is that, IF implement, the TAB key is a good candidate for the toggle key - even it it means adding a bit of complexity (to ignore TAB characters in the Measurements box) under the hood.

And I don’t see the necessity of toggling BACK to the model units before entering a measurement! SketchUp could (easily programmed, I hope) accept a measurement entered in whatever system the Measurements box is currently using - even if different from the model units! In fact (as I just tested), SketchUp can already accept dimensions in mixed units! I entered “10”,25.4cm" while drawing a rectangle, hit ENTER and created a 10" x 10" rectangle (or 25.4cm x 25.4cm if my model units are centimeters).


I wonder if you could create an extension that watches the dimensions text, and parses it into a converted string. Anything that was apparently imperial would be converted to decimal. So, inches would be centimeters, and degrees would be radians, and vice versa (though I don’t think you can enter radians in SketchUp).

If you chose to type the size of a rectangle as being 50.8mm,2", the converter extension would show that as 2",5.08cm (if you had set cm as your preference).

Something like that would give a constant conversion for anyone who needs it, and wouldn’t tie up any modifier keys.

If the model units are metric, and you enter imperial dimensions as ft, in and fraction values, for example 1’8 5/16, these can be mangled on entry, and produce unexpected and wrong results if you use just feet followed by a foot mark (’) then inches and fractions without the inch symbol (").

It’s been partially corrected in SU2019 onwards, I think, so if you use both ft and inch quotes, you get the right answer. So 1’8 5/16" produces the right length in mm, but 1’8 5/16 doesn’t.

See SU doesn't recognise fractional inches (e.g., 1/2") as an imperial measurement when units are mm

Hello Colin. I am having to use a CALCULATOR ON THE SIDE. This is what I am trying to prevent.
Imagine that I built a floor plan. Put down furniture. Now I am taking measurements to see if something new will fit. I activate the tape tool. It is showing me in inches,… naturally because my model is in inches. But the thing I want to buy and insert which I found has provided dimensions in metric. I don’t know if you see it. I am using a calculator on the side to check. I could all be contained in Sketchup. ALSO,… for your international customers you can imagine that a lot of them think in both units. Someone 6 feet doesn’t mean anything to them. They immediately ask in their mind and open up a calculator to see it is 1.83 meters. Hope this clarifies for you.

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If you were using the desktop version of SketchUp you could use the Toggle Units extension and quickly change between units via its toolbar or you could set up keyboard shortcuts. Since you are doing this as a hobby you could use SketchUp 2017 Make.

You can always input dimensions of any kind by typing. So even if your model is in inches you can draw a line and type 2m or 30cm or 240mm. This is true for all tools that accept dimension inputs.

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I can’t, so maybe you can check following (if you have a chromebook):

  • Switch to display m or mm
  • try to create an edge with the length of 10’ or 20" or a combination of feet and inches.

For me on chromebook in this case feet and inches unit symbols are ignored. The input will just be m or mm with the input value.

@Mark, maybe you could look into this issue.

If you try to do this in a metric template, with mixed ft, in and fractions input in the Measurement box YOU GET WRONG LENGTHS.

It is partially but not full fixed in more recent versions of SU.


Hello to all of you. My recommendation is not about
a) flexibility in entering an object in several dimensions no matter what the project units are… or
b) after entering an object toggling its units

My recommendation is about WHILE TAKING MEASUREMENTS or IMMEDIATELY BEFORE COMMITTING to a line or a guide

Imagine… I entered the kitchen layout and would like to know the distance between the refrigerator and the counter. I hit the tape measure tool. Or I hit the line tool. Select the beginning point. I stretch out for the second point while watching the distance measured on the bottom right of the screen. I can only see it in one unit before hitting the mouse button or hitting the escape button to quit. If I commit to the guide or the line I can see the distance which you say I can toggle later with other functions. But that is not practical. When taking measurements which I do a lot … I begin with the line tool or the guide tool and as I see the distance … when it is the right time… I commit by clicking again or by hitting escape after having found out about the distance… . Guys,… maybe I am missing something. Can you take measurements from point to point in something you build and while taking measurements what if you wanted to see what flip between units? For example think about the rectangle tool. You begin the rectangle and by hitting control you can toggle between the corner or the center based rectangle. I am recommending something similar. Start with the line tool or the tape tool and look at the distance measured on the bottom right… can you toggle the units before concluding with the line or the guide??

Thank you

You can’t do that instantly with a modified key at the moment, so I’ve changed the category to a Feature Request.

You can get close. If you start the Tape Measure tool, you can go to Window/Model info/Units and change the units there. Takes several clicks, but the Tape Measure tool is still working, but now in the other units you’ve just chosen.

But not with a single tap on a modifier key.

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You’re using SketchUp Free. Is that correct?

Huh @Wo3Dan . I am not using a chromebook so perhaps that accounts for the difference in behavior, or perhaps I am not understanding the hang up? In a mm template I am able to successfully input feet and inches. The dimensions are converted to mm of course when I measure them but they are correctly converted.

@john_mcclenahan Perhaps there has been a fix updated recently as it seems I can use fractions and mixed feet and inches fractions in a mm template. Or again perhaps I am missing something.

To be clear I assumed we are talking about SketchUp Free here as that’s what the OP is using.

It’s good to know if it has been fixed. I haven’t tried recently. My experience was from several years ago, and persisted past SU 2017 but I can’t remember the last time I tried it.

Haven’t tried it at all in any Web version - but out of curiosity, will try very soon.

Well, partially fixed at best.

In SU 2021 desktop, starting in a blank Woodworking, mm template, I draw a line 1’1.

Result, 305.8 mm - one foot plus 1mm. Not the result I quite expect, but sort of understandable.

Line drawn at 1’1", result 330.2mm - which is the correct conversion.

Line drawn at 1’ 1 1/2", result 342.9mm - which is also the correct answer.

Line drawn at 1’1 1/2 (no inch symbol), result 306.2mm - one foot, plus 1.5mm. Again, understandable, but NOT what you get in an imperial template which would be one foot plus one and one half inches.

And in SU for Web (Shop, in my case) I get the same results.

So, it’s better IF and ONLY IF you remember to put in BOTH the foot and inch symbols. Without the inch symbol, you get whole and fractional mm, not inches, after the 304.8mm for one foot.

Still a half baked solution, in my view.

It is unbelievable that such a simple idea is so difficult to communicate. It is so simple and it appears overlooked. I used Sketchup Web and prepared a video as well for all of you. Let me try to upload.

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As I described in the original proposal you could apply the same feature for the LINE TOOL as well. I do not use the TAPE tool as much because I can use UNDO any time after using the line with is more visible.

It’s strange that this is such a problem for your hobby modeling.

Believe it Dave. We international guys have to go back and forth. Degrees C and F. Kilograms to Pounds. Miles to Kilometers. Gallons to Liters. And of course inches to millimeters. In addition, some of the parts I plan to buy and fit do not provide dimensions in both units in their cutsheets. There is an international user base.

As I said before I use a calculator on side. This is inefficient.

I know very well there’s an international user base. I have students all over the world. It just seems that as a hobby user you are letting this get in your way of enjoying the hobby.

I gave you an easy solution if you were to use a desktop version of SketchUp.