Simple dimension display



How do I quickly and easily display the dimensions of an object? Let’s say I"ve drawn five rectangular solids. Oops–how big did I make the first one? Yes, I can take the tape measure tool and do three measurements on it, but that’s slow and clumsy. Most drafting programs have a way of doing something quick, like right-clicking on an object and selecting “Properties” from a pop-up menu, and there you have your dimensions. When I do that in Sketchup, all I get is the area or the volume–handy if I want that information, but why not show the height, width and depth too? Is there a way to do that? Am I missing something?


Part of the problem is with the term “object.” What you recognize as an “object” may not actually be an individual object in SU’s taxonomy of entities, so there is no “it” about which to inquire; there may instead be a collection of individual geometric entities, about which you may inquire one at a time.

As far as geometric entities go, there are only two kinds: edges and faces. You can find out the length of an individual edge at any time by selecting it and reading the length from Entity Info (right-click > Entity Info, or better yet, just keep the Entity Info dialog open all the time so you can immediately see the length of an edge or the area of a face). The main numerical attribute shown for a solid (and I mean “solid” in the specialized surface-modeling sense of a water tight manifold that is a group or component) is volume.

You can, of course, apply explicit dimensions of your choice with the Dimension tool, which you can place on a separate layer that you can display or hide. SU dimensions are associative, so they will track changes to the underlying geometry.



I can’t help comparing this to Vectorworks, in which finding the dimensions of anything that the user–emphasis on the user–defines as an object is merely a matter of right-clicking on the object and popping up the properties box. I don’t understand why the developers of Sketchup cannot or will not write code such that the program can figure out the overall dimensions of any line, face, object, group or component. The idea that the user has to manually determine those values each time they’re wanted, either by using the measurement tools or by manually installing dimension displays, is contrary to the fundamental idea of using a computer in the first place–that the machine does the scut work, leaving the user free to concentrate on what’s iimportant! I think the Sketchup design crew needs to put in some work on this.


I can’t help comparing this to Vectorworks, in which finding the dimensions of anything that the user–emphasis on the user–defines as an object is merely a matter of right-clicking on the object and popping up the properties box.

I could not agree more!!

If I create a simple 2D rectangle and check the Entity Info, it shows the Area, not the dimensions! If I extrude the 2D rectangle into a third dimension and group it, checking the Entity Info shows the Volume, not the dimensions!

SketchUp clearly knows the dimensions of these objects because it somehow magically calculates these values, but I have to manually use the Measuring Tool each time I want to check the length of an edge, which requires Hiding multiple objects, measure, then remember to Unhide the objects again just to get the length of an edge. Very unintuitive.

Is there some plugin to enable the quick display of dimensions of an object? Maybe they’re shown in the Pro version?

Any advice on the matter?



As Gully pointed out in November, use the entity info window.


I also agree that SU should somehow display the dimensions. Either display them in the Entity Info or pop up an edit control to allow the user to adjust the dimension precisely.


“The dimensions” of what? As I mentioned earlier, a 3D shape that you fashion from edges and faces is not a “thing” that would have properties like height, width, and length. There is no “thing” whose dimensions to display.



Do you mean like this?


That would be find for displaying the values but why stop there when it could be made editable so a user could change the dimensions. For instance, they want it 24 1/8" wide. If it was an edit box and showed 24", 12", 6", the user could go in and change 24" to 24 1/8". Quick and easy.


OK. Never mind.

Make the component dynamic, then.


I would guess this is simply a text box, whose content Dave simply typed in. I daresay those are not parametric controls.



No. They aren’t parametric and I never said they were. I didn’t type the values, either. They were arrived at automatically. This is Jim’s Get Dimensions plugin.


[quote=“DaveR, post:12, topic:4292”]
This is Jim’s Get Dimensions plugin.
[/quote]Cool. So it reports the size of a group’s bounding box?



Yes. It’s an old thing but I find it useful for quickly checking overall dimensions.


Gully_Foyle, you say that the 3D shape I make is “not a thing”. On the contrary, it is a thing in my head before I draw it, and in the real world after I make it. It is even frequently a thing within Sketchup, which can calculate and report non-useful information, like volume and area, using hidden and more useful dimensions. Sketchup insists that there are only faces and edges, which denies both the knowledge of the person creating the drawing and their reason for doing it. We all agree that Sketchup is limited in this regard, and most of us see it as absurd. Most people on this thread want Sketchup to do useful things done well by many other programs, while you seem to be arguing that it’s impossible to conceive of concepts outside of Sketchup’s primitive approach.

I’m writing this comment more than two years after yours. I found your comment, because I was searching for help, and I am struggling with the same problem/limitation today, that people have been protesting for many years.


And has it Dimensions attached to it?

An area has more meaning for a painter, wanting to know how much paint he would need, then the length.
You cannot decide for each of us what is relevant information, and so can’t the software. You can choose the template and that is about it. You can, however, customize your usage of the software, for instance with an extension, Dynamic Components or the native workaround with labels or dimensions. The last method, combined with the scale tool has all there is to it.

Well, these are the most elementary building blocks, but you can create an infinite number of ‘things’ with it, even circles and bezier splines. Take the shapes extension of the SketchUp team fi, you enter a few parameters and you have created a cone, box,helix etc.

I do not think it denies the knowledge of the user, I think it respects it by letting you the choise.

I do not agree, and I know there are others.

The thing is,:joy:,you have to tell the software what things you want to know of the thing that you are drawing, and it won’t untill you tell that these and these edges and faces represent a table leg.
Still, the software doesn’t really know what that is, though…


I see see this recurring request as a valid feature request. (I’ve asked admin to move this thread to the FR category.)

Ie, displaying the bounds on the Entity Info panel is doable. (Changing them as an edit control could scale in a particular axis, as a manual use of the ScaleTool. This might also require an aspect lock/unlock checkbox.)

You cannot just group all programs into one pile. Their are different data models underlying programs.

Firstly, (if you are comparing SketchUp to CAD) don’t because SketchUp is designed specifically to NOT have a CAD-like workflow. (Ie, do not waste your time waiting for SketchUp to evolve into a more CAD-like application. It won’t happen.)

With SketchUp, it is a simple thing (as Dave showed above,) to display the bounds (h x w x d) of 3D objects, collections of objects, groups or component instances (as long as they are aligned to the current axes.)

It is a far more difficult task for a surface modeler to recognize WHAT a collection of edges and faces represent (ie, cuboid, spheroid, cone, etc.)
The simplest way to illustrate this, is how the Shapes example extension mimics (stress “mimics”) parametric design, by controlling and limiting the creation of the 3D shape (as a component or group,) and then attaching parametric data to it. In order to parametrically edit the shape, you must display the parameter inputbox via a right-click context menu item. When you do change the parameters, the shape is deleted and redrawn with the new parameters.
This means that any edits or additions made manually between creation and edit, will be discarded. For example, if you had chamfered all the edges and drilled holes in a shape, all that work would be lost, and you’d need to redo it. This is why SketchUp users use the interactive tools to or stretch their volumes instead of the more clunky and limited parameter workflow.

In Gully’s defence, he was stating the how things are at present “under the hood” with SketchUp, with it’s implementation using OpenGL. (And he has not logged in here in over a year.)

If you read SketchUp’s US patent, you will understand it is designed from day one not to be parametric, but an interactive modeler based upon the use of virtual hand tools.

Again, do not waste your time waiting for SketchUp to become something other than what it is designed to be. (You’ll just set yourself up for repeated disappointment version after version, release upon release.)

Be smart. Choose the software product that is right for your workflow today.
If you cannot leave the CAD-like parametric workflow behind, then SketchUp is just not right for you.
There are other products to choose from.


Thanks for your response, DanRathbun. The frustration that I see on this page, and in hundreds of other comments on many other pages, is that Sketchup doesn’t allow users to do simple things that they want and need to do. It often sounds like Sketchup is more dedicated to a group of concepts like “we won’t be CAD” than to a principle like “we will help our users succeed.” As others have mentioned in this thread, the supposed model of how Sketchup currently works “under the hood” is belied by the fact that it readily calculates and reports areas and volumes, and names objects as rectangles and circles. Sketchup knows a lot more than merely edges and faces. It continues to use important data under the hood, but it keeps the simple dimensions that it is using hidden from the user. It’s great to know about the extension that will display at least some dimensions in some cases. The original patent is a foundational document, and Sketchup has shown some willingness to change and grow. Yet I often get the feeling that Sketchup avoids addressing multiple user needs and requests, because, it has a rigid notion that it doesn’t do things that way. To offer a limited analogy, it’s like a word processor that refuses to add spell check, because it insists that “we are not a dictionary program.” Users want to get work done, rather than debate categories. I readily admit that a program will receive many more feature requests than can be met, and mission creep is also a problem. Regarding this discussion thread, I am frustrated that it takes more than twice as many clicks and steps to discover the dimensions of an existing rectangle, as it does to draw a new one of the desired size.

You offer good advice in saying I should choose a program that is right for my workflow, and I would welcome suggestions. What do your recommend for a woodworker and woodturner building simple furniture? But I am not wedded to a workflow, I wish for a program that will do simple things simply, and help me get my desired results without having to search work-arounds as frequently as I do. I’ve been a paying user for several years, so I am not among those who want everything for free. Sketchup has many things that I like, and think are amazing. I would like to see it get better and easier to use, in ways that so many of us have requested. But my impression is that the developers are very unresponsive to many of the thousands of simple requests that I have read in these forums over the last ten years.


This is not true however. SketchUp just is designed to do things in a different way. The problem lies with users who come from CAD (parametric) workflow and do not wish to accept SketchUp’s interactive design.

You can easily change the height, width and depth of a cuboid in SketchUp by using the ScaleTool, and entering the values in the VCB (Measurements control.) It just does not appear in a “Properties” panel like it does in CAD.


There is another thread for this …

Not a woodworker myself but Dave Richards uses SketchUp successfully. @DaveR ?

As I noted above, displaying measurements in the UI is a valid request and I’m surprised that it has taken this long to get it implemented. But once more display bounds is a different thing than parametric editing.

Correction, SketchUp has a RectangleTool, but once drawn, it is just 4 edges and a face. There is no rectangle object.

With regard to circles, as soon as circles are edited they often lose their “object identity” and become loose primitive edges. But sure there could be improvement in this area, no doubt.

What you do not realize is how much code change parametric objects would be. You see it as a simple thing but for the programmers it is not. It is a massive undertaking codewise.
Because simple shapes do not stay this way very long, and are quickly edited into complex shapes, the cost of sinking so much time and money into something used so fleetingly is prohibitive. (Most “bang for the buck” as we say.)

It is more likely resources will be used for other features.

I will agree with you here. I’ve seen this myself. It is a policy and not likely to change.