SketchPad for SketchUp

Hello,

I’m the person who created the SketchPad shortcut controller for SketchUp. It’s basically a colorful Bluetooth keypad that holds all of the most useful shortcut keys for quick, easy access. It also includes a full keypad for entering dimensions.

It has been a fun project and I’ve been looking forward to seeing everyone’s reactions. I have received some great feedback on the first prototype and am planning on incorporating these improvements in the final production model; which will be delivered to everyone in March.

Please let me know if you have any feedback or improvements that you would like to see in this controller. I’m building it for the SketchUp community and you should definitely have some input. Here is a link to the Kickstarter campaign that I’m using to get the first production run funded:

I’ve only got 9 days left to get another 70 backers. Please pass the word on to anyone interested!

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I had not come across this before. It’s an interesting idea and I may well subscribe just to see if it improves productivity.

I use an extended Mac keyboard with number pad on the right. I have always rather wanted a keyboard with number pad on the left. I wonder if this Sketchpad, which seems to have a built in numeric pad, could be extended to the right with all the alphanumeric keys you would normally have on a standard (non-extended) keyboard? For me, it would then replace my current keyboard and probably take up little more real estate. Maybe a later development?

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Without seeing it or watching 3 hours of @TheOnlyAaron video (not that that isn’t 3 hours well spent) to get his impression after using it it is very hard to be convinced. Aaron noted that because the buttons are mapped to keys he is familiar with he sees it as being programmable. But to reprogram the e key, for example, means you are setting the e on the normal keyboard to something else.

I could see this as a useful tool only if you could open the shortcut menu in preferences and choose a tool and type the keys on the Device and the shortcut was recognised as something different from the normal key strokes.
So, select an action shortcut, type the eraser key on the device and it sets that key only on the device to that action and has no effect on the normal e key.

I would like it to be a useful tool, but as is I only see it as a compressed set of basic commands and a numpad.

If fully programmable without effecting the normal keyboard it would probably sit well with a spacemouse. Many of us that use a 3d mouse also use both hands on the keyboard. So the ability to do very specific things on the left hand and right would be very efficient.

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Hmm… I haven’t had this request before. If we can get the current SketchPad funded and produced, and enough people want a full-sized custom SketchUp keyboard (as you have described), I’m willing to pursue it as a version 2.

We could do some Interesting things with a full-sized keyboard. I’d consider toggling the entire “deluxe” keyboard (with indicator lights under the keys) to include every shortcut under the sun, and maybe even add some 3D navigation to it. This could be a fun project. Though, first, I need to get the original SketchPad funded and produced.

Box, good feedback. I could make this keypad send unique commands for every key, that don’t correlate with any default commands. This would allow you to customize the shortcut function of every key, but it would also require you to create every shortcut (in preferences) before use. I wanted it to be plug and play, with minimal setup. But, I could put out a future version that is programmed for detailed custom setup.

Fair answer.
I see the current setup you have as emulating the Getting Started toolbar.
It doesn’t take long to realise the getting started toolbar is pretty useless.

Now you have my interest.

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The very nature of sketchup and the fact that it is used by a huge number of disciplines gives you the key to the issue.

You have determined a suitable layout for you and your specific use.

Everyone else will want a slightly or wildly different layout depending on how they use SU.

Give them that and you will sell thousands, without that it’s just another small keyboard of some interest to basic users.

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Box, I’m really glad that I started this thread. I’m gaining some insight that I didn’t have before. I had less-experienced users in mind originally, but am learning that this controller needs to be catered to the power users (who would invest in such a device).

Maybe the next version will start of with blank keys and let users place their own decals and set their own shortcuts. You’ve given me some good things to think about.

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Make one to replace the keys on the Enterprise for less and you’ll have a real product.
https://www.3dconnexion.eu/index.php?id=432&redirect2=www.3dconnexion.eu

One thing you may be realizing is that those less experienced users either soon become experienced or they stop using SketchUp altogether. Fortunately most fall into the first category. Either way, the keypad as it currently is designed becomes either a drawer filler or eBay fodder. I don’t think you want either of those things for it.

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1. Having to hold the 2nd key for numeric use would be a deal breaker for me. I’d insist upon a toggle with a LED indicator beside it so we’d know when the numeric functions were active.

2. The SHIFT button seems a bit out of place for this keypad. I’d think having a - button for the numeric keypad a better choice. (Then the same space could accommodate 2 buttons.)

3. The Enter key could be normal size, allowing an extra button as well. Enter could be 2nd function for use with the numerics, and then have a normal command as well.

4. I find the Eraser tool not much used. Select along with the Delete key is what’s used more often.
(Also having Erase on the geometry tools row seems out of place. It’s a better place for either Polygon or Arc tool.)

5. IMO, it would be more natural if there was the FollowMe tool to the right of Offset (9).

6. Some keys diverge from the norm of having the 2nd function at the bottom right of the key. Ie, ' (foot), " (inch). This should be fixed.

7. It’s not clear what the labeling on the decimal key means. In 2nd numeric mode, it should send the decimal character set by the system (which might be comma for Euro users.)

8. This also implies that the list separator (2nd hand button, top right) should also send the system’s list separator character. ( Either , or ; )

9. If the decimal key’s main function is to send Space, then it (seems to me) frivolous to have a dedicated Select key, (which frees up a key for another command.)

10. The SHIFT key is always above the CTRL on keyboards. The placement of these is strange.
I’d prefer these were at the left side of the keypad in normal layout. (perhaps between the undo and green arrow keys.)

11. The most frivolous waste of keys are the hide keys. Teaching new users to hide individual entities is not good. Better workflow is to leverage layers to control visibility. Once users learn proper use of layers, these 3 keys will be near worthless.
These keys would be better used for toggling Xray, Monochrome or Wireframe rendering mode.

12. A Hidden Geometry toggle is another most used command that needs a place on the keypad.

13. Would SHIFT+“Make Component” fire “Make Group” ?


As said above, I’d put “Polygon (cm)” where the “Erase” key is.
Then below it, to the right of “Scale (9)”, I’d put “FollowMe (-)”.
I’d move “Move” to the “(4)” key, …
… and move “Paint” and “Measure” up one row, to the right of “Rotate (5)”.
This frees up (1) (2) and (3) for use with the Arc Tools.

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While I agree with some options I disagree with others, and that’s the point.
12 is my most used key.

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Wow, Dan! Thank you for this thorough review. It will take me a little bit to digest this, but these changes could be implemented.

I’d like to know if other users here agree with Dan’s suggestions for improvement. I’m planning to start the process of producing the next (and hopefully final) test samples by the end of this week. Last chance to get your voices heard before product change becomes more difficult.

They are sensible suggestions If you are sticking with a pre-defined set of commands mapped to given keys. As has been pointed out elsewhere here, different users have so many different ways of using SU that a “one size fits all” might not fly. For example, @DanRathbun says he rarely uses the Eraser tool. But I use it much much more often than Select and Delete (but I like having both options).

The problem with full ascribable keys is that there is a significant learning curve to getting used to what they have been mapped to. I wouldn’t like to rely on decals for a number of reasons. They look tacky. They would probably quickly come off. And you would need a large number to allow you to re-assign keys when you want. A better option for me would be to have some kind of onscreen display of mapping when you need to refer. 3DX do this with their SpaceMice for button mapping.

AND as you saw in Aaron’s video, he is one that loves the Eraser tool to do smooth/softening, but as he also, said the keypad also needs the ALT/OPTION key as a modifier for many tools.

Thinking a bit more … the view control tools (Zoom, Orbit, Pan) are best controlled via the Middle Mouse Button as an interrupter task. (The previous tool is resumed upon letting up the MMB.)
So, my preference would be to use these keys for actual modeling tools or toggles.

However, users wishing to use this SketchPad with a tablet might need view control buttons. (I don’t know as I’ve never used a tablet.) I do see many tablet users asking for numeric input. (You might check the feature requests categories especially for web editions for these old topic threads.)


It all boils down to the most used tool commands and toggles need to be on the keypad.
For example, for me the Paint key is a waste because I never activate the Paint tool directly, instead I choose a material from the Materials inspector and it activates the Paint tool with that material selected.

Another thing. I’ve hardly ever needed to use Redo. But Undo, yes many many times.

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I’ve got some good studying and thinking to do tonight to work towards the final design.

Could there be a way to integrate it with the “forward and back” buttons on a five button mouse? So that holding the back button would activate the numeric keys, and the forward button would be more like the control/option key? It would triple the key capacity.
Just a thought.

Team,

I’ve taken another stab at the layout, based on your feedback, and that of others. There are currently two buttons that don’t have a function yet. which two functions would you add to make this useful to as many people as possible? (see screenshots below)


FWIW, the modifier keys maybe need a bit of attention. The Mac counterpart for the Windows Ctrl is Option, Mac uses Command where on Windows it’s Alt. I would label the buttons Ctrl/Option and Alt/Command.