Using SketchUp with Surface Pro Stylus



Using a stylus with SketchUp (such as the stylus that works with Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablets or the new Surface Book) causes some ergonomic problems. The best example is when one uses the Tape Measure Tool. Selecting the tool is no problem, nor is setting the start point. But when one sets the end point (assuming the user is right handed) the referenced dimension appears to the lower right of the tool’s icon and is covered by the stylus and is thus un-readable.

I would like to see one of the Preferences configured to allow the user to specify if they are left handed or right handed, and then have the program adapt (ergonomically) to the selected condition.

The behavior of the Tape Measure Tool is but one example of this type of condition. The entire program should be examined by the usability team to confirm the program works well with a stylus as used by both left handed and right handed users.

This may not a high-priority issue at the moment, but will soon become one as more SketchUp users choose to work with a stylus. I’m thinking here of Surface Pro users, Surface Book users, and even iPadPro users (assuming there will one day be a version of SketchUp for the iPad).

Consideration of this issue is appreciated.

Hardware Purchasing Advice For SketchUp & LayOut [wiki]

I use a stylus a lot of the time and agree it would be great if the tool tips could be moved to the left. But as a workaround I moved the VCB to the left bottom of my workspace so I can read everything there. Throw in some customised toolbars and a floating keyboard and you’re good to go.


Box - your suggestions sound good. Thanks for your reply.

Problem: Seems I am unable to move my VCB. I should be able grab its handle on its left edge but when I try this there is no response. I’m using 2015 Pro on a Windows 7 machine.

Also: I can’t find a reference to any floating keyboard. I assume you are referring to a third party keyboard. If so, what do you recommend and where do I find it?

Appreciate your assistance …


The VCB is actually a toolbar that is locked.
Go to View/Toolbars and tick Measurements.
This gives you a floating version that can be dragged around freely. It will dock at the top or bottom and can slide left to right. You can even customise it with other tools.

There are quite a few free downloadable keyboards. I happen to like this one as it is easily resized and can be made transparent.


Box - Thanks for the “how to” regarding moving the VCB (it worked just fine) and your recommendation for a virtual keyboard (I’ll give it a try).

Greatly appreciate your assistance.


Just interesting to hear how you guys are bringing the stylus into the workflow.

Do you see a lot of advantages in using stylus other than the fact that you don’t need large work surface for mouse?


Architects often do their design work in out-of office places where the only logical device to use is either a tablet or a laptop san mouse, like in an airplane, at a coffee shop, or a construction site. In most of these settings a tablet is much more convenient. Most of these out-of-office spaces do not come with mouse friendly environments.

SketchUp support recently responded to an email I sent them regarding this issue and replied with:

“SketchUp works best with a 3 wheel mouse ( As we have not experience with stylus please post your question on the forum ( and ask the community for suggestions.”

The interesting part of this comment is the admission that they “have not experience with stylus” and recommend a three-button mouse with a wheel. The three-button mouse works well for the dedicated model builder but not so well for the designer who is usually doing a lot of other things and is on the go … often designing on the go.

The best example of this type of designer (in this case an architect) is Jim Cutler (Jim designed Bill and Malinda Gate’s house). Many years ago he told me he wanted a digital tablet he could take on the airplane (where he does most of his design work) and that he wanted it to work like, and as well as, pencil and paper.

Given the recent announcements from Apple (iPadPro) and Microsoft (Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book) I suspect he is in designer heaven, given one of these new tablets, the associated stylus, and SketchUp … opps, but SketchUp is not designed to support (well) the use of a stylus … sounds like it is time for the team to play catchup with SketchUp.

Ok, just so you know the full story. I love SketchUp and have great respect for the SketchUp team …I knew a few of the guys during their early days with @Last Software … and think they have done a great job with the product. I also respect Trimble for giving the team a good home.

I just think it is time for the SketchUp team to think in terms of the stylus and how to support the stylus-user in the same insanely great way they have all the mousers.

Mike Riddle, the original author/programmer of AutoCAD said, “The competition for AutoCAD is not coming from some other program, it’s pencil and paper.”

And, isn’t it interesting to note that one of the original logos for SketchUp was a simple sketch on a napkin … drawn with a pencil.


I use a Wacom Cintiq companion which is a combined graphic tablet and i7 tablet. Meaning it can be used as a wired graphics tablet with your desktop or as a stand alone tablet computer.
I work as a freelance artist in various media, so I can use it anywhere, studio, workshop, cafe, pub, office etc etc and then simply connect it back home to my main system and continue on.
I regularly work with clients who need designs done for 3d printing or laser cutting on their own machines. I visit and model on site and often connect directly to their machines to produce the work straight away.
Using a stylus on screen means you can even hold the tablet in the crook of your left arm and model happily one handed.
For more complex work I can sit with it on my lap pull the 3dconnexion mouse out of my pocket and fly through the work.
I can also switch seamlessly from 3d work to 2d work and back again. Many times on a site visit I will quickly model a section of a room with accurate dimensions, then rough out a design of the stained glass windows the client wants so we both have a good understanding of how the project should progress. For me it’s the next best thing to pencil and paper, a lump of clay or a mind reading cnc machine.
It’s a sketchpad that records everything. I can even get clients signatures on record.


Your insights for using SketchUp on a tablet are much appreciated. It’s definitely true that for those of us who don’t us a 3-button mouse, we have to adjust. (I use a wacom, haven’t tried a surface pro though.)

We do have a few people in the office that have tried SketchUp on a surface, and as you say, the new tablet announcements make for some very exciting opportunities. True, SketchUp isn’t optimized for tablet work, so please keep any suggestions and insights coming, and thanks Box for your ideas, great stuff!


Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve filed an official feature request in our bug tracking system.


Thats great!

because I’m also considering to jump into Surface pro world :smiley:

the new surface pro 4 looks too good to pass.


I’m pretty excited about the new Surface Book. It can come with 16GB memory (it can run Lumion!!), and it has an optional dedicated graphics processor built into the detachable keyboard. Also, the keyboard can fold around flat to make for a tablet-style use.
This summer I modeled a building on-site using my laptop, and that tablet/stylus process could have been really handy, as there really wasn’t a flat smooth surface for a mouse.
I might just buy a Surface Book and hope that the screen resolution pixel-density shrinkage issue gets worked out in the next SU release.


I just join the Surface Book family (8GB, i7 model) and looking forward to have more support on stylus and tutorial to using with SketchUp.



How is your experience with SU and the Surface Book family going?
Is Su 2016 better with 4K resolution screens?

Just curious because my own experience with a Dell XPS notebook with 4K was terrible, to the point it was unusable due to unreadable dialog menus, such as Layer. Any input if you have a workaround?



I would love to be able to customize my Surface stylus with SketchUp shortcuts!!!


I just got a surface book pro with performance base. I am looking for comments on using sketch up on it. E.g using the stylus and numerical inputs.

I use sketch up primarily for furniture design, but I have done some simple buildings. I hope to get a new perspective and enhance my process using this new capability.

Any suggestions for where to look for thoughts and ideas on this are appreciated.

Thanks Allen


Since this is among the top Google search results, I thought I should share this link on the Surface and SketchUp. Microsoft Surface Pro - Use caution when upgrading your Surface
It contains guidelines when shopping for a Surfacebook for use with SketchUp.