Wishlist Item: Please rename "Layers" and call it "Visibility"

The Layers Window could be renamed “Visibility” and the names of the various “layers” could be called “Visibility Tags”. As a concession, the Visibility Window could have the title Visibility (Imported Layer Designations) (or a shorter title with the same concept) so that people know where their CAD Layer names went.

Maybe someday Outliner and the current “Layers” could be combined in something called “Organizer” which would let you apply Visibility Tags (maybe even multiple ones) to groups/components. The too-tempting option to draw raw geometry on any other “Layer” than the default could be disabled completely.

At the very least, could alarms go off when people try to move that little black dot in the Layers Window and draw loose geometry on another Layer? They don’t know better, they’re being deceived into thinking that “Layers” actually means what it does in every other program in the world, so it would be great if they could be saved from themselves.

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While you’re wishing for things, why not just wish that everyone would read the Knowledge Base article on layers? Of course, one would also have to wish the KB were worthier of someone expending a wish on it.


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I’m going to spend it on wishing that more people would hire me to teach them. =D I teach online courses, on-site training anywhere in the world, and regular 2-day classes in Orlando, Florida.

Reading instructions is important, but it helps to have someone physically observing a student to remind them to zoom, or that pencil lines are click-release-click, or to hit escape instead of trying to put something back where it was with the move tool.

I like that SketchUp is simple and fairly intuitive. But there are a few important things, like Layers, which are not intuitive, and could be made more so. The first logical step to me would be a rename, and a warning message when someone tries to draw on another layer, or at least making it harder to do, much harder than moving a little black dot.

After all, the word “Layers” isn’t just confusing in SketchUp, it’s actually misleading, as well mathematically incorrect in a 3D context. I think either point is a good enough reason to rename.

Certainly “visibility tag” is more accurate and less misleading, but the problem with renaming things is the proliferation of conflicting terminology and the task of tracking down and replacing every instance of the old term in the documentation and forum discussions. People still refer to the VCB.

As with many of the unusual features of SU, the issue with “layers” and what you call them is a nuisance for the beginner, but is really little more than a bump in the learning curve. You basically have to be told about it–or read about it–once. It doesn’t really require a long-term effort to master the concept. It doesn’t constitute an ongoing functional issue for beginners and experienced users alike, as many of SU’s annoying behaviors do: for instance, I’ve been fighting with the dimensioning and leader text functions for over ten years.


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Good point, it’s not a functionality issue once you already know how it works, so I can accept that this won’t be as high a priority as bug fixes. But I still think it’s better to change it, long-term. Documentation constantly has to be revised anyway, and would hunting for and replacing a term in the programming itself be as hard as designing a new feature, as far as feature requests go?

As for searching forum discussions, if the word “Layers” is added in parentheses in the renamed Visibility Window title, then I predict that people will make that connection and will search for information about it by either name in older books and reference materials. Besides, it seems reasonable that the discussions about Layers already are using the word “visibility” plenty enough that searches for each word would still yield similar results.

For me, it’s a time-saving issue. If a few thousand people try to learn SketchUp each year, and eventually each of them gets confused and spends a few days really messing up their models, and a few hours doing some research and figuring out that Layers is not like it is in Photoshop or AutoCAD, then fixing this will save man-hours over the long run. I think changing it saves more human hours than it spends to adjust it. Greater good and all.

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I prefer the term “Filter” rather than layer or visibility - and increase it’s functionality… i’m in the middle of thinking things through for that bit.

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Since I wrote this post, I was teaching a class and was demonstrating how wrong things can go when drawing off Layer 0. I moved the “current layer” black dot to the left of another layer name, started drawing a rectangle, and suddenly a warning message popped up on my screen, much like the one I suggested here!
At first I was excited, thinking that maybe SketchUp did a sudden update and I hadn’t heard about it, but then the other students said that it didn’t do that for their SketchUp model.
Someone in the class suggested that someone was playing a brilliant prank on me, but the logistics of that seemed beyond belief, and I’m just not that paranoid -or that special.
So then I checked my extensions, and I had the Layers Panel extension installed, although I had forgotten about it because I hadn’t actually used it. Once I turned off that extension, the warning messages stopped, so I logically concluded it was a new feature of that extension.
So now I’m wondering if the makers of the Layers Panel extension had read this post. If so, then your addition works, and it’s brilliant. Also, it freaked me out a little, as a bonus, much to the amusement of my students.
I hope that the SketchUp designers adopt that warning message as well.

The Layers Panel developer quit working on the extension this past November and open sourced it.

Are you sure you don’t have TIG’s layer watcher installed? It does a lot to warn you about misuse of layers.

What? It’s not new in Layers Panel? Eight people saw it happen, so I know it wasn’t in my head. I wonder if it was a function of Layers Panel before, but I just hadn’t used that particular computer to teach a class for a while (I hadn’t), and so hadn’t actually triggered that function of that extension, which isn’t on my other computers.

I’ve never heard of TIG’s Layer Watcher.

If anyone has clues to this mystery, I’m very curious. Has anyone else ever seen a non-Layer0 warning message?

I don’t know of any CAD application where layers have something to do with objects interacting or not interacting. In AutoCad, things that are separate remain separate whether they are on different layers or on the same layer so there is no automatic “interacting”. AutoCad layers only control visibility and visual attributes so they are virtually identical to SketchUp layers. The unique thing about SketchUp is that “raw geometry” sticks together. This is similar only to some BIM applications where things like walls do the same.


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My ‘LayerWatcher’ http://sketchucation.com/pluginstore?pln=TIG_LayerWatcher
Runs in the background…
It warns you if you try to change the current-layer away from Layer0 - but you can still do it ‘if you must!’…
It the current-layer is NOT Layer0, then any edges/faces you add to the model are still assigned Layer0 anyway !
It also ensures that when you explode a group or component-instance, then the resultant geometry is still assigned to Layer0, rather than the “container’s” layer [which is the default].
Also it gives a context-menu tool which allows you to chose to re-assign Layer0 to all selected edges/faces [or even the geometry within any selected “containers”]…

All of this should be ‘built-in’, but it’s not… so until it is use my plugin…


Exactly because of this an user accessible control to let the user decide if entities on invisible layers do interact with entities on visible layers, e.g. as an additional attribute of the layers, still seems senseful to me.


I changed my mind. Instead of calling the “Layers” “Visibility Tags” It would be better to call them “Hiding Tags”.

It would also be cool to be allowed to assign multiple Hiding Tags to a single object. After all, why not? They aren’t Layers. The object isn’t “on” a Layer. It’s just called “Layers.” But it’s really more like a tag. So why limit the number of hiding tags that an object can possess?

This would be a large paradigm shift for the SketchUp design, and for user workflow, but it would be awesome, and would make more sense than continuing to confuse people with the word “Layers.” I don’t know the underlying programming, so I don’t even know if it would be possible to assign multiple Hiding tags to an object, but it would be so handy.

I wonder if someone could write an extension that could do this.

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I am in favor of vizard / visard:

n. a mask, a visor, a disguise

(The second form with the ‘s’ is used more as a verb form.)


If you could assign multiple “Hiding Tags” to a single object and one said the object should be hidden and the other said it should be shown, which one wins?

Thing is, you can’t. So this is a hypohetical question for a situation that doesn’t occur.

You can assign only one layer to an entitie: basic geometry (one shouldn’t, leave it with Layer0), group, component, guide, text and dimension.

I know that. My question was aimed at the suggestion of allow you to assign multiple tags to a single object. If they allowed it you would have one conflict after another. I think the current method is fine. I do agree that the term Layer is conflicting and misleading with the standard use of the term I all other software.

I think all the other softwares should rename their ‘Layers’ or conform to the functionality used by SU…