How to View Your Work in Google SketchUp 8

When building a 3D model, it’s important to have a good view of what you’re doing. Using SketchUp without learning how to orbit, zoom, and pan is like trying to build a ship in a bottle. In the dark. With your hands tied behind your back. Using chopsticks. Get the picture?

Fully half of modeling in SketchUp uses the aforementioned navigation tools, which let you change your view so that you can see what you’re doing. Most people who try to figure out SketchUp on their own take too long to understand this; they spend hours squinting, grunting, and having an all-around miserable time trying to “get at” what they’re working on. The following sections help you avoid the headache (literally).

SketchUp has three tools that are dedicated to letting you get a better view of your model.

Using orbit in Google SketchUp

Hold a glass of water in your hand. Now twist and turn your wrist around in every direction so that the water’s all over you and the rest of the room. Stop when the glass is completely empty. That’s a pretty memorable way to find out about the Orbit tool. Think of using Orbit as the way to fly around your work.

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Here’s some stuff you need to know about using Orbit:

  • It’s on the Camera menu. By far the least productive way to use Orbit is to choose it from the Camera menu.

  • It’s also on the toolbar. The second-least productive way to activate Orbit is to click its button on the toolbar; it looks like two blue arrows trying to form a ball.

  • You can orbit with your mouse. Here’s how you should always orbit: Click the scroll wheel of your mouse and hold it down. Now move your mouse around. See your model swiveling around? Release the scroll wheel when you’re done.

Zooming in and out in SketchUp

Hold your empty glass at arm’s length. Close your eyes and then bring the glass rushing toward you, stopping right when it smashes you in the nose. Now throw the glass across the room, noticing how it shrinks as it gets farther away. That, in a nutshell, describes the Zoom tool.

You use Zoom to get closer to (and farther from) your model. Here are a few things you should know about Zoom:

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  • Just like Orbit, you can activate the Zoom tool in several ways. The worst way is from the Camera menu; the next-worst way is to click the Zoom tool button in the toolbar. If you use Zoom either of these two ways, you actually zoom in and out by clicking and dragging up and down on your screen.

    The best way to zoom is to roll your finger on the scroll wheel of your mouse to zoom in and out. Instead of clicking the scroll wheel to orbit, just roll your scroll wheel back and forth to zoom.

  • Use Zoom Extents to see everything. Technically, Zoom Extents is a separate tool altogether, but it’s related enough to mention here. If you want your model to fill your modeling window (which is especially useful when you “get lost” with the navigation tools), just choose Camera, Zoom Extents.

When you use the Zoom tool, SketchUp zooms in on your cursor; just position it over whatever part of your model you want to zoom in on (or zoom out from). If your cursor isn’t over any of your model’s geometry (faces and edges), the Zoom tool doesn’t work very well, and you end up zooming either really slowly or really quickly.

Just panning around

Using the Pan tool is a lot like washing windows — you move the paper towel back and forth, but it stays flat and it never gets any closer or farther away from you. The Pan tool is basically for sliding your model view around in your modeling window. To see something that’s to the right, you use Pan to slide your model to the left. It’s as simple as that. You need to know these three things about Pan:

  • Pan is on the Camera menu. But that’s not where you should go to activate it.

  • Pan is also on the toolbar. You can access the Pan tool by clicking its button on the toolbar (it looks like a severed hand), but there’s a better way.

  • Hold down your mouse’s scroll wheel button and press the Shift key. When you do both at the same time — basically, Orbit+Shift — your cursor temporarily turns into the Pan tool. When your cursor does so, move your mouse to pan.

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