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Using Dynamic Components in Google SketchUp 8

Dynamic Components (DCs) are models that have an idea of what they are; they know what to do when you interact with them. Once upon a time, the smartest thing a component could do was cut its own hole in a surface. Components didn’t know what they were supposed to represent; they were just groupings of faces and edges in the shape of an object.

In SketchUp, you can interact with Dynamic Components in three basic ways. Depending on what a particular DC has been set up to do, it may respond to one, two, or all three of the following interactions.

Smart scaling

DCs designed to react intelligently to the Scale tool are the closest things to true magic that SketchUp offers. Instead of stretching and getting all distorted when you scale them, the parts that are supposed to change dimensions, do; the other parts don’t.

Scaling a non-dynamic window stretches the whole thing — even the frame stretches. A dynamic window gets wider when you scale it, but the frame stays the same thickness. It’s smart enough to know that only some parts of it should get wider when scaled.

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There’s another way that DCs can scale smartly: by adding or subtracting pieces as they get bigger or smaller. Dynamic stairs are a perfect example of this. When you use the Scale tool to make the staircase taller, the staircase adds steps instead of stretching.

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You can turn on the Dynamic Component toolbar, which is a quicker way to work with DCs than constantly using the menu bar. Just choose View, Toolbars, Dynamic Components, and you’re all set.

Component Options

You can configure DCs that have been hooked up to the Component Options dialog box by choosing options from drop-down lists, typing dimensions, and performing other simple tasks. When you change a setting in Component Options, the DC you’ve selected updates to reflect the change, kind of like modeling by remote control.

The Component Options dialog box looks different for every DC.

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The Interact tool

When a DC is set up to react to the Interact tool, it does stuff when you click it. Its actions depend on what you’ve programmed it to do.

This truck has been designed to react to the Interact tool in a few ways:

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  • Clicking the back of the truck cycles through the following options: box, flatbed, or flatbed with rails.

  • Clicking the front wheels turns them from side to side.

  • Clicking the doors makes them open and close.

When you’re hovering over a DC that’s been connected to the Interact tool, your cursor (it was originally called the Magic Finger) glows a little yellow at the end.

Poking around to see what happens

If you know you’re dealing with a DC, the best way to figure out what it does is to experiment:

  • Select it and open Component Options to see whether anything’s there.

  • Hover over it with the Interact tool to see whether a glow appears at the end of your cursor.

  • Click it with the Select tool to show its scale grips (little green boxes). If any show up, grab one and scale to see what happens. If none show up, your DC can’t be scaled with the Scale tool.

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