The Ten-Minute SketchUp Tour - dummies

The Ten-Minute SketchUp Tour

By Aidan Chopra

The point of this tour is to show you where everything is — kind of like the way a parent shows a new babysitter around the house before leaving for a couple hours. Just like most programs you already use, SketchUp has five main parts. The figure shows them all, in both the Windows and Mac versions of the program.


  • Modeling window: See the big area in the middle of your computer screen? That’s your modeling window, and it’s where you spend 99 percent of your time in SketchUp. You build your model there; it’s sort of a frame into a 3D world inside your computer. What you see in your modeling window is always a 3D view of your model, even if you’re looking at it from the top or side.

  • Menu bar: If you’ve used a computer in the last 30 years, the menu bar is nothing new. Each menu contains a long list of options, commands, tools, settings, and other goodies that pertain to just about everything you do in SketchUp.

  • Toolbars: These contain buttons that you can click to activate tools and commands; they’re faster than using the menu bar. SketchUp has a few toolbars, but only one is visible when you launch it the first time: the Getting Started toolbar.

    If your modeling window is too narrow to show all the tools on the Getting Started toolbar, you can click the arrow on the right to see the rest of them.

  • Dialog boxes: Some programs call them palettes and some call them inspectors; SketchUp doesn’t call them anything. SketchUp’s documentation (the SketchUp Help document you can get to in the Help menu) refers to some of them as managers and some as dialog boxes.

  • Status bar: You can consider this your SketchUp dashboard. The status bar contains contextual information you use while you model.

  • Context menus: Right-clicking things in your modeling window usually causes a context menu of commands and options to open. These are always relevant to whatever you right-click (and whatever you’re doing at the time), so the contents of each context menu are different.

Although the following items aren’t part of the SketchUp user interface (as all the stuff in the preceding list is), they’re a critical part of modeling in SketchUp:

  • A mouse with a scroll wheel: You usually find a left button (the one you use all the time), a right button (the one that opens the context menus), and a center scroll wheel that you both roll back and forth and click down like a button. A mouse with a scroll wheel will improve your SketchUp experience more than any single other thing you can buy.

  • A keyboard: This sounds silly, but some people have tried to use SketchUp without one; it’s just not possible. So many of the things you need to do all the time (such as make copies) involve your keyboard, so you’d better have one handy if you plan to use SketchUp.