What Makes SketchUp’s Components so Great?

By Aidan Chopra

Even though components in SketchUp are incredibly important, there’s nothing too magical about them. They’re just groupings of geometry (edges and faces) that make working in SketchUp faster, easier, and more fun. In many ways, components are really just fancy groups — they do a lot of the same things.

Use components whenever you can. Here’s why:

  • Everything that’s true about groups is true about components. That’s right: Components do everything that groups do. Components don’t stick to the rest of your model, you can give them meaningful names, and you can select them, move them, copy them, and edit them easily — just like you can with groups.

  • Components update automatically. Unlike with groups, when you use multiple copies (called instances) of the same component in your model, they’re all spookily linked. Changing one makes them all change, which saves loads of time.

    Consider the window component shown in the figure. When you add something (in this case, shutters) to one instance of that component, all the instances are updated. Now you have three windows, and they all have shutters.

    image0.jpg

  • Using components can help you keep track of quantities. You can use the Components dialog box to count, select, substitute, and otherwise manage all the component instances in your model. Groups don’t appear in the Components dialog box at all.

    The following figure shows a great big (and ugly) building designed to go with the window component. You have a lot more control than you would have otherwise because the windows are component instances. For example, you can change all the windows to helicopters in a few clicks.

    image1.jpg

  • You can make a component cut an opening automatically. Perhaps you’ve made a window, and you want that window to poke a hole through whatever surface you stick it to. You can set up SketchUp components to cut their own openings in faces. These openings are even dependent on the existence of the component; if you delete the component, the hole disappears.

    Components that are set up to automatically cut openings can do so only through a single face. If your wall is two faces thick, your components will cut through only one of them.

  • You can use your components in other models. It’s simple to make any component you build available for use whenever you work in SketchUp, no matter what model you’re working on. If you have a group of parts or other things you always use, making your own component collection can save you a lot of time and effort.

  • Components are great for making symmetrical models. Because you can flip a component instance and keep working on it, and because component instances automatically update when you change one of them, using components is a great way to model anything that’s symmetrical. If you look around, you’ll notice that most things people use are symmetrical.