2 Things That Bite SketchUp Beginners

Twitchy Index Fingers & the Move Tool

When I teach SketchUp in person I get reminded of the basic issues that confront many people. If you can get past these hurdles you’ll be well on your way to mastering the program.

In SketchUp how you use the mouse is critical. Where, when or how you click is a big deal, as is how many times you click (click here to read about the different mouse clicks and what they mean). In most programs you can get away with nervously clicking the mouse an extra time or two. In SketchUp you need to be keenly aware of what your fingers are doing. If you’re struggling to catch on, slow down, click deliberately and pay attention to what happens onscreen as you click. The mouse is also the control center for getting around the model (click here to read about the mouse for navigation). A little bit of practice will cure a twitchy index finger.

2Bites1Mastering the Move tool can also be troublesome. Moving (and making copies, also done with the Move tool) are where the bulk of the work is done in SketchUp. The Move tool does a lot, and it also works a couple of different ways. The best way to use it is to:

  • Select one or more objects.
  • Select the Move tool (either from the toolbar or the keyboard shortcut “M”)
  • Click once to initiate the move and keep your finger off the left mouse button.
  • Drag the mouse to establish the direction of the move.
  • Click once to complete the move; you can click on a specific point or you can type a distance and hit Enter.

If you follow that sequence exactly you can move and copy things where you want them to be. But if you click without meaning to in the middle of a move, you have ended the command. The Move tool will also select objects, but it is better to select objects first then get the tool. Nervous clickers get in trouble because they aren’t sure where they are in the sequence, they aren’t sure what is selected, and they aren’t sure what to do next. All that uncertainty results in more nervous clicks. In real life we tend to think of moving something as a single step; “I’ll take this from here and I’ll put it there”. In SketchUp you need to train your brain to plan the entire sequence before you start. Figure out what point to click on first because the cursor will attach itself to that point when you want to finish the move.

If you get lost in the middle of a move, don’t click the mouse button, hit the Escape (Esc) key instead, take a deep breath, relax and start over. If you need to let go of the thing you’re trying to move, tap the spacebar and click in empty space. Pay attention to the cursor. If the Move tool icon is visible and you click on something you select the object that is highlighted and you begin the move.

2Bites2When you finish a move (or a copy) you need to make sure that you

  • Let go of the object!
  • Put down the Move tool!

By default SketchUp leaves a moved (or copied object) selected and the Move tool stays active. When you get used to this it comes in handy; you can move something in two steps without starting over or you can make a copy somewhere that is easy to snap to, then move it where it belongs. If you’re paying attention to the screen you can see both the selected object and the Move tool icon on the cursor. If you’re not paying attention you’ll end up with objects in funny places and you’ll be wondering why.

This video shows what happens (and what should happen) when you select objects and move them.

— Bob Lang




2 Things That Bite SketchUp Beginners — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Bob

    Many Windows and PC users (including me) work with a wireless mouse, but we can’t get the damn thing to work well in SKETCHUP. Do we have to use a corded mouse? Is the only solution?


    • I don’t think the issue is with the mouse being wireless, that’s what I use. What I have seen is that some have additional software that overrides the system mouse settings. That confuses SketchUp to no end. If you have extra software installed that came with your mouse, uninstall it and revert to the basic system mouse drivers. I recommend the most basic 3-button scroll-wheel mouse you can find and just plug it in. It’s been a while since I used SketchUp on a Mac, but I think you need to go into system preferences and change a few things to enable the standard mouse to function correctly.

      hope this helps,

      Bob Lang