Are You Taking Advantage of the Arrow Keys?

comments (4) March 20th, 2010 in blogs

Killenwood Tim Killen, contributor
thumbs up 7 users recommend

Here is an important helpful aid in modeling in 3D. Since it can be challenging to stay on axis, SketchUp has some handy ways to help us. There are four Arrow Keys on the computer keyboard -up, down, right, and left. If you need to draw a line on the red axis, click the mouse to start the line, then tap the Right Arrow Key. Note that no matter which direction you move your mouse the line is forced to follow the red axis. To force the line on the green axis, tap the Left Arrow Key. And to force the line on the blue axis, tap either the UP or Down Arrow Key.
These Arrow Keys work also with the Move/Copy Tool. So to force movement of a copy or component on the red axis, tap the Right Arrow Key. And similarly use the other arrow keys to force movement on the other axes.
As your model becomes bigger and more busy with multiple components, these Arrow Keys become a necessary feature to keep things moving and organized on the axes.
SketchUp provides another way of forcing the action along a specific axis using the Shift Key. In this case, you need to start the line or the movement on the axis of choice, then hold down the Shift Key. This will cause the line or movement to stay on that selected axis. So the Shift Key will work with any of the axes, but it is only depressed after the action is already going along the selected axis.


posted in: blogs

Comments (4)

Killenwood Killenwood writes: CORRECTION: In my previous note I made a mistake in the fourth paragraph. In lieu of changing the Precision variable in the Units Dialog Box, I meant to say to change the Enable Length Snapping value to 1/8 or 1/16.

Changing the Precision variable will not help you achieve a precise length by nudging your mouse.

Posted: 5:01 pm on March 22nd

Killenwood Killenwood writes: To tom8021: Click your Line Tool to start the line. Move the mouse toward the direction you want to go. Hit the Right Arrow Key to force the line on the red axis, for example. Then type 20 and hit the Enter Key.

(I'm assuming, but I can't tell from your note above, that you don't type into the Measurement's Box. That is, you don't click there. You just type and SketchUp puts the 20 in the box).

I'm encouraging you to type your exact lengths. You can waste a lot of time trying to make a line exact length by nudging the mouse.

However, if you set Precision in the Units Dialog Box - that is, from Window/Model Info/Units - to larger increments like 1/8, then it is easier to nudge to an exact length.


Posted: 7:46 pm on March 21st

rastus127 rastus127 writes: Thanks Tim thats a great little tip. I've been wondering if the arrow keys were useful. Keep those little tips coming.

Posted: 7:31 pm on March 21st

tom8021 tom8021 writes: Is there any way to move slowly to a point? Let say you want to draw a line 20" and you don't want to type in the 20 in the lower right box. The mouse seems to have a mind of it's own and will go on either side of 20 but not to 20. I know this is a stupid example, but you get the idea? I have used other programs that use the arrow keys to do this.

Thanks for tips above, that will come in handy.
Posted: 3:14 pm on March 21st

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker

About Design. Click. Build.

Learn the art and science of designing furniture in SketchUp with Fine Woodworking's official blog. Moderated by a devoted community of woodworkers, we feature step-by-step SketchUp tutorials on designing components, downloads of pre-built 3D models of furniture parts, and news and information about the evolving world of digital furniture design.

Buy the Video
Don't miss Dave Richard's brand-new DVD/video download, The Basics.

Buy the Book
Get Tim Killen's popular eBook, the Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers.

Basic SketchUp Tutorials 
Learn the basics of building furniture in SketchUp with these classic posts from the Design. Click. Build. blog.

Creating a Project Plan in SketchUp
How I Draw in SketchUp
Axes in SketchUp
The SketchUp Move Tool
The SketchUp Rotate Tool
The SketchUp Scale Tool

Materials, Colors, and Textures
Applying Wood Grain Skins in SketchUp

Easy Dovetail Joints in SketchUp

Digital Project Plans

Download and modify SketchUp files for select projects from Fine Woodworking. View all.

Top Sellers:
Matt's Monster Workbench
New England Pine Cupboard
Garden Bench

Meet the Authors



I am a Biomedical Equipment Technician. I maintain anesthesia and respiratory equipment for the largest medical facility in southeast Minnesota. I...
view profile

Tim Killen

I am retired from Bechtel Corporation after 36 years in Engineering and IT management. I grew up among woodworking machinery in...
view profile


view profile