Double your speed in SketchUp with keyboard shortcuts

Matt Donley News, Sketchup Tutorials, Tips & Tricks 18 Comments

How can you become faster at modeling? In this article, I highlight the keyboard shortcuts I use most often, and demonstrate how helpful they are in saving time while modeling. You can also download my custom keyboard shortcuts at the bottom of this article, and import them into your SketchUp.

I have always been a strong advocate for using keyboard shortcuts. They are a tremendous time saver, enabling you to get your ideas modeled more quickly. They reduce the friction between the design and the software. Modeling becomes more fluid and natural.

Many people are intimidated with the idea of having to remember a ton of keyboard shortcuts, but I assure you, the majority of them are obvious and easy to remember. Start out with a few simple ones, like Spacebar, P, and R. Then build on from there.

Default Keyboard Shortcuts

SketchUp has a number of keyboard shortcuts configured by default. You can also add your own, custom keyboard shortcuts by going to Window -> Preferences -> Shortcuts. Below are some of my most frequently used keyboard shortcuts. By tapping the designated key, you’ll activate that tool without having to select it from a menu or toolbar.

  • Spacebar – Select tool
  • R – Rectangle tool
  • L – Line tool
  • M – Move tool
  • P – Push/pull tool
  • S – Scale tool
  • Q – Rotate tool (This is one with a weird letter. But I remember it because the letter Q is round, and has a “handle” on it. So you could grab the handle and rotate it around 😉 )
  • E – Eraser tool
  • G – Make Component (See below, I created a custom shortcut SHIFT + G to make group)
  • Arrow keys – Lock axis

Watch the video below to see how fast keyboard shortcuts are, as well as my 6 custom keyboard shortcuts.

I pretty much always use exact dimensions, so I’m always typing numbers to define measurements as well. The arrow keys are also frequently used to lock axis any time I’m drawing a line, or moving an object.

 

If you’d like to see a guide to all the built-in SketchUp keyboard shortcuts, sign up for my email list and you can download it for free.


Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

In addition to the default keyboard shortcuts that I use, I have found the need over the years to add a few additional custom keyboard shortcuts as well. You can add your own custom keyboard shortcuts, or, if you like the one I use, you can download my keyboard shortcuts and import them right into SketchUp. (Download link at end of tutorial.)

To add a custom shortcut, go to Window -> Preferences -> Shortcuts. Then, select the command you’d like to create a shortcut to. Where it says “Add Shortcut”, click in the text box then tap the key combination (or single letter) you want to use for the shortcut. Click the plus sign, and you’re done. shortcuts

Controlling what you see at any given moment

X = Hide Rest of Model

One of the ways I’m able to increase my speed, and reduce frustration, is to have control over what objects I see in my model. SketchUp has a great feature built in called Hide Rest of Model, and what that does is it hides anything outside of the current groups or component that you’re editing.

To be able to toggle back and forth between this is super helpful, so I’ve assigned it to the letter X.

N = Hide Selected

J = Unhide Last

Hide selectedI’ve also found it useful to be able to temporarily hide selected faces, and quickly unhide them. For instance, when creating a model for 3D printing, it needs to be solid. If you have any extra faces or edges “inside” the model, they need to be deleted. Sometimes you can locate these extra entities by switching to Xray mode, but it tends to be a bit overwhelming when you can see all the edges in your model.

By temporarily hiding a face, I can quickly identify what needs to be deleted, then I can unhide the face when I’m done.

I use the letter N to hide selected, and the letter J to unhide last. This is silly, but the way I remember the shortcuts is N stands for “NO! I don’t want to see this object right now.” And J stands for “Just Joking… You can be visible now…” It also helps that the letters are right next to each other.

CTRL + D = Hide Dialogs (toggle)

One of the things I love about having dual monitors is that I can place all the popup windows in one screen, and have a full workspace in the other. But sometimes I have everything in one screen if I need to have the other monitor occupied by a PDF, or something.

SketchUp has a built-in command that hides all open windows temporarily. If things are getting cluttered and I need to be able to see my model, I just hit CTRL D to hide all the windows, and when I need the windows back, I hit CTRL D once again.

Creating groups

SHIFT + G = Create group from selected

One of the most common things you do in SketchUp is turn things into groups and components. SketchUp already has the letter G assigned to make a component from the selected entities, so it only seemed right to create a custom shortcut using SHIFT + G to make a group.

Paste in Place

SHIFT + V = Paste in Place

Paste in place is a really useful action built into SketchUp, that is not very well known. To understand what Paste in Place does, you first need to understand groups and components.

Paste in Place allows you to copy or cut an object from one group/component, and paste it into another without moving it from its physical location. When you Paste in Place, the copy will appear at the same exact coordinates and orientation as the original.

This is really useful for when you are reviewing the organization of your model, and need to move things from one group/component to another.

 

Download my Keyboard Shortcuts file

Download my custom keyboard shortcuts configuration file so you can import them into your SketchUp

Once you’ve downloaded them, go to Window -> Preferences -> Shortcuts, and click Import. Select the shortcuts file you downloaded and click ok. Just be aware that that importing these shortcuts will override any custom shortcuts you already have, so you might want to backup yours just in case.

 

 

Comments 18

  1. Mat,
    Why dont you do a video on publishing working drawings using sketchup instead of layout.
    Have watched a few videos on this where it perhaps looks easy but there are a number of hastles involved espescially in mechanical drawings where circles, groups etc are involved. It is a frustrating process especially when sketchup offers to clean up your model, then deletes many of the dimensions you have used workarounds to create.

  2. Hi Matt,
    I do my architectural work on a new iMac but seem to have lost my way in downloading and installing your very helpful keyboard shortcuts. Can you enlighten me on importing this .dat file?

    Thanks,
    Ron Hexum, Architect
    Boise, ID

  3. Great explanation. I’ve been do the same thing for years, but have always had one problem. If I attempt to delete a Sketchup default shortcut, it appears to work, but when I reload ShetchUp, the default is back again. For example: Zoom Extents – I delete the Ctrl-Shift-Z and it changes. But, when I exit and restart SketchUp, it is back again. Any idea why? Or, is there a way to really delete the defaults? Thanks. You have a great site.

    1. Thanks Matt,

      Your tips are very important for Sketchup users. It’s not only help them to improve their speed but also to build up in their mind groups or sets of similar commands.

      And just to share with you a fun story, I have a friend who is a left hand person. And the mouse is on the left side too. Whenever I come to his computer with Sketchup, I feel like his keyboard and mouse are not there on the desk. Fortunately, He remains all the shortcuts as default so I still can use them after switch my left-brain and right-brain.

      To David,
      Are you using PC or Mac. If it is a PC I think you have problem with Windows registry. Every shortcuts are stored there in this link “HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareSketchUpSketchUp 2014Settings”. The issue might be caused by an antivirus software which prevent Sketchup to modify registry. You could try to uninstall Sketchup then remove everything in the session Settings above and install it again. Hope this can help.

      Best Regards,

      1. Thanks for the reply. I’m using a PC. I’ll try what you suggested, but the problem occurs on 3 different computers. Do you know for a fact that I should be able to remove/change the default shortcuts?

        Dave

  4. As always a very helpful and well done tutorial. Thanks.
    Only I can’t install your custom shortcuts, as it opens not as file, which I can save. I could only copy the written words , but I don’t know where to go from there. Maybe its me being stupid, wouldn’t be the first time.

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  5. That hide dialogue is brilliant. Essential with dual screens. One I use all the time is hide rest of model which was assigned to shift-H but I like the X. Agree shortcuts is the only way to go. Have just installed the 3Dconnexion Spacemouse pro which has capacity for shortcut buttons. So far so good.
    Thanks Matt. Great stuff.

  6. Hello… Good Day!!
    Can you send me the list of detailed shortcut keys for sketch up…
    Thank You and God Bless!!

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  7. Hi Matt. Thanks for all the tips and videos.

    I got all excited about mastering the shortcuts today. I got several of them set up, used them all day, and the power went out. After restarting, I tried to set them up again and its telling me that many of the keys I want to assign can’t be used. For example, I had X set up to toggle X-ray view. I used that shortcut all day but now it says I can’t use X for a shortcut ???

    I was also not able to import your shortcuts. The 2015 Mac version has no Import button on the Shortcuts Pref pane.

    Also, you mention that you created shortcuts using combinations such as SHIFT+G for creating a group. If I am not able to import your shortcuts could you explain how you created them?

    Thanks again,
    Eli

  8. Great tutorial Matt, shortcuts are the definitive way to go. BTW, shortcuts on a Mac are automatically saved here: “~Library/Application Support/SketchUp#/SketchUp/Shortcuts.plist” but I don’t know of a way to ‘import’ shortcuts. I think that list gets dynamically generated on Macs, so you probably need to enter the shortcuts manually and then they will be transferred over to the new version when you update. There doesn’t seem to be a way to import/export shortcuts on Macs.

  9. I use a USB gaming device with my left hand, a Belkin n52e which fits comfortably in your hand and your fingers has 3 rows of easily progeamable buttons a and a thumb pad I assign all of the views to. I never even touch the keyboard except to enter a dimension. Between the n52e and mouse, I can fly with the drawing. The buttons are easy to program as the can be assigned a single key, a key combination or a macro of several key actions. If you want to go nuts you can toggle the gaming device from a blue Led to a red and green one which allows you to have 3 separate sets of shortcuts but using just 1 works fine for me. Hands on n52e and mouse and almost never have to look down at the keyboard. That’s speed. Hope this helps.

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  10. Thanks for sharing, this is a nice tip IMO.
    I also use shortcuts, mine are a bit different.
    CTRL+K=Preferences (Very handy to set other needed shortcuts)
    CTRL+R= Hide rest of model
    Shift+R=Hide similar components
    CTRL+H=Hide
    CTRL+SHIFT+H=Unhide all
    CTRL+G=Make Group
    Shift+C=Close group/components
    Ctrl+Shift+W= Zoom window (native SU command)
    CTRL+Shift+E=Zoom extents. (Native SU)
    ….

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