SketchUp Preferences: Five Important Features

In the previous post I reviewed SketchUp‘s Model Info window, highlighting some of the options it provides to make your SketchUp modeling life easier.

People often associate Model Info with the Preferences window. The difference is that Model Info affects just the model you’re working on, whereas Preferences affects how SketchUp runs for ALL models.

Also called System Preferences, you can find the Preferences via Window / Preferences (PC) or SketchUp / Preferences (Mac).There are several key options in Preferences you should be aware of. They affect model performance, set up saving safeguards, help check for errors, and connect out to third-party extensions and plugins.

All of the Preferences pages are important, but I’ll focus here on the five pages containing options that make the most significant impact.

  • Applications
  • Extensions
  • General
  • OpenGL
  • Shortcuts



This page has one job: to link SketchUp’s Paint Bucket tool to an external photo editing program like Photoshop or Gimp. Click the Choose button and locate the graphic editing program you want to link.
SketchUp Preferences 1

The easiest way to edit a texture is to right-click on a face that’s painted with an image and choose Texture / Edit Texture Image.

SketchUp Preferences 2Here’s another way: When a texture is selected in the “In-Model” collection of the Materials or Colors window (click the House icon for this), double-click the texture thumbnail to open the Edit tab. Click the icon for Edit texture image in external editor. This will open the image in the editor you selected.SketchUp Preferences 3

(For more on editing SketchUp materials, see Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on SketchUp and Photoshop.)



Simply put, you should use SketchUp extensions. But having too many extensions installed can slow down SketchUp at startup – each extension has to load each time. This page allows you to disable selected extensions so they don’t load, which means those extensions won’t appear in SketchUp’s menus or toolbars. Try disabling extensions that you only use for specific situations; you can always turn them back on when needed.

SketchUp Preferences 4


There are many important options on this page, so perhaps it should have a different name than the generic “General.” Most importantly, you can set up model safeguards in case the model crashes or becomes corrupt, and automatically check for model errors.SketchUp Preferences 5
You should keep ALL options checked on this page. (Well, perhaps with the exception of Warn of Style Changes – this will become an annoyance if you work often with styles.)

Create backup and Auto-save will be your sanity saver. SketchUp does crash; files become corrupt. With these options, if you have a crash and re-open SketchUp, you’ll automatically be asked if you want to return to the auto-saved file. Auto-saving a huge file can take time, so you might not want to save every two minutes, perhaps every 15 or 20. Your backup and auto-saved files are placed in the same folder as your original SketchUp file.

If you ever need to open a backup, which is given the extension SKB, simply rename the extension to SKP.



The options on this page can have a significant impact on display and performance. Try playing with the options to see what happens. You may notice a difference in cursor behavior, or you may gain better model performance at the expense of poorer graphic resolution.

SketchUp Preferences 6

(See my post on hardware and performance, which will go deeper into these options.)



A good SketchUp modeler always works with shortcut keys – it saves time and cuts down on mouse movement. SketchUp comes with default shortcuts installed, but you can easily change them or add your own.

SketchUp Preferences 7

You can also use this page to set up shortcuts for quick display changes. And if you’re a PC user with SketchUp trays, you can use shortcuts to open and close trays.


All of the options in all Preferences pages are important, and you should explore them all. For example, the Files page enables you to link SketchUp to specific libraries. Take some time to peruse everything on this window and see what happens when you play with the various options.


About Daniel Tal

Daniel Tal, ASLA, is a professional speaker and a registered landscape architect with over 17 years of experience. He is a 3D modeling and visualization expert, has authored two books with Wiley and Sons: SketchUp for Site Design and Rendering in SketchUp and is the tech-editor at large for Landscape Architecture Magazine. Tal runs a 3D modeling and visualization studio for Stanley Consultants, a 1,000 person multi-disciplinary engineering firm. Read more about Daniel.


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