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Working with Hierarchies in the Outliner

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In SketchUp, the Outliner enables you to view a model’s groups and components as a hierarchical tree. With the Outliner, you can navigate large models, name groups and components, find a component instance, and restructure the model hierarchy.

To open the Outliner, as shown in the following figure, select Window > Outliner from the menu bar. select Window > Default Tray > Outliner from the menu bar. Your model’s name appears at the top of the hierarchy. In this example, the model is named Two story house and it contains three groups named First floor, Second floor, and Roof. (The Roof group is hidden.) When a group or component contains nested elements, the Outliner’s navigation tree displays a plus sign (Microsoft Windows) or triangle arrow (Mac OS X) next to the group or component’s name.

You can explore the hierarchy of your model in the following ways:

  • To see what’s nested in a group or component, click the plus sign or triangle next to its name. The plus sign changes to a minus sign or the right-pointing triangle turns downward. After you display nested elements, you can then click the minus sign or downward triangle to close that branch of the hierarchy.
  • To see all the groups and components in a model’s hierarchy, click the Details arrow () and select Expand All from the menu.
  • To close the hierarchy, click the Details arrow and select Collapse All.

In the sections that follow, you find details about naming and finding groups and components and changing the structure of your model’s hierarchy.

Table of Contents
  1. Renaming groups and components
  2. Finding groups and components
  3. Identifying a group or component’s status
  4. Restructuring a model’s hierarchy
  5. Controlling visibility with the Outliner

Renaming groups and components

After you create a group or component, the Outliner enables you to give the group or component a meaningful name.

Tip: Giving groups and components meaningful names enables you and others to find, select, and edit entities quickly and easily. A meaningful name might describe a group or component’s location. For example, in a model of a housing development, you might create a group for each plot of land and name it after the plot numbers. As you continue to build the model, you might import SketchUp models of standard house designs, and each component’s name would reflect the design name. In the preceding figure, each group was given a more descriptive name than the default name, Group. With the descriptive names, you can easily see which group is the roof, first floor, or second floor.

To name (or rename) a groups in the Outliner, follow these steps:

  1. Context-click the group name in the Outliner and select Rename from the menu that appears.
  2. Type a name.
  3. Press Enter (Microsoft Windows ) or Return (Mac OS X) to save the name.

Compared to renaming groups, renaming components is a bit more complicated. You can rename the component definition or an instance of that component’s definition. ( Adding Premade Components and Dynamic Components explains the difference between a component definition and a component instance.)

By default, every component instance has the same name as its definition, and in the Outliner, all components are enclosed in angle brackets. If you have several component instances with the same name, you may have a hard time finding the instance you need. Say you have four instances of the same chair component, and each instance illustrates a different color option. To locate each color option quickly and easily in the Outliner, you might add the color name to each component instance. To rename a component instance, follow the same steps you use to rename a group.

When you rename the component definition, you change the name of every component instance in your model. To rename a component definition, follow these steps:

  1. In the Outliner, context-click the component name and select Entity Info from the menu that appears.
  2. In the Definition text box, select the component definition name and type a new one, as shown in the following figure. When you’re done, you can close the Entity Info box. Back in the Outliner, your component instances all show the new definition name.

Finding groups and components

When you need to find a specific group or component in your model, here’s how the Outliner can help:

  • Select: When you select a group or component in your model, it becomes highlighted in the Outliner, too. Conversely, select a group or component in the Outliner, and you select that group or component in your model.
  • Sort: To sort all the groups and components in your model by name, click the Outliner’s Details arrow () and select Sort By Name. If this menu item is selected, choosing it deselects the Sort By Name option. When Sort By Name is deselected, components are sorted by creation or insertion.
  • Filter: At the top of the Outliner, type a term to filter what groups or components appear in the Outliner. In the following figure, you see the Outliner is filtered to show only groups or components that contain the word Floor.

Identifying a group or component’s status

The Outliner uses a icons and text to identify groups and components, as well as their status (open, locked, or hidden). The following table shows how the icon and text change as the group or component’s status changes.

Tip: Open means a group or component can be edited. Locked means the group or component can’t be edited, as explained in Grouping Geometry. Hidden means the group or component isn’t visible, as explained in Softening, Smoothing, and Hiding Geometry.
Status Group Component

Restructuring a model’s hierarchy

If a model’s group and component hierarchy needs to be adjusted, you can click and drag an item to a new position in the Outliner.

For example, say you want the sofa to be tucked inside the First floor group, so that the hierarchy reflects where the sofa is located. Simply drag the sofa component to the desired position, as shown in the figure.

Controlling visibility with the Outliner

As mentioned in the table earlier in this article, any item that's grayed out in the Outliner is hidden. Indeed, the Outliner can be a helpful way to hide or show elements in your model as you work on it.

To hide an element in the Outliner, context-click it and select Hide from the menu that appears. Everything your element contains becomes hidden. For example, to hide everything in the second floor and see only the first floor, all you have to do is hide the Second floor group, as shown in the figure.

To see the hidden group or component again, simply context-click it in the Outliner and select Unhide.


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