Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

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Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby andrea.bianco » Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:57 pm

Hi there! One thing I don't like is to waste time setting up plugins and resource files after I reinstall the OS on my machine or I need to work on a different one. I also don't like wasting time updating the plugins on all of my SketchUp installations or moving resource files around. SketchUp is having some settings for changing the default folders for a bunch of stuff but not for the Plugins, and even using that built-in feature we'll have to manually change the path on each copy of Sketchup.

As a solution to all that I started using symbolic links: they exist on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and are basically a way for creating a folder or file that points to another location. As an example I'll detail what I did on my Windows 7 64bit machine, but you can read these two interesting LifeHacker articles if you want to know more or find info on how to do it on Mac (as I said it would be possible to do the same on Linux but as we all know Google couldn't care less spending some resources for giving us a native Linux version of SketchUp):

http://lifehacker.com/5496652/how-to-use-symlinks-in-windows
http://lifehacker.com/5154698/sync-files-and-folders-outside-your-my-dropbox-folder


1. A Dropbox account
Dropbox is a great file syncing/sharing service that I highly reccomend. Please go to their site to read more about what they offer and why it's so great. The free account is 2GB but you can earn more space following some simple steps and even more using the referral strategy; by the way if you need to create a new account please consider using my referral, that way you will give yourself and myself 250mb of extra free space! This is my referral: link.


2. Where to put the stuff
I created a Settings folder in my DropBox and I use it for syncing settings ad resources for various software, like SketchUp, Painter, Gimp etc. In this case let's say we want to create a subfolder for Sketchup where to move our plugins. Since we are creating the folder outside of the Public one, no one will be able to access it except us, provided we are logged in with the client. Our final path will be something like :
Code: Select all
C:\Users\YourUserName\DropBox\Settings\Sketchup



3. Move the plugins
Now you can move the whole Plugins folder from your SketchUp installation right into that path. In the end you will have no Plugins folder anymore into your SketchUp installation (we'll fix that in a minute) and a path like this in your DropBox :
Code: Select all
C:\Users\YourUserName\DropBox\Settings\Sketchup\Plugins



4. Create the symbolic link
Open Start Menu, write "cmd" in the search box, right click on "cmd.exe" and start it as Administrator. Once into the command prompt write "mklink" to read the short help info for the mklink command (it's always a good idea). Navigate to your Sketchup installation folder; in my case I typed
Code: Select all
cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp
and I then issued the command for creating the symbolic link
Code: Select all
mklink /D Plugins C:\Users\YourUserName\DropBox\Settings\Sketchup\Plugins



5. Done!
We now have a Plugins folder again into our SketchUp installation path, with the difference that it is just a symlink pointing to the real one on DropBox: the stuff we put on Dropbox is both phisically available on our machine and at the same time stored on Dropbox servers, so we can access it from any machine simply installing the Dropbox client and logging in. This was just a short introduction to the technique, you can of course extend it to your resources (textures, kit bashing, etc). The beauty of this method is not only in the fact that you have your stuff saved in a safe place, but also that you just have 1 location to update (the Dropbox one) and multiple installations of SketchUp will access it. I have three machines and keeping the resources and plugins updated among all of them was quite bothering, so I'm glad I discovered this method! A last note: you can do the same for pretty much any software ;)


6. What if something goes wrong or I just wanna go back to the way things were?
In that case just delete the Plugins symbolic link and then move the original Plugins folder from Dropbox back to your SketchUp installation.


EDIT:
I don't use Dropbox anymore and I also decided to only use SketchUp on the main workstation.
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Last edited by andrea.bianco on Thu May 08, 2014 8:27 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby mitcorb » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:03 pm

Hi, andrea:
Thanks for this tip. I may consider this technique when I finally set up my new system. I think quite a few folks here may like this strategy.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby pmolson » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:23 pm

This really makes a lot of sense! I have been tempted to do it for
quite some time, but have not pulled the trigger because of what is probably an
Unfounded fear.
What if one day Drop box ceases to exist? I have been using drop box
for some time for a component library, but I back it up on my own hard drive periodically
"Just in case".

I guess the same could be done with the plug in folder. If one was to back it up each time
a new plug in was added there would always be an up to date copy available if the drop box
site went down or away or I was working without an internet connection....

Am I being overly careful?

Now you have me thinking about how beneficial this would be in the office...5 work stations
all synced to one plug in folder.

I need to do this. Please tell me I have been a worry wart and I have nothing to fear. :oops:
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby mitcorb » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:29 pm

Believe me, I think we all have similar concerns. But, of course, the concept is good. I think any "innovation" is a double edged sword. They hacked phone mail.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby andrea.bianco » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:45 pm

@pmolson: I'm really not a fan of the "cloud" so I know some of your fears quite good ;) In my opinion Dropbox is the safest service of its kind and it's definitely not going to disappear without notice, since they have millions of users (also big companies among them) and they just got one more huge funding. Beside that, everything you put in the Dropbox is also copied locally on the machine you use, so if the online version is not accessible you still have the local one. The best way to fight fears is obviously the usage of backups: you can setup a script (or do it manually) for doing a whole backup of the Dropbox folders you are wanting to be 100% sure you won't lose, putting it in an archive and periodically erasing the obsolete versions.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:59 pm

Great post, I've been using this exact method for quite awhile now and it works wonderfully. I was so frustrated not having the same plugins on my computers.

As you mention, the protection is that your files aren't ONLY located on the cloud. In fact, the files on the cloud aren't the ones you're accessing, but rather the ones on your hard drive which Dropbox disperses to all your computers. However, I have had an issue before which you should be careful of. Sometimes when I'm updating my Maxwell Render plugin everything gets erased from my plugins folder! It's happened a couple times and I suspect it has something to do with the symbolic link rather than Dropbox per se. So now whenever I change the plugins folder I copy it within the same folder (it names it Plugins Copy or something like that). So if something goes crazy I just delete the plugins folder and rename the Plugins Copy folder to Plugins. No reason you couldn't do the same thing but copy it to some other non-dropbox location if you wanted.

If I didn't already have this set up though, I'd look into Sugar Sync (https://www.sugarsync.com/referral?rf=9 ... n=referral). Honestly I haven't really used it much yet but it seems to work a lot like dropbox except you also have the ability to sync folders anywhere on your HD - eliminating the symbolic link hassle. I'm hoping dropbox incorporates this soon so I don't have to worry about switching. I think you also get like 5gb of free storage with sugar sync. If you haven't set up dropbox yet it's worth looking into.

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby pilou » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:33 pm

Very cool but what happend when your Internet Connection is crashed for a month and all plugins are now inside the Dropbox? :mrgreen:
you have killed the original for win some place :roll:
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:52 pm

Pilou wrote:Very cool but what happend when your Internet Connection is crashed for a month and all plugins are now inside the Dropbox? :mrgreen:
you have killed the original for win some place :roll:


You're misunderstanding how dropbox works I think. With dropbox there's a folder on your computer (C:\Users\bgeers\Documents\My Dropbox). When you put something in there Dropbox copies it to their server and then copies it to that same folder which is located on your other computers in the same location. So now you can access that file either by going to the My Dropbox folder on your hard drive, or by going to the dropbox website, logging in and then grabbing the file from there (basically only useful if you're on a computer where you don't have dropbox installed). Each file also gets a URL. I use this a lot to share images online or to send someone huge files.

So if your internet dies, or dropbox goes belly up, the only thing you lose is that syncing between your computers. You still have your My Dropbox folder on your hard drive with all the files in it.

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Aerilius » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:01 pm

I've also been using a similar setup for some months, it's very comfortable to have the same plugins in all SketchUp versions on all systems and always up-to-date.

Symlinks are really more powerful than the 'normal' links. On Windows they exist as a file system feature only since Vista+ (as far as I know). Does someone know if there is a more comfortable way to create them (ctrl+shift+drag&drop ?) or a program that can add that capability? Also any known solutions for XP?

Edit: I found a utility that adds a context menu and drag&drop to Windows for creating junctions/hard links/symbolic links etc. I've missed symlinks from Windows, but I'm happy that XP has, if at least something that works similar (junctions).
http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshel ... llext.html
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Jim » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:06 pm

Good article, thanks for posting.

XP does not support symbolic links - but you can use hardlinks for files and junctions for folders.

I have just started using them to make my own (and others') version controlled plugins repositories available directly from the Plugins folder.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Wed Oct 26, 2011 2:01 pm

Aerilius wrote:I've also been using a similar setup for some months, it's very comfortable to have the same plugins in all SketchUp versions on all systems and always up-to-date.

Symlinks are really more powerful than the 'normal' links. On Windows they exist as a file system feature only since Vista+ (as far as I know). Does someone know if there is a more comfortable way to create them (ctrl+shift+drag&drop ?) or a program that can add that capability? Also any known solutions for XP?


I never knew about the ctrl+shift thing - nevertheless, for me it just creates a regular shortcut. The method I use is to select the folder, right-click, select Pick Link Source, go to the other folder, right-click, select Drop As, and choose the type of link you want. I use Junction - I'm not sure what the advantage of Symbolic Link is if there is one.

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby andrea.bianco » Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:53 pm

@Brodie : I never had that weird problem, if it will happen I will post here. Can it be the issue is connected with the Maxwell plugin? I don't use it so I can't test it. Thanks for letting me know though! About SugarSync, I tried it in the past but I felt the Dropbox way was more streamlined, so I went for it; I actually remember there was a reason in particular that made me stick to Dropbox, but a lot of time passed and I don't remember anymore :)
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:12 pm

andrea.bianco wrote:@Brodie : I never had that weird problem, if it will happen I will post here. Can it be the issue is connected with the Maxwell plugin? I don't use it so I can't test it. Thanks for letting me know though! About SugarSync, I tried it in the past but I felt the Dropbox way was more streamlined, so I went for it; I actually remember there was a reason in particular that made me stick to Dropbox, but a lot of time passed and I don't remember anymore :)


That's good to know about sugarsync. It seems great but until I have a reason to switch I don't have the time to figure it out. Good to know I'm on the right track based on your experience.

It probably does have something to do with the way the Maxwell installer works. I've never heard of anyone else having issues but I don't know of anyone who's run the installer who also syncs with dropbox. So I'm sure I'm just in a very small bubble. I just thought I'd bring it up as an outside possibility for caution. 99% of users wouldn't need to worry about it but if you use plugins with some sort of installer (mostly rendering plugins I'd imagine), it wouldn't hurt to be extra careful.

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby wyatt » Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:28 am

For some reason I can't get this to work on my home computer. I set it up fine at work. I followed the same instructions at home and it seems like it worked, but the link to the Dropbox plugins file did not show up in my Sketchup directory. I thought maybe I'd done something wrong so I typed the commands again and now it says: Cannot create a file when that file already exists. How do I delete the link that apparently doesn't work on my home computer, and what step do I need to do differently to link correctly to my dropbox files?
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:04 am

Wyatt wrote:For some reason I can't get this to work on my home computer. I set it up fine at work. I followed the same instructions at home and it seems like it worked, but the link to the Dropbox plugins file did not show up in my Sketchup directory. I thought maybe I'd done something wrong so I typed the commands again and now it says: Cannot create a file when that file already exists. How do I delete the link that apparently doesn't work on my home computer, and what step do I need to do differently to link correctly to my dropbox files?


Make sure that you're removing the Plugins folder from C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8 and move that folder to dropbox (just a simple cut/paste will do). Then choose that Plugins folder in Dropbox as the link source and then drop that into C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8. That way when SU looks for a plugin it will look into the Google folder and be routed to dropbox. I gather you may have reversed the steps in which case it won't work as a sync. Am I mistaken?

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby wyatt » Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:39 pm

Brodie, At work I removed the plugins folder from it's default location and pasted it into my dropbox folder. Then I issued these commands:
cd C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Google SketchUp 8
mklink /D Plugins C:\Users\MyUserName\DropBox\Sketchup\Plugins
This created a new folder in my SketchUp 8 folder that linked back to dropbox. At home, I removed the plugins folder from the \SketchUp directory. Since I already have the plugins folder in my dropbox, I didn't paste it there. Then I issued the same commands as I did at work, but the new folder in \SketchUp 8 was not added. When you say "drop that" (the dropbox plugins folder) into my \Sketchup directory, do you mean to copy it? How is the link maintained if I do that?
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Brodie » Thu Oct 27, 2011 4:36 pm

Sorry, I didn't really read through the original posters instructions. I'm not sure why you'd use the cmd line for this. Downloading that symlink extension for windows adds a right-click option. I wrote some brief instructions here viewtopic.php?f=15&t=34019&hilit=+dropbox

I think using the right-click method avoids some of the mystery behind using the cmd line. Since you've got the plugins folder in your dropbox and it's apparently set up fine at work at home all you should have to do is make sure you don't have a plugins folder in the google location. Right-Click your Plugins folder in dropbox select Pick Link Source (this is the new option which the shell extension adds). Then go to the google location where SU will look for the Plugins folder right-click and you'll see an option Drop As select that and choose Junction (or according to the OP symbolic link should work too).

Let me know if that works.

-Brodie
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby hellnbak » Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:01 pm

I don't use dropbox but ran across this article expressing some concerns about it's security, just FYI http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/sorry-dr ... ag=nl.e539
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby andrea.bianco » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:42 pm

@hellbank: thanks for the link. As I said earlier in this thread, I'm not a fan of the cloud; there's not a single cloud service out there that can give us a 100% safe service with total protection of our privacy and that can promise no outages or server issues. I simply don't trust the cloud for anything really confidential. That being said, using Dropbox for keeping my plugins and resources in sync between many machines is giving me no concerns in terms of outages (I still have local copies, it's the beauty of Dropbox) nor privacy ones (my plugins are downloded from the net, like many of my resources). I also use Dropbox for sharing files online (my tutorials, images, ect) and since I'm sharing them already, I don't care about "privacy" etc. I think putting confidential stuff online is always a risk and should be avoided as much as possible, no matter the platform we use (email, social network, cloud storage, etc). By the way, I really don't think Dropbox is less safe than GMail or any other Google service -- remember when Google pushed Buzz on the users making their provate contact lists visible to everyone else, also giving a frequency of contact indication? Well I'm glad SketchUp and YouTube are the only Google services I use ;)
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Jim » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:09 pm

Just a thought - if plugin authors each used a shared dropbox, then it might be possible that we could all get instant plugin updates directly as they are made.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Chris Fullmer » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:31 pm

That would be cool. I have it set up that with a team I'm working with. I write stuff, and they get the updates automatically. I've got a loader script that they all put into their plugins folder that points to their dropbox, but I like this symbolic link a lot.

We should set something like that up. Of course, we would need to do better at making plugins be extensions so the user could turn them off within SU - as modifying the name/moving to a different directory would not work since everyone is accessing the same file.

How many people does dropbox let you share a folder with? There are public folders that share with unlimited people, right?
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Rich O Brien » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:43 pm

How many people does dropbox let you share a folder with? There are public folders that share with unlimited people, right?


There's a limit of 10GB of traffic with DropBox. Then you're folder is suspended from use.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Jim » Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:01 pm

Rich O'Brien wrote:There's a limit of 10GB of traffic with DropBox. Then you're folder is suspended from use.


per month?

Using LibFred6 as an example, 10GB / 3.5 MB = 2,925 downloads.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Rich O Brien » Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:04 pm

That I'm not sure of. I got suspended when I hosted the first CatchUp on my DropBox folder. They informed me that it's not a file hosting service it's a file storage service?

I do know the suspension lasted 2 weeks on the Public folder only.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby jeff hammond » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:20 am

so i set this up today and i gotta say, it's pretty awesome..

(i'm also syncing my keyboard shortcuts, materials, components, and styles.. i'd like to do my preferences as well but i think the fact that i have different sized screens is going to cause some problems with toolbar placement, window size, etc.)

i'm on Mac and since no one itt has talked about it yet, i'll lay out the steps i took..

assuming you already have a dropbox acct, do the following steps on all of your computers you'd like to sync..


● Download Symbolic Linker:

http://seiryu.home.comcast.net/~seiryu/ ... inker.html

this makes it a breeze to create symbolic links in osx.. it adds a symlink service to finder so you just right-click the file and choose 'make symbolic link'.. the download includes a service which works with 10.6+ or a plugin which is for leopard and earlier.. only use the one that applies to your os version.. install instruction are included in the download.. otherwise, take a trip to terminal ;)


● Backup your plugins folder(s)

i just right-click the plugins folder and choose 'compress'.. generates an archive right there inside the SketchUp folder for easy access later on.. or just drag a copy to your desktop



● Empty your plugins folder

open the actual sketchup plugins folder then select everything and trash it.. you may want to rethink this step? i'm just outlining how i went about it (which worked perfectly btw :) ).. my thinking was that i wanted to get the folders synced up with a minimal amount of files being transferred so if something went wrong, i wouldn't be waiting for ever to re-upload etc..

● Create Symbolic Links for the plugins folders

right-click the folder and choose 'make symbolic link'.. you'll now have a folder called plugins symlink which will have the little little alias arrow on the folder icon.



● Move symlink folders into your dropbox

locate your dropbox folder.. i keep a dropbox shortcut in my finder sidebar.. if you don't, the default location is in your home folder.. otherwise go wherever you put yours..
move the folder 'plugins symlink' into the dropbox folder (or a parent folder inside dropbox if you wish)..
(this step is where my method differs from the ones previously outlined itt… my plugins stay in their proper location with the symbolic links branching out from there)
do this on all computers


● Test your sync
since you synced empty folders, the plugin folders on the different computers should have linked up very quickly.. drag a test file into one of the plugins folders to ensure it transfers to dropbox an on to the other computer..


● Re-install your plugins

open up the backup you made earlier.. select everything and drag them back into the sketchup plugins folder (or you could just drag them into the symlink folder.. you can also install future plugins through the symlink folder.. the files will transfer to your plugins folder, your dropbox, and your linked computers.. magic)


if your plugins folders weren't identical prior to doing all this (mine weren't), you can now use dropbox to merge them.. after the first computer's plugins have been uploaded and transferred to computer#2, take computer2's plugins and repeat this step.. in the case of having the same file already on both computers, you'll be prompted to overwrite the file (replace), or to keep both files (if using lion), or to stop.. you can go through each one individually or choose 'apply to all' (which is what i did).. any shared files will stay the same and any non-similar files will sync.

do the same thing for anything else you want to sync..
good luck.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Box » Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:53 am

Jeff Hammond wrote:● Create Symbolic Links for the plugins folders

right-click the folder and choose 'make symbolic link'.. you'll now have a folder called plugins symlink which will have the little little alias arrow on the folder icon.


I'm only basically familiar with Mac but I do have friends that often ask me to help them with theirs and I'm confused about how you Right Click on a one button mouse.

Sorry if I'm being stupid, but I know if I said right click to a girlfriend of mine she would simply pass out in confusion.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby jeff hammond » Fri Nov 11, 2011 2:43 pm

Box wrote: how you Right Click on a one button mouse.


ctrl + click
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Box » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:05 pm

Thanks Jeff, I guess I knew that, it just threw me reading it before my morning coffee.

By the way, I've used dropbox for years but never thought of this and it works brilliantly, I'd recommend it to anyone.
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby jeff hammond » Fri Nov 11, 2011 4:21 pm

fwiw, apple's one button mouse hasn't been sold since 2005 or so.. the version after that, while it looked like it had only one button (well, i guess it looks like it has no buttons), actually had 4 pressure sensitive areas which could be used for right-clicking.. in 2009(?), they updated again to the magic mouse which again is only one button but it's much smarter than the previous version.. it now depends on where you click, how many fingers you click with, which direction you move your finger(s) in, etc as to what action it preforms.. it's basically a mashup between a mouse and a trackpad.

regardless, i've never used an apple mouse.. always logitech.. but even then, osx requires no special drivers for (most)3rd party mice. plug and play..
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Re: Using DropBox and symbolic links with SketchUp.

Postby Chris Fullmer » Fri Nov 11, 2011 5:19 pm

My friend has one of the magic mice and I nearly bopped him over the head for being so stupid to have a single "mash here" one button mouse.

The he showed me the truth.....wow, its pretty cool.

I still can't live without a middle button to hold down for orbiting in SU. Not sure if you can make one of those magic mouse do that.
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