Speaking as one who fought with SketchUp alone to the point of nearly walking away, I know of what I speak. Before I blather on, the thing you describe here "i find it hard to make a side panel as a component on its own when i need dimensions from the rest of the design to carry over to the component" is well covered in Dave's Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers, the Basics - DVD. I learned a lot from what he was showing but, I learned even more in watching 'how' he was doing what he was showing.
Originally Posted by Rob Keeble
Pencil and paper are great but, SketchUp adds 'what if?' functions to try out design modifications quickly and painlessly, automatic alteration of dimensions and so forth. Dave Richards helped me make the jump to that ah-ha moment where I suddenly realized I was looking at a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional space.
"Space" . . . that is the key for me. While working I have to live in the three dimensional space I am creating although I am looking at it in two dimensions. The years of 2D application use had a deeper grip on me than I thought. I am no expert and I am not into the very involved renderings and so forth but, for sketching out a design idea, finalizing it or modifying it while in progress, SketchUp is working for me.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke