Houdini 16.5 Basics

Desktops and panes

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Overview

Houdini’s interface is divided into rectanglar panes, with each pane containing at least one editor or view tab. You can add more tabs, just like browser tabs, where each tab contains a different pane type, or similar pane types viewing different data.

  • You can add, remove, resize, and reconfigure the panes. You can switch to alternative layouts, and create and save your own custom layouts.

  • You can have multiple pane tabs of the same type. For example, you can have one network pane following the selection, and another network pane that always

  • Panes can exist in floating windows on top of the main window.

Desktops

Houdini ships with different desktops suited to different tasks. A desktop is a preset pane layout, set of shelf tabs, and default radial menu designed for specific tasks, such as modeling or shader building. Houdini ships with several pre-made desktops, and you can also save and use your own custom desktops.

You can work with desktops using the desktops list pop-up menu at the top of the main window.

Mac

On Mac, Houdini has a Desktops menu in the main menus instead of a pop-up in the main window.

To...Do this

Switch to a different pane layout

Open the Desktop list menu and choose the desktop to switch to.

Save the current pane configuration, shelf setup, and radial menu as a new desktop

Open the Desktop list menu and choose Save current desktop as.

Save any changes you've made to the current desktop

Open the Desktop list menu and choose Save current desktop.

Revert to the last saved version of the current layout

Open the Desktop list menu and choose Reload current desktop.

Delete, rename, and manage saved desktops

Open the Desktop list menu and choose Desktop manager to open the desktop manager window.

Start with a completely blank configuration

Open the Desktop list menu and choose New desktop.

The new desktop starts with a single viewer pane and blank shelf. You will have to re-add the shelf tabs you want to be available in the new desktop. See how to use the shelf.

Pane management

To...Do this

Resize panes

Drag the divider between the panes.

Collapse the panes on one side of a divider

Click one of the arrows near the center of the divider. You can click the arrow again to expand the panes again.

Maximize a pane

Click the maximize button in the pane’s tab bar.

Create a new tab

Click the new tab icon in a pane’s tab bar and choose the pane type for the new tab.

Save and restore different pane layouts

See pane layouts below.

Setting up a new pane layout

These are some useful controls for large-scale editing of the pane layout.

Tip

If you mess up the pane layout, you can reset to the last saved version of the layout by opening the Desktop list pop-up and choosing Reload current desktop.

To...Do this

Split a pane into two new panes

Click the pane’s menu and choose Split left/right or Split top/bottom.

Delete a pane and all its tabs

Click the pane’s menu and choose Close pane (all tabs).

Swap the panes on either side of a divider

Click the center of the divider.

Switch a vertical divider to horizontal or horizontal to vertical

Alt-click the center of the divider.

Floating panes

You can open a new window that floats above the main window that can hold its own set of panes and tabs. This is especially useful when you have multiple monitors. You can keep a second window full of useful panes on a separate monitor from the main window.

Tip

You can drag and drop pane tabs between panels and between a panel and the main Houdini window.

To...Do this

Create a new panel window

Choose Window ▸ New floating panel.

Set up a panel to appear only when a certain desktop is active

Open the pane menu and choose Floating panel ▸ Attach this panel to desktop.

Tip

Any floating panels that are open when you save the desktop are "attached" to the desktop, so they are only visible when that desktop is active.

Floating panel menu

All panes in a panel have an extra Floating Panel submenu in the pane menu, containing the following items:

Tip

When you choose a Move X to this panel item (for example, Move main menu to this panel), the item changes to Reset X to desktop (e.g. Reset menu menu to desktop). Choosing the item again resets the user interface element back to its default place in the main Houdini window.

Attach this Panel to Desktop

When this option is on, the panel only appears when the current desktop (pane configuration) is open. See how to use desktops above.

Fullscreen Panel

When this option is on, the panel fills the screen without any window border. This is useful for a floating panel on a secondary monitor in a multi-monitor setup.

Move Main Menu to this Panel

Moves the main menu from the main Houdini window to the top of this panel.

This item is only available on Windows and Linux. See also > Pane interface ▸ Move main menu here, which puts the main menu at the top of an individual pane rather than across the top of all panes in a panel.

Move Shelf to this Panel

Moves the shelf from the main Houdini window to the top of this panel.

After you use this command to move the shelf, it changes to Reset shelf to desktop. Choose this item to return the main menu to its default position in the main Houdini window.

Move playbar to this Panel

Moves the playbar to the bottom of this panel instead of along the bottom of the entire main window.

Move Status Bar to this Panel

Moves the status bar to the bottom of this panel instead of along the bottom of the entire main window. Only available on Windows and Linux.

Pane location and pinning tabs

Viewer and editor panes show the path of the at the top of the pane.

  • Click any of the components of the path to jump to that network level.

  • Right click the path for a menu of options.

  • Click the menu button at the right end, or click the arrows at the left end to navigate through the history of locations.

  • Press ⌃ Ctrl + L to hand-edit the location if you know the exact path you want to go to.

Pinning

By default, all panes are unpinned, meaning they follow the current selection. For example:

  • When you dive into a Geometry container in the network editor, the 3D view also switches to the show the geometry network inside.

  • When you select a node in the network editor, the parameter editor switches to show the parameters for the selected node.

You can pin individual panes to their current network/node. For example, you can pin a parameter editor tab to always show the same node instead of following the selection, or pin a network editor tab

Click the Pin button at the top of a pane tab to pin the tab to its current network/node. When the button is pushed in, the tab will not follow the selection.

Tip

When you create new tabs of certain types, such as new network editor tabs, Houdini automatically creates them pinned, since it assumes you only need one pane automatically following the selection.

Advanced: tab linking

Note

Tab linking can be complicated and unintuitive. Longtime Houdini users may have workflows that rely on linking, but new users can probably ignore it and just use pinning and unpinning.

The default unpinned tabs follow each others' selection because they are linked. Linking is kind of like watching a channel: all the default tabs are watching the channel called Last Selected Node, so when the selected node changes, the linked tabs switch to that network. You can choose to tune some tabs into a different channel (for example, channel 1 or channel 2), so that those tabs will change networks together, and ignore changes to the locations of tabs that are watching other channels.

To set a tab’s channel, right click the Pin button at the top of the tab, then choose a channel for the tab to follow.

  • "No link" means the tab is pinned, so it won’t change in response to what happens in other tabs. The pin icon changes to the pinned icon.

  • "Last Selected Node" means the tab is unpinned, so it will follow the selected node. The pin icon changes to the unpinned icon.

  • Choosing a channel number means all tabs on that channel will change networks together. The pin icon changes to show the channel number instead of an icon.

Tips and tricks

  • You can have Houdini color code panes by the type of network they're viewing. This might be useful to help keep track of when you're viewing an object, geometry, or dynamics network.

    Choose Edit ▸ Preferences ▸ General User Interface and turn on Color pane headers with network contexts.

  • Right click an existing tab to change its pane type.

  • Drag the sync icon from one pane onto another to switch that pane to the first pane’s location.

  • You can switch tabs in the pane under the mouse using hotkeys:

    ⌃ Ctrl + PgDn

    Next tab

    ⌃ Ctrl + PgUp

    Previous tab

Basics

Getting started

Next steps

Customization

Guru-level