Houdini 20.0 Shelf tools

Customize the shelf shelf tool

How to change the look of the shelf, change and rearrange its contents, and create your own shelf tools.

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The shelf is the strip of icons along the top of the main window. It gives you quick access to commonly used functions. You can customize the shelf to set up your own tabs, as well as add your own scripts and digital assets to the shelf.

The shelf has three basic units of customization:

Shelf set

A set of tabs appearing in their own resizable partition of the shelf.


A set of tools appearing inside a shelf set. The same tab can be present in multiple shelf sets.


An icon hooked up to a script to activate a tool or perform some other action. The same tool can be present on multiple tabs.

Both tabs and shelf sets are saved to .shelf files. Tabs define the tab name/label and the tools to display in the correct order. Shelf sets contains the tabs and the order to display them.

All tools are saved in toolbar tabs. All toolbar tabs are saved in a single .shelf file on disk in a the $HOUDINI_TOOLBAR_PATH or in a toolbar directory within the $HOUDINI_PATH. Shelf sets are collections of toolbar tabs and are also saved in .shelf a file containing the references to the toolbar tabs.

In addition to disk files, shelf tools can be saved inside HDAs. To specify an HDA as the storage location for shelf tools, you can use the opdef: prefix in the file path, e.g., opdef:/Object/foo for the HDA object operator called “foo”.

There is also a special file name called, session:, that is intended for temporary tools that don’t need to persist between Houdini sessions. Such tools are not saved to any file on disk and are lost after Houdini exists.

Adding to and editing the shelf

To...Do this

Rearrange tools and tabs

  • Drag tools within a tab to rearrange them. You can also drag a tool onto a different tab to move it there.

  • Drag tabs to rearrange them in a shelf set. You can also drag tabs between shelf sets.

Create a new shelf item to run a script

See how to create a shelf item.

Create a new action that adds a node when clicked

  1. Create an example of the node you want in the network editor. Set its parameters to the settings you want the node to have when you add it using the shelf item.

  2. Drag the node from the network editor up to the shelf and drop it on the tab.

  3. Now when you click the new shelf item, if the network pane is showing the right kind of network, Houdini will create a copy of the node you dragged up to the shelf.

Edit an existing tool

Click RMB the tool and choose Edit tool. See the Edit tool window for more information.

Add a tab to a shelf set

Click the tab options menu or the and choose New Shelf.

Edit which tools appear on a tab

Click RMB the tab and choose Edit tab.

Add a shelf set to the shelf

Click the shelf menu and choose New Shelf Set.

Edit which tabs appear in a shelf set

Click the shelf menu in the shelf set’s partition and choose Edit Shelf Set.

Assign a global hotkey to a shelf tool

Hold ⇧ Shift + ⌃ Ctrl + Alt and click the shelf item.

For more information, see Configure hotkeys.

Rename a shelf set

Click the shelf menu, and choose Edit Shelf Set.

Showing and hiding tabs and shelf sets

To...Do this

Show or hide tabs in a shelf set

Click the tab options menu and use the lower menu of tabs to turn tabs on or off.

Show or hide a shelf set

Click the shelf menu and use the Shelf Sets submenu to turn shelf sets on or off.

Downloading shelf sets

  1. Click the tab options menu and choose Download Shelf.

  2. A dialog appears showing you available shelf sets on the Exchange.

  3. Select the package you want to install and click Download.

You can use the Install shelf to menu to choose the toolbar directory on the path into which you want to save the downloaded shelf information.

Customizing the Tab menu

You can make shelf items appear in the ⇥ Tab menu as well. See the section on the Tab menu for more information.

Shelf tools

Using the shelf

  • Customize the shelf

    How to change the look of the shelf, change and rearrange its contents, and create your own shelf tools.