Sunday, September 13, 2009

Splitting and Joining Windows

Blender's default scene has 3 windows, the preferences window, the 3d window in the middle, and the buttons window at the bottom. It's possible to split and join windows, and to turn the window into a different type, so that you get different views.

Steps to demonstrate:
1) Start up Blender 2.49b, to get to the default scene.
2) Delete the default cube (right click on the cube to select, then either the delete key or X, then Enter).
3) Add Suzanne, Blender's monkey mascot (SPACE - Add - Mesh - Monkey).

Now we're going to split the 3D viewport window into 4 windows, to show the top, right side, front, and camera views, at the same time. First, we split the window horizontally, as follows:

4) Drag the cursor to the extreme left edge of the 3D viewport. The cursor changes to a double sided arrow. When you right click, you get a menu with a choice of No Header or Split Area. Click on Split area.
5) You will see a horizontal line. The line shows where the 3D window will be split if you left click. You can move the line to control exactly where you want the split to occur. When you are satisfied with the split, left click and the window will split horizontally into 2 windows.

We need 4 windows. We will split each window vertically start with the top 3D window, and drag the cursor to the window's bottom edge. The cursor will change to a double sided arrow, this time pointing vertically. When it does, right click, choose Split Area, and you will see a vertical line showing where the window will be split. The line will be in the window that will be split. When you are at the place where you want the window to split, left click to split the window.

Do the same procedure with the bottom window, until you get 4 windows.

Each window can be switched to a different type. Blender has many types of windows. If you click on the 3D icon, at the lower left side of the window, you can see all the types. Let's switch to the outline window, which shows all the objects in our scene in a table. As you get more comfortable with Blender, you will switch windows often. The outliner is a handy way to switch between different objects in the scene without having to navigate. It helps when the scene becomes complicated. Our scene has, in addition to Suzanne, a camera and a lamp. Click on the outliner icon and change our view back to 3D.

Right now, each window has the same view of Suzanne, the top view, looking at her from the top down. I just happen to know that. Blender can tell us what view we're in, and it's a good idea that you know as well. To display the view orientation, open up the User Preferences window (it has an I, for Information, label, in the upper left corner. Drag on the bottom of the window until you see a double arrow. Left click and drag down until the window opens up. Press the View Names button, on the left row. The button darkens, which is Blender's way of telling you that the feature is active. Then close the window by clicking on the lower left corner and dragging up.

Note that on each window, on the upper left corner, is the phrase "Top Ortho". This means that the window is in Top View, in what's called Orthographic mode. Orthographic mode means that distance is not taken into account and that the size of the object is not distorted by distance. Most of the time you will model in orthographic mode. We'll discover another mode soon.

Using the View Menu of the 3d window, you can change each view to a different perspective. By using the menu, change the first window to Top, the second window to Front, the third window to Right (the default side), and the fourth window to Camera. Now move the monkey, by right clicking on Suzanne to select it (a pink highlight displays), and then pressing the G key and then dragging the mouse. You can see the effect of moving the monkey in each window.

Look at the window that's in camera view. Note that the indicator in the top right corner of the window is "Camera Persp". Persp stands for Perspective view, which means that distance is taken into account. It's like a highway, where parallel lines meet at a long distance. In orthographic mode, the parallel lines will not meet.

There are shortcuts on the numeric keypad for switching to each view. They are:
Top View: NUM7
Front View: NUM1
Side (Right) View: NUM3
Camera View: NUM0

Also, by holding the CTRL key at the same time as pressing the numeric keypad, you get the opposite view. Thus:
Bottom View: Ctrl-NUM7
Back View: Ctrl-NUM1
Side (Left) View: Ctrl-NUM3

Ctrl-NUM0 gives you a message "Object as Camera". I guess this is the back of the camera, which isn't too useful, since you won't see anything.

NUM5 toggles between orthographic and perspective, for any view.

To join windows, drag the cursor to the border of the windows to join. When the cursor changes to a double arrow, Right Click and select Join Areas. You'll see a huge arrow, which tells you in what direction the joining will take place. Press Enter to join the windows. You can join either horizontally or vertically.

One last point. If the view is not one of the standard views, say, you rotate your view using the middle mouse button, or alt-Left mouse button if you have turned on 3D button emulation in your preferences window, Blender calls that view "User", which means you chose your own special, tilted view.