12. Customizing ParaView

ParaView can be customized in a number of ways to tailor it to your preferences and needs. Customization options include setting general application behavior, customizing default property values used for filters, representations, and views, and customizing aspects of the paraview client. This chapter describes the different ways to customize ParaView.

12.1. Settings

As with any large application, paraview provides mechanisms to customize some of its application behavior. These are referred to as application settings . or just settings. Such settings can be changed using the Settings dialog, which is accessed from the Edit > Settings menu (ParaView > Preferences on the Mac). We have seen parts of this dialog earlier, e.g., in Section 1.2, Section 7.12.1, and Section 7.12.4. In this section, we will take a closer look at some of the other options available in this dialog.

The Settings dialog is split into several tabs. The General tab consolidates most of the miscellaneous settings. The Camera tab enables you to change the mouse interaction mappings for the Render View and similar views. The Render View tab, which we saw earlier in Section 7.12.1 and Section 7.12.4, provides options in regards to rendering in Render View and similar views. The Color Palette tab is used to change the active color palette.

Using this dialog is not much different than the Properties panel. You have the Search box at the top, which allows you to search properties matching the input text ( Section 1.1.2). The pqAdvanced button can be used to toggle between default and advanced modes.

To apply the changes made to any of the settings, use the Apply or OK buttons. OK will apply the changes and close the dialog, while Cancel will reject any changes made and close the dialog. Any changes made to the options in this dialog are persistent across sessions. That is, the next time you launch paraview, you’ll still be using the same settings chosen earlier. To revert to the default, use the Restore Defaults button. You can also manually edit the setting file as in Section 12.3. Furthermore, site maintainers can provide site-wide defaults for these, as is explained in Section 12.3.1.

Next, we will see some of the important options available. Those that are only available in the advanced mode are indicated as such using the pqAdvanced icon. You will either need to toggle on the advanced options with the pqAdvanced button or search for the option using the Search box.

12.1.1. General settings


Fig. 12.1 Settings dialog in paraview showing the General settings tab.

  • General Options

    • Show Welcome Dialog : Uncheck this to not show the welcome screen at application startup. You will need to restart paraview to see the effect. pqAdvanced

    • Show Save State On Exit : When this is checked paraview will prompt you to save a state file when you exit the application. pqAdvanced

    • Crash Recovery : When this is checked, paraview will intermittently save a backup state file as you make changes in the visualization pipeline. If paraview crashes for some reason, then when you relaunch paraview, it will provide you with a choice to load the backup state saved before the crash occurred. This is not \(100\%\) reliable, but some users may find it useful to avoid losing their visualization state due to a crash. pqAdvanced

    • Force Single Column Menus : On platforms that support multicolumn menus, ensure all menu items are selectable on low-resolution screens.

  • GUI Font

    • Override Font : When checked, use a custom font size for the user interface. This overrides the system default font size.

    • Font Size : The size of the font to use for UI elements.

  • View Options

    • Default View Type : When paraview starts up, it creates Render View by default. You can use this option to change the type of the view that is created by default, instead of the Render View . You can even pick None if you don’t want to create any view by default. pqAdvanced

  • Properties Panel Options

    • Auto Apply : When checked, the Properties panel will automatically apply any changes you make to the properties without requiring you to click the Apply button. The same setting can also be toggled using the pqAdvanced button in the Main Controls toolbar.

    • Auto Apply Active Only : This limits the auto-applying to the properties on the active source alone. pqAdvanced

    • Properties Panel Mode : This allows you to split the Properties panel into separate panels as described in Section 1.2. pqAdvanced

  • Data Processing Options

    • Auto Convert Properties : Several filters only work on one type of array, e.g., point data arrays or cell data arrays. Before using such filters, you are expected to apply the Point Data To Cell Data or Cell Data To Point Data filters. To avoid having to add these filters explicitly, you can check this checkbox. When checked, ParaView will automatically convert data arrays as needed by filters, including converting cell array to point arrays and vice-versa, as well as extracting a single component from a multi-component array.

  • Color/Opacity Map Range Options

    • Transfer Function Reset Mode : This setting controls the initial settings for how ParaView will reset the ranges for color and opacity maps (or transfer functions). This sets the initial value of the Automatic Rescale Range Mode for newly created color/opacity maps ( Section 3.2.2). This setting can be changed on a per-color map basis after the color map has been created.

    • Scalar Bar Mode : This settings controls how paraview manages showing the color legend (or scalar bar) in Render View and similar views.

  • Default Time Step Whenever a dataset with timesteps is opened, this setting controls how paraview will update the current time shown by the application. You can choose between Leave current time unchanged, if possible, Go to first timestep, and Go to last timestep.

  • Animation

    • Cache Geometry For Animation : This enables caching of geometry when playing animations to attempt to speed up animation playback in a loop. When caching is enabled, data ranges reported by the Information panel and others can be incorrect, since the pipeline may not have updated. pqAdvanced

    • Animation Geometry Cache Limit : When animation caching is enabled, this setting controls how much geometry (in kilobytes) can be cached by any rank. As soon as a rank’s cache size reaches this limit, ParaView will no longer cache the remaining timesteps. pqAdvanced

    • Animation Time Notation : Sets the display notation for the time in the annotation toolbar. Options are Mixed , Scientific , and Fixed .

    • Animation Time Precision : Sets the number of digits displayed in the time in the animation toolbar.

  • Maximum Number of Data Representation Labels When a selection is labeled by data attributes this is the maximum number of labels to use. When the number of points/cells to label is above this value then a subset of this many will be labeled instead. Too many overlapping labels becomes illegible, so this is set to 100 by default.

12.1.2. Camera settings


Fig. 12.2 Settings dialog in paraview showing the Camera settings tab.

This tab allows you to control how you can interact in Render View and similar views. Basically, you are setting up a mapping between each of the mouse buttons and keyboard modifiers, and the available interaction types including Rotate, Pan, Zoom, etc. The dialog allows you to set the interaction mapping separately for 3D and 2D interaction modes (see Section

12.1.3. Render View settings

Refer to Section 7.12.1 and Section 7.12.4 for various options available on the Render View tab.

12.1.4. Color Palette


Fig. 12.3 Settings dialog in paraview showing the Color Palette settings tab.

The Color Palette tab ( Fig. 12.3) allows you to change the colors in the active color palette. The tab lists the available color categories Surface , Foreground , Edges , Background , Text , and Selection . You can manually set colors to use for each of these categories or load one of the predefined palettes using the Load Palette option. To understand color palettes , let’s look at an example.

Let’s start paraview and split the active view to create two Render View instances side by side. You may want to start paraview with the -dr command line argument to stop any of your current settings from interfering with this demo. Next, show Sphere as Wireframe in the view on the left, and show Cone as Surface in the view on the right. Also, turn on Cube Axis for Cone . You will see something like Fig. 12.4 (top).


Fig. 12.4 The effect of loading the Print color palette as the active palette. The top is the original visualization and the bottom shows the result after loading the Print palette.

Now let’s say you want to generate an image for printing. Typically, for printing, you’d want the background color to be white, while the wireframes and annotations to be colored black. To do that, one way is to go change each of the colors for each each of the views, displays and cube-axes. You can imagine how tedious that will get especially with larger pipelines. Alternatively, using the Settings dialog, change the active color palette to Print as shown in Fig. 12.3 and then click OK or Apply . The visualization will immediately change to something like Fig. 12.4 (bottom).

Essentially, ParaView allows you to link any color property to one of the color categories. When the color palette is changed, any color property linked to a palette category will also be automatically updated to match the category color. Fig. 12.5 shows how to link a color property to a color palette category in the Properties panel. Use the tiny drop-down menu marker to make the menu pop up that shows the color palette categories. Select any one of them to link that property with the category. The link is automatically severed if you manually change the color by simply clicking on the button.


Fig. 12.5 Popup menu allows you to link a color property to a color palette category in the Properties panel.}

12.2. Custom default settings

The section describes how to specify custom default settings for the properties of sources, readers, filters, representations, and views. This can be used to specify, for example, the default background color for new views, whether a gradient background should be used, the resolution of a sphere source, which data arrays to load from a particular file format, and the default setting for almost any other object property.

The same custom defaults are used across all the ParaView executables. This means that custom defaults specified in the paraview executable are also used as defaults in pvpython and pvbatch, which makes it easier to set up a visualization with paraview and use pvpython or pvbatch to generate an animation from time-series data, for example.

12.2.1. Customizing defaults for properties

The Properties panel in paraview has three sections, Properties , Display , and View . Each section has two buttons. These buttons are circled in red in Fig. 12.6. The button with the disk icon is used to save the current property values in that section that have been applied with the Apply button. Property values that have been changed but not applied with the Apply button will not be saved as custom default settings.

The button with the circular arrow (or reload icon) is used to restore any custom property settings for the object to ParaView’s application defaults. Once you save the current property settings as defaults, those values will be treated as the defaults from then on until you change them to another value or reset them. The saved defaults are written to a configuration file so that they are available when you close and launch ParaView again.


Fig. 12.6 Buttons for saving and restoring default property values in the Properties panel.

You can undo your changes to the default property values by clicking on the reload button. This will reset the current view property values to paraview’s application defaults. To fully restore paraview’s default values, you need to click the save button again. If you don’t, the restored default values will be applied only to the current object, and new instances of that object will have the custom default values that were saved the last time you clicked the save button.

12.2.2. Example: specifying a custom background color

Suppose you want to change the default background color in the Render View . To do this, scroll down to the View section of the Properties panel and click on the combo box that shows the current background color. Select a new color, and click OK . Next, scroll up to the View (Render View) section header and click on the disk button to the right of the header. This will save the new background color as the default background color for new views. To see this, click on the + sign next to the tab above the 3D view to create a new layout. Click on the Render View button. A new render view will be created with the custom background color you just saved as default.

12.3. Configuring settings with JSON

Settings are stored in a text file in the JSON format. We recommend to use the user interface in paraview to set most default values, but it is possible to set them by editing the JSON settings file directly. It is always a good idea to make a backup copy of a settings file prior to manual editing.

The ParaView executables read from and write to a file named ParaView-UserSettings.json, which is located in your home directory on your computer. On Windows, this file is located at %APPDATA%/ParaView/ParaView-UserSettings.json, where the APPDATA environment variable is usually something like C:/Users/USERNAME/AppData/Roaming, where USERNAME is your login name. On Unix-like systems, it is located under ~/.config/ParaView/ParaView-UserSettings.json. This file will exist if you have made any default settings changes through the user interface in the paraview executable. Once set, these default settings will be available in subsequent versions of ParaView.

A simple example of a file that specifies custom default settings is shown below:

  "sources" : {
    "SphereSource" : {
      "Radius" : 3.5,
      "ThetaResolution" : 32
    "CylinderSource" : {
      "Radius" : 2
  "views" : {
    "RenderView" : {
      "Background" : [0.0, 0.0, 0.0]

Note the hierarchical organization of the file. The first level of the hierarchy specifies the group to which the object whose settings are being specified refers (“sources” in this example). The second level names the object whose settings are being specified. Finally, the third level specifies the custom default settings themselves. Note that default values can be set to literal numbers, strings, or arrays (denoted by comma-separated literals in square brackets).

The names of groups and objects come from the XML proxy definition files in ParaView’s source code in the directory ParaView/ParaViewCore/ServerManager/SMApplication/Resources (ParaView\ParaViewCore\ServerManager\SMApplication\Resources on Windows systems) . The group name is defined by the name attribute in a ProxyGroup element. The object name comes from the name attribute in the Proxy element (or elements of vtkSMProxy subclasses). The property names come from the name attribute in the *Property XML elements for the object.

Did you know?

The application-wide settings available in paraview through the Edit > Settings menu are also saved to this user settings file. Hence, if you have changed the application settings, you will see some entries under a group named “settings”.

12.3.1. Configuring site-wide settings

In addition to individual settings, ParaView offers a way to specify site-wide settings for a ParaView installation. These site-wide settings must be defined in a JSON file with the same structure as the user settings file. In fact, one way to create a site settings file is to set the settings as desired in paraview, close the program, and then copy the user settings file to the site settings file. The site settings file must be named ParaView-SiteSettings.json.

The ParaView executables will search for the site settings file in several locations. If you installed ParaView in the directory INSTALL, then the ParaView executables will search for the site settings file in these directories in the specified order:

  • INSTALL/share/paraview-X.Y ( INSTALLshareparaview-X.Y in Windows systems)

  • INSTALL/lib (INSTALLlib in Windows systems)


  • INSTALL/.. (INSTALL/lib in Windows systems)

where X is ParaView’s major version number and Y is the minor version number. ParaView executables will search these directories in the given order, reading in the first ParaView-SiteSettings.json file it finds. The conventional location for this kind of configuration file is in the share directory (the first directory searched), so we recommend placing the site settings file there.

The user settings take precedence over site settings. If the same settings are specified in both the ParaView-SiteSettings.json file and ParaView-UserSettings.json file in a user’s directory, the setting specified in the ParaView-UserSettings.json file will be used. This is true for both custom default settings and application-settings set through the Edit > Settings menu.

To aid in debugging problems with the site settings file location, you can define an evironment variable named PV_SETTINGS_DEBUG to something other than an empty string. This will turn on verbose output showing where the ParaView executables are looking for the site settings file.

12.3.2. Configuring server settings

In addition to settings for ParaView, it is possible to specify default values for pvserver, pvdataserver and pvrenderserver command line options using server settings.

Server settings file are located in the same potential locations as the user settings described in Section 12.3, but the name of the file itself is ParaViewServer-UserSettings.json.

Only the following connection command-line options can be specified:
  • --connect-id

  • --hostname

  • --client-host

  • --reverse-connection

  • --timeout

  • --timeout-command

  • --timeout-command-interval

  • --bind-address

The expected formating of the server settings file is as follows:

The name of the setting is the “long” version of the option, without the two leading dashes.

The server settings can only be set manually in the file and cannot be modified from the ParaView application.

Did you know?

The application-wide settings logic is also valid for server settings and a ParaViewServer-SiteSettings.json in the locations specified in the Section 12.3.1 will be used in the same way.