1. Introduction to ParaView

1.1. Introduction

ParaView is an open-source, multi-platform scientific data analysis and visualization tool that enables analysis and visualization of extremely large datasets. ParaView is both a general purpose, end-user application with a distributed architecture that can be seamlessly leveraged by your desktop or other remote parallel computing resources and an extensible framework with a collection of tools and libraries for various applications including scripting (using Python), web visualization (through trame and ParaViewWeb), or in situ analysis (with Catalyst).

ParaView leverages parallel data processing and rendering to enable interactive visualization for extremely large datasets. It also includes support for large displays including tiled displays and immersive 3D displays with head tracking and wand control capabilities.

ParaView also supports scripting and batch processing using Python. Using included Python modules, you can write scripts that can perform almost all the functionality exposed by the interactive application and much more.

ParaView is open-source (BSD licensed, commercial software friendly). As with any successful open-source project, ParaView is supported by an active user and developer community. Contributions to both the code and this user’s manual that help make the tool and the documentation better are always welcome.

Did you know?

The ParaView project started in 2000 as a collaborative effort between Kitware Inc. and LANL. The initial funding was provided by a three year contract with the US Department of Energy ASCI Views program. The first public release, ParaView 0.6, was announced in October 2002.

Independent of ParaView, Kitware started developing a web-based visualization system in December 2001. This project was funded by Phase I and II SBIRs from the US ARL and eventually became the PVEE. PVEE significantly contributed to the development of ParaView’s client/server architecture. PVEE was the precursor to ParaViewWeb, a modern web visualization solution based on ParaView.

Since the project began, Kitware has successfully collaborated with Sandia, LANL, the ARL, and various other academic and government institutions to continue development. Today, the project is still going strong!

In September 2005, Kitware, Sandia National Labs and CSimSoft started the development of ParaView 3.0. This was a major effort focused on rewriting the user interface to be more user friendly and on developing a quantitative analysis framework. ParaView 3.0 was released in May 2007.

1.1.1. In this guide

This user’s manual is designed as a guide for using the ParaView application. It is geared toward users who have a general understanding of common data visualization techniques. For scripting, a working knowledge of the Python language is assumed. If you are new to Python, there are several tutorials and guides for getting started that are available on the Internet.

Did You Know?

In this guide, we will periodically use these Did you know? boxes to provide additional information related to the topic at hand.

Common Errors

Common Errors blocks are used to highlight some of the common problems or complications you may run into when dealing with the topic of discussion.

This guide is split into several volumes:

  • User’s Guide’s Section 1 to Section 8 cover various aspects of data analysis and visualization with ParaView.

  • Reference Manual’s Section 1 to Section 12 provide details on various components in the UI and the scripting API.

  • Catalyst: Instructions on how to use ParaView’s implementation of the Catalyst API.

  • Tutorials are split into Self-directed Tutorial and Classroom Tutorials:

    • Self-directed Tutorial’s Section 1 to Section 5 provide an introduction to the ParaView software and its history, and exercises on how to use ParaView that cover basic usage, batch python scripting and visualizing large models.

    • Classroom Tutorials’s Section 1 to Section 18 provide beginning, advanced, python and batch, and targeted tutorial lessons on how to use ParaView that are presented as a 3-hour class internally within Sandia National Laboratories.

1.1.2. Getting help

This guide tries to cover most of the commonly used functionality in ParaView. ParaView’s flexible, pipeline-based architecture opens up numerous possibilities. If you find yourself looking for some feature not covered in this guide, refer to the Wiki pages or to the ParaView Discourse forum, specially the FAQ and the Tips and Tricks categories. Also feel free to ask about it under the relevant Support category.

1.1.3. Getting the software

ParaView is open source. The complete source code for all the functionality discussed in The ParaView Guide can be downloaded from the ParaView website http://www.paraview.org. We also provide binaries for the major platforms: Linux, macOS, and Windows. You can get the source files and binaries for the official releases, and follow ParaView’s active development by downloading the nightly builds.

Providing details of how to build ParaView using the source files is beyond the scope of this guide. Refer to the ParaView gitlab (https://gitlab.kitware.com/paraview/paraview/-/blob/master/Documentation/dev/build.md) for more information.

1.2. Basics of visualization in ParaView


Fig. 1.1 Visualization model: Process objects A, B, and C input and/or output one or more data objects. Data objects represent and provide access to data; process objects operate on the data. Objects A, B, and C are source, filter, and mapper objects, respectively. [SML96]

Visualization is the process of converting raw data into images and renderings to gain a better cognitive understanding of the data. ParaView uses VTK, the Visualization Toolkit, to provide the backbone for visualization and data processing.

The VTK model is based on the data-flow paradigm. In this paradigm, data flows through the system being transformed at each step by modules known as algorithms. Algorithms could be common operations such as clipping, slicing, or generating contours from the data, or they could be computing derived quantities, etc. Algorithms have input ports through which they take in data and output ports through which they produce output. You need producers that ingest data into the system. These are simply algorithms that do not have an input port but have one or more output ports. They are called sources . Readers that read data from files are examples of such sources. Additionally, there are algorithms that transform the data into graphics primitives so that they can be rendered on a computer screen or saved to disk in another file. These algorithms, which have one or more input ports but do not have output ports, are called sinks . Intermediate algorithms with input ports and output ports are called filters . Together, sources, filters, and sinks provide a flexible infrastructure wherein you can create complex processing pipelines by simply connecting algorithms to perform arbitrarily complex tasks.

For more information on VTK’s programming model, refer to [SML96].

This way of looking at the visualization pipeline is at the core of ParaView’s work flow: You bring your data into the system by creating a reader – the source. You then apply filters to either extract information (e.g., iso-contours) and render the results in a view or to save the data to disk using writers – the sinks.

ParaView includes readers for a multitude of file formats typically used in the computational science world. To efficiently represent data from various fields with varying characteristics, VTK provides a rich data model that ParaView uses. The data model can be thought of simply as ways of representing data in memory. We will cover the different data types in more detail in Section 3.1. Readers produce a data type suitable for representing the information the files contain. Based on the data type, ParaView allows you to create and apply filters to transform the data. You can also show the data in a view to produce images or renderings. Just as there are several types of filters, each perfoming different operations and types of processing, there are several kinds of views for generating various types of renderings including 3D surface views, 2D bar and line views, parallel coordinate views, etc.

Did You Know?

The Visualization Toolkit (VTK) is an open-source, freely available software system for 3D computer graphics, modeling, image processing, volume rendering, scientific visualization, and information visualization. VTK also includes ancillary support for 3D interaction widgets, two and three-dimensional annotation, and parallel computing.

At its core, VTK is implemented as a C++ toolkit, requiring users to build applications by combining various objects into an application. The system also supports automated wrapping of the C++ core into Python and Java so that VTK applications may also be written using these programming languages. VTK is used world-wide in commercial applications, research and development, and as the basis of many advanced visualization applications such as ParaView, VisIt, VisTrails, Slicer, MayaVi, and OsiriX.

1.3. ParaView executables

ParaView comes with several executables that serve different purposes.

1.3.1. paraview

This is the main ParaView graphical user interface (GUI). In most cases, when we refer to ParaView, we are indeed talking about this application. It is a Qt-based, cross-platform UI that provides access to ParaView computing capabilities. Major parts of this guide are dedicated to understanding and using this application.

1.3.2. pvpython

pvpython is the Python interpreter that runs ParaView’s Python scripts. You can think of this as the equivalent of the paraview for scripting.

1.3.3. pvbatch

Similar to pvpython, pvbatch is also a Python interpreter that runs Python scripts for ParaView. The one difference is that, while pvpython is meant to run interactive scripts, pvbatch is designed for batch processing. Additionally, when running on computing resources with MPI capabilities, pvbatch can be run in parallel. We will cover this in more detail in Section 7.10.

1.3.4. pvserver

For remote visualization, this executable represents the server that does all of the data processing and, potentially, the rendering. You can make paraview connect to pvserver running remotely on an HPC resource. This allows you to build and control visualization and analysis on the HPC resource from your desktop as if you were simply processing it locally on your desktop!

1.3.5. pvdataserver and pvrenderserver

These can be thought of as the pvserver split into two separate executables: one for the data processing part, pvdataserver, and one for the rendering part, pvrenderserver. Splitting these into separate processes makes it possible to perform data processing and rendering on separate sets of nodes with appropriate computing capabilities suitable for the two tasks. Just as with pvserver, paraview can connect to a pvdataserver- pvrenderserver pair for remote visualization. Unless otherwise noted, all discussion of remote visualization or client-server visualization in this guide is applicable to both pvserver and pvdataserver - pvrenderserver configurations.

1.4. Getting started with paraview

1.4.1. paraview graphical user interface

paraview is the graphical front-end to the ParaView application. The UI is designed to allow you to easily create pipelines for data processing with arbitrary complexity. The UI provides panels for you to inspect and modify the pipelines, to change parameters that in turn affect the processing pipelines, to perform various data selection and inspection actions to introspect the data, and to generate renderings. We will cover various aspects of the UI for the better part of this guide.

Let’s start by looking at the various components of the UI. If you run paraview for the first time, you will see something similar to the Fig. 1.2. The UI consists of of menus, dockable panels, toolbars, and the viewport – the central portion of the application window.


Fig. 1.2 paraview application window.

Menus provide the standard set of options typical with a desktop application including options for opening/saving files (File menu), for undo/redo (Edit menu), for the toggle panel, and for toolbar visibilities (View menu). Additionally, the menus provide ways to create sources that generate test datasets of various types (Sources menu), as well new filters for processing data (Filters menu). The Tools menu provides access to some of the advanced features in paraview such as managing plugins and favorites.

Panels provide you with the ability to peek into the application’s state. For example, you can inspect the visualization pipeline that has been set up ( Pipeline Browser ), as well as the memory that is being used ( Memory Inspector ) and the parameters or properties for a processing module ( Properties panel). Several of the panels also allow you to change the values that are displayed, e.g., the Properties panel not only shows the processing module parameters, but it also allows you to change them. Several of the panels are context sensitive. For example, the Properties panel changes to show the parameters from the selected module as you change the active module in the Pipeline Browser .

Toolbars are designed to provide quick access to common functionality. Several of the actions in the toolbar are accessible from other locations, including menus or panels. Similar to panels, some of the toolbar buttons are context sensitive and will become enabled or disabled based on the selected module or view.

The viewport or the central portion of the paraview window is the area where ParaView renders results generated from the data. The containers in which data can be rendered or shown are called views. You can create several different types of views, all of which are laid out in this viewport area. By default, a 3D view is created, which is one of the most commonly used views in ParaView.

1.4.2. Understanding the visualization process

To gain a better understanding of how to use the application interface, let’s consider a simple example: creating a data source and applying a filter to it.

1.4.3. Creating a source

The visualization process in ParaView begins by bringing your data into the application. Section 2 explains how to read data from various file formats. Besides reading files to bring in data into the application, ParaView also provides a collection of data sources that can produce sample datasets. These are available under the Sources menu. To create a source, simply click on any item in the Source menu.

Did You Know?

As you move your cursor over the items in any menu, on most platforms (except macOS), you’ll see a brief description of the item in the status bar on the lower-left corner in the application window.

If you click on Sources > Alphabetical > Sphere, for example, you’ll create a producer algorithm that generates a spherical surface, as shown in Fig. 1.3.


Fig. 1.3 Visualization in paraview: Step 1.

A few things to note:

  1. A pipeline module is added in the Pipeline Browser panel with a name derived from the menu item, as is highlighted.

  2. The Properties panel fills up with text to indicate that it’s showing properties for the highlighted item (which, in this case, is Sphere1 ), as well as to display some widgets for parameters such as Center , Radius , etc.

  3. On the Properties panel, the Apply button becomes enabled and highlighted.

  4. The 3D view remains unaffected, as nothing new is shown or rendered in this view as of yet.

Let’s take a closer look at what has happened. When we clicked on Sources > Sphere, referring to Section 1.2, we created an instance of a source that can produce a spherical surface mesh – that’s what is reflected in the Pipeline Browser . This instance receives a name, which is used by the Sphere1 and the Pipeline Browser , as well as other components of the UI, to refer to this instance of the source. Pipeline modules such as sources and filters have parameters on them that you can change that affect that module’s behavior. We call them properties. The Properties panel shows these properties and allows you to change them. Since the ingestion of data into the system can be a time-consuming process, paraview allows you to change the properties before the module executes or performs the actual processing to ingest the data. Hence, the Apply button is highlighted to indicate that you need to accept the properties before the application will proceed. Since no data has entered the system yet, there’s nothing to show. Therefore, the 3D view remains unaffected.

Let’s assume we are okay with the default values for all of the properties on the Sphere1 . Next, click on the Apply button.

Let’s assume we are okay with the default values for all of the properties on the Sphere1. Next, click on the Apply button.


Fig. 1.4 Visualization in paraview: Step 2.

The following will ensue ( Fig. 1.4 ):

  1. The Apply button goes back to its old disabled/un-highlighted state.

  2. A spherical surface is rendered in the 3D view.

  3. The Display section on the Properties panel now shows new parameters or properties.

  4. Certain toolbars update, and you can see that toolbars with text, such as Solid Color and Surface , now become enabled.

By clicking Apply , we told paraview to apply the properties shown on the Properties panel. When a new source (or filter) is applied for the first time, paraview will automatically show the data that the pipeline module produces in the current view, if possible. In this case, the sphere source produces a surface mesh, which is then shown or displayed in the 3D view.

The properties that allow you to control how the data is displayed in the view are now shown on the Properties panel in the Display section. Things such as the surface color, rendering type or representation, shading parameters, etc., are shown under this newly updated section. We will look at display properties in more detail in Section 4.

Some of the properties that are commonly used are also duplicated in the toolbar. These properties include the data array with which the surface is colored and the representation type. These are the changes in the toolbar that allow you to quickly change some display properties.

1.4.4. Changing properties

If you change any of the properties on the sphere source, such as the properties under the Properties section on the Properties panel, including the Radius for the spherical mesh or its Center , the Apply button will be highlighted again. Once you are finished with all of the property changes, you can hit Apply to apply the changes. Once the changes are applied, paraview will re-execute the sphere source to produce a new mesh, as requested. It will then automatically update the view, and you will see the new result rendered.

If you change any of the display properties for the sphere source, such as the properties under the Display section of the Properties panel (including Representation or Opacity ), the Apply button is not affected, the changes are immediately applied, and the view is updated.

The rationale behind this is that, typically, the execution of the source (or filter) is more computationally intensive than the rendering. Changing source (or filter) properties causes that algorithm to re-execute, while changing display properties, in most cases, only triggers a fresh render with an updated graphics state.

Did You Know?

For some workflows with smaller data sizes, it may be more convenient if the Apply button was automatically applied even after changes are made to the pipeline module properties. You can change this from the application settings dialog, which is accessible from the Edit > Settings menu (ParaView > Preferences… on macOS). The setting is called Auto Apply . You can also change the Auto Apply state using the AutoApplyIcon button from the toolbar.

1.4.5. Applying filters

As per the data-flow paradigm, one creates pipelines with filters to transform data. Similar to the Sources menu, which allows us to create new data sources, there’s a Filters menu that provides access to the large set of filters that are available in ParaView. If you peruse the items in this menu, some of them will be enabled, and some of them will be disabled. Filters that can work with the data type being produced by the sphere source are enabled, while others are disabled. You can click on any of the enabled filters to create a new instance of that filter type.

Did You Know?

To figure out why a particular filter doesn’t work with the current source, simply move your mouse over the disabled item in the Filters menu. On Linux and Windows (not OS X, however), the status bar will provide a brief explanation of why that filter is not available.


For example, if you click on Filters > Shrink, it will create a filter that shrinks each of the mesh cells by a fixed factor. Exactly as before, when we created the sphere source, we see that the newly-created filter is given a new name, Shrink1 , and is highlighted in the Pipeline Browser . The Properties panel is also updated to show the properties for this new filter, and the Apply button is highlighted to request that we accept the properties for the filter so that it can be executed and the result can be rendered. If you click back and forth between the Sphere1 and Shrink1 in the Pipeline Browser , you’ll see the Properties panel and toolbars update, reflecting the state of the selected pipeline module. This is an important concept in ParaView. There’s a notion of active pipeline module, called the active source . Several panels, toolbars, and menus will update based on the active source.

If you click Apply , as was the case before, the shrink filter will be executed and the resulting dataset will be generated and shown in the 3D view. paraview will also automatically hide the result from the Sphere1 so that it is not shown in the view. Otherwise, the two datasets will overlap. This is reflected by the change of state for the eyeball icons in the Pipeline Browser next to each of the pipeline modules. You can show or hide results from any pipeline module by clicking on the eyeballs.

This simple workflow forms the basis of all the data analysis and visualization in ParaView. The process involves creating sources and filters, changing their parameters, and showing the generated result in one or more views. In the rest of this guide, we will cover various types of filters and data processing that you can do. We will also cover different types of views that can help you produce a wide array of 2D and 3D visualizations, as well as inspect your data and drill down into it.

Common Errors

Beginners often forget to hit the Apply button after creating sources or filters or after changing properties. This is one of the most common pitfalls for users new to the ParaView workflow.

1.5. Getting started with pvpython

While this section refers to pvpython, everything that we discuss here is applicable to pvbatch as well. Until we start looking into parallel processing, the only difference between the two executables is that pvpython provides an interactive shell wherein you can type your commands, while pvbatch expects the Python script to be specified on the command line argument.

1.5.1. pvpython scripting interface

ParaView provides a scripting interface to write scripts for performing the tasks that you could do using the GUI. The scripting interface can be accessed through Python, which is an interpreted programming language popular among the scientific community for its simplicity and its capabilities. While a working knowledge of Python will be useful for writing scripts with advanced capabilities, you should be able to follow most of the discussion in this book about ParaView scripting even without much Python exposure.

ParaView provides a paraview package with several Python modules that expose various functionalities. The primary scripting interface is provided by the simple module.

When you start pvpython, you should see a prompt in a terminal window as follows (with some platform specific differences).

Python 3.10.13 (main, Feb  9 2024, 16:19:38)
[Clang 14.0.0 (clang-1400.0.29.202)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

You can now type commands at this prompt, and ParaView will execute them. To bring in the ParaView scripting API, you first need to import the simple module from the paraview package as follows:

>>> from paraview.simple import *

Common Errors

Remember to hit the Enter or Return key after every command to execute it. Any Python interpreter will not execute the command until Enter is hit.

If the module is loaded correctly, pvpython will present a prompt for the next command.

>>> from paraview.simple import *

You can consider this as in the same state as when paraview was started (with some differences that we can ignore for now). The application is ready to ingest data and start processing.

1.5.2. Understanding the visualization process

Let’s try to understand the workflow by looking at the same use-case as we did in Section 1.4.2.

1.5.3. Creating a source

In paraview, we created the data source by using the Sources menu. In the scripting environment, this maps to simply typing the name of the source to create.

>>> Sphere()

This will create the sphere source with a default set of properties. Just like with paraview, as soon as a new pipeline module is created, it becomes the active source.

Now, to show the active source in a view, try:

>>> Show()
>>> Render()

The Show call will prepare the display, while the Render call will cause the rendering to occur. In addition, a new window will popup, showing the result (Fig. 1.5). This is similar to the state after hitting Apply in the UI.


Fig. 1.5 Window showing result from the Python code.

1.5.4. Changing properties

To change the properties on the sphere source, you can use the SetProperties function.

# Set a single property on the active source.
>>> SetProperties(Radius=1.0)

# You can also set multiple properties.
>>> SetProperties(Center=[1, 0, 0], StartTheta=100)

Similar to the Properties panel, SetProperties affects the active source. To query the current value of any property on the active source, use GetProperty .

>>> radius = GetProperty("Radius")
>>> print(radius)
>>> center = GetProperty("Center")
>>> print(center)
[1.0, 0.0, 0.0]

SetProperties and GetProperty functions serve the same function as the Properties section of the Properties panel – they allow you to set and introspect the pipeline module properties for the active source. Likewise, for the Display section of the panel, or the display properties, we have the SetDisplayProperties and GetDisplayProperty functions.

>>> SetDisplayProperties(Opacity=0.5)
>>> GetDisplayProperty("Opacity")

Common Errors

Note how the property names for the SetProperties and SetDisplayProperties functions are not enclosed in double-quotes, while those for the GetProperty and GetDisplayProperty methods are.

In paraview, every time you hit Apply or change a display property, the UI automatically re-renders the view. In the scripting environment, you have to do this manually by calling the Render function every time you want to re-render and look at the updated result.

fixme{we’re missing blurb about reset camera}.

1.5.5. Applying filters

Similar to creating a source, to apply a filter, you can simply create the filter by name.

# Create the `Shrink' filter and connect it to the active source
# which is the `Sphere' instance.
>>> Shrink()
# As soon as the Shrink filter is created, it will now become the new active
# source. All methods acting on active source now act on this filter instance
# and not the Sphere instance created earlier.

# Show the resulting data and render it.
>>> Show()
>>> Render()

If you tried the above script, you’ll notice the result isn’t exactly what we expected. For some reason, the shrank cells are not visible. This is because we missed one stage: In paraview, the UI was smart enough to automatically hide the input dataset for the newly created filter after we hit apply. In the scripting interface, such operations are the user’s responsibility. We should have hidden the sphere source from the view. We can use the Hide method, the counterpart of Show , to hide the active source. But, now we have a problem – when we created the shrink filter, we changed the active source to be the shrink instance. Luckily, all the functions we discussed so far can take an optional first argument, which is the source or filter instance on which to operate. If provided, that instance is used instead of the active source. The solution is as follows:

# Get the input property for the active source, i.e. the input for the shrink.
>>> shrinksInput = GetProperty("Input")

# This is indeed the sphere instance we created earlier.
>>> print(shrinksInput)
<paraview.servermanager.Sphere object at 0x11d731e90>

# Hide the sphere instance explicitly.
>>> Hide(shrinksInput)

# Re-render the result.
>>> Render()

Alternatively, you could also get/set the active source using the GetActiveSource and SetActiveSource functions.

>>> shrinkInstance = GetActiveSource()
>>> print(shrinkInstance)
<paraview.servermanager.Shrink object at 0x11d731ed0>

# Get the input property for the active source, i.e. the input
# for the shrink.
>>> sphereInstance = GetProperty("Input")

# This is indeed the sphere instance we created earlier.
>>> print(sphereInstance)
<paraview.servermanager.Sphere object at 0x11d731e90>

# Change active source to sphere and hide it.
>>> SetActiveSource(sphereInstance)
>>> Hide()

# Now restore the active source back to the shrink instance.
>>> SetActiveSource(shrinkInstance)

# Re-render the result
>>> Render()

The result is shown in Fig. 1.6 .


Fig. 1.6 Window showing result from the Python code after applying the shrink filter.

SetActiveSource has same effect as changing the pipeline module, highlighted in the Pipeline Browser , by clicking on a different module.

1.5.6. Alternative approach

Here’s another way of doing something similar to what we did in the previous section for those familiar with Python and/or object-oriented programming. It’s totally okay to stick with the previous approach.

>>> from paraview.simple import *
>>> sphereInstance = Sphere()
>>> sphereInstance.Radius = 1.0
>>> sphereInstance.Center[1] = 1.0
>>> print(sphereInstance.Center)
[0.0, 1.0, 0.0]

>>> sphereDisplay = Show(sphereInstance)
>>> view = Render()
>>> sphereDisplay.Opacity = 0.5

# Render function can take in an optional view argument, otherwise it
# will simply use the active view.
>>> Render(view)

>>> shrinkInstance = Shrink(Input=sphereInstance,
>>> print(shrinkInstance.ShrinkFactor)
>>> Hide(sphereInstance)
>>> shrinkDisplay = Show(shrinkInstance)
>>> Render()

1.5.7. Updating the pipeline

When changing properties on the Properties panel in paraview, we noticed that the algorithm doesn’t re-execute until you hit Apply . In reality, Apply isn’t what’s actually triggering the execution or the updating of the processing pipeline. What happens is that Apply updates the parameters on the pipeline module and causes the view to render. If the output of the pipeline module is visible in the view, or if the output of any filter connected to it downstream is visible in the view, ParaView will determine that the data rendered is obsolete and request the pipeline to re-execute. It implies that if that pipeline module (or any of the filters downstream from it) is not visible in the view, ParaView will have no reason to re-execute the pipeline, and the pipeline module will not be be updated. If, later on, you do make this module visible in the view, ParaView will automatically update and execute the pipeline. This is often referred to as demand-driven pipeline execution . It makes it possible to avoid unnecessary module executions.

In paraview, you can get by without ever noticing this since the application manages pipeline updates automatically. In pvpython too, if your scripts are producing renderings in views, you’d never notice this as long as you remember to call Render . However, you may want to write scripts to produce transformed datasets or to determine data characteristics. In such cases, since you may never create a view, you’ll never be seeing the pipeline update, no matter how many times you change the properties.

Accordingly, you must use the UpdatePipeline function. UpdatePipeline updates the pipeline connected to the active source (or only until the active source, i.e., anything downstream from it, won’t be updated).

>>> from paraview.simple import *
>>> sphere = Sphere()

# Print the bounds for the data produced by sphere.
>>> print(sphere.GetDataInformation().GetBounds())
(1e+299, -1e+299, 1e+299, -1e+299, 1e+299, -1e+299)
# The bounds are invalid -- no data has been produced yet.

# Update the pipeline explicitly on the active source.
>>> UpdatePipeline()

# Alternative way of doing the same but specifying the source
# to update explicitly.
>>> UpdatePipeline(proxy=sphere)

# Let's check the bounds again.
>>> sphere.GetDataInformation().GetBounds()
(-0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.5, 0.5)

# If we call UpdatePipeline() again, this will have no effect since
# the pipeline hasn't been modified, so there's no need to re-execute.
>>> UpdatePipeline()
>>> sphere.GetDataInformation().GetBounds()
(-0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.5, 0.5)

# Now let's change a property.
>>> sphere.Radius = 10

# The bounds won't change since the pipeline hasn't re-executed.
>>> sphere.GetDataInformation().GetBounds()
(-0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.48746395111083984, 0.48746395111083984, -0.5, 0.5)

# Let's update and see:
>>> UpdatePipeline()
>>> sphere.GetDataInformation().GetBounds()
(-9.749279022216797, 9.749279022216797, -9.749279022216797, 9.749279022216797, -10.0, 10.0)

We will look at the sphere.GetDataInformation API in Section 3.3 in more detail.

For temporal datasets, UpdatePipeline takes in a time argument, which is the time for which the pipeline must be updated.

# To update to time 10.0:
>>> UpdatePipeline(10.0)

# Alternative way of doing the same:
>>> UpdatePipeline(time=10.0)

# If not using the active source:
>>> UpdatePipeline(10.0, source)
>>> UpdatePipeline(time=10.0, proxy=source)

1.6. Scripting in paraview

1.6.1. The Python Shell

The paraview application also provides access to an internal shell, in which you can enter Python commands and scripts exactly as with pvpython. To access the Python shell in the GUI, use the View > Python Shell menu option. A dialog will pop up with a prompt exactly like pvpython. You can try inputting commands from the earlier section into this shell. As you type each of the commands, you will see the user interface update after each command, e.g., when you create the sphere source instance, it will be shown in the Pipeline Browser . If you change the active source, the Pipeline Browser and other UI components will update to reflect the change. If you change any properties or display properties, the Properties panel will update to reflect the change as well!


Fig. 1.7 Python Shell in paraview provides access to the scripting.

Did You Know?

The Python Shell in paraview supports auto-completion for functions and instance methods. Try hitting the Tab key after partially typing any command (as shown in Fig. 1.7).

1.6.2. Tracing actions for scripting

This guide provides a fair overview of ParaView’s Python API. However, there will be cases when you just want to know how to complete a particular action or sequence of actions that you can do with the GUI using a Python script instead. To accomplish this, paraview supports tracing your actions in the UI as a Python script. Simply start tracing by clicking on Tools > Start Trace. paraview now enters a mode where all your actions (or at least those relevant for scripting) are monitored. Any time you create a source or filter, open data files, change properties and hit Apply , interact with the 3D scene, or save screenshots, etc., your actions will be monitored. Once you are done with the series of actions that you want to script, click Tools > Stop Trace. paraview will then pop up an editor window with the generated trace. This will be the Python script equivalent for the actions you performed. You can now save this as a script to use for batch processing.