Next Previous Contents

4. Commands

There are two types of commands in partiview: Control Commands and Data Commands. Probably the most important difference between the two is that Control Commands return feedback to the user, whereas Data Commands are interpreted without comment. The command window expects to receive Control Commands. However, it is possible to enter a Data Command where a Control Command is expected, using the add command prefix. Likewise, a Control Command may be given where data is expected, using the eval prefix, e.g. in a data (or .cf) file. The real (Control) Command expects data commands, but if Control Commands are needed, they need to be preceded with the eval command. See also the previous starlab example.

4.1 Control Commands

(see partibrains.c::specks_parse_args)

Control Commands are accepted in the Command window, and in some other contexts. Generally, partiview gives a response to every Control Command, reporting the (possibly changed) status.

Typically, if parameters are omitted, the current state is reported.

Some commands apply to particles in the current group (see Object group commands); others affect global things, such as time or display settings.

Data Commands can also be given, if prefixed with add.

4.2 I/O Control Commands

read specks-file

Read a file containing Data Commands (typical suffix .cf or .speck).

async unix-command

Run an arbitrary unix command (invoked via /bin/sh) as a subprocess of partiview. Its standard output is interpreted as a stream of control commands. Thus partiview can be driven externally, e.g. to record an animation (using the snapshot command), or to provide additional GUI controls. Several async commands can run concurrently. Examples are given later. Warning: you cannot interrupt a started command, short of hitting ESC to exit partiview.

add data-command

Enter a Data Command where a Control Command is expected, e.g. in the text input box. For example,

  add 10 15 -1 text blah
adds a new label "blah" at 10 15 -1, or
  add kira myrun.out
loads a kira (starlab) output file.

eval control-command

Processes that control command just as if the eval prefix weren't there. Provided for symmetry: wherever either a control command or a data command is expected, entering eval control-command ensures that it's taken as a control command.

add filepath (data-command)

Determines the list of directories where all data files, color maps, etc. are sought. See the filepath entry under Data Commands.

4.3 Object Group Control Commands

Partiview can load multiple groups of particles, each with independent display settings, colormaps, etc. When more than one group is loaded, the Group Row appears on the GUI, with one toggle-button for each group. Toggling the button turns display of that group on or off. Right-clicking turns the group unconditionally on, and selects that group as the current one for other GUI controls.

Many Control Commands apply to the currently selected group.

Groups always have names of the form gN for some small positive N; each group may also have an alias.


Select group gN. Create a new group if it doesn't already exist.


Assign name alias to group gN. Note there must be no blanks around the = sign.

object objectname

Likewise, select object objectname, which may be either an alias name or gN.

gN control-command
object objectname control-command

Either form may be used as a prefix to any control command to act on the specified group, e.g. object fred poly on

gall control-command

Invoke the given control-command in all groups. For example, to turn display of group 3 on and all others off, use:

gall off
g3 on


Either one will enable the display of the currently selected group (as it is by default).


Either one will turn off the display of the current group.

4.4 View Control commands

View commands affect the view; they aren't specific to data groups.

fov float

Angular field of view (in degrees) in Y-direction.

cen[ter] X Y Z [RADIUS]

Set point of interest. This is the center of rotation in [o]rbit and [r]otate modes. Also, in [o]rbit mode, translation speed is proportional to the viewer's distance from this point. The optional RADIUS (also set by censize) determines the size of the marker crosshair, initially 1 unit.

cen[ter] [X Y Z [RADIUS]] int[erest] [X Y Z [RADIUS]]

Set point of interest. This is the center of rotation in [o]rbit and [r]otate modes. And, in [o]rbit mode, translation speed is proportional to the viewer's distance from this point. The optional RADIUS (also set by censize) determines the size of the marker crosshair, initially 1 unit.

**** why is center/interest commented out in the first example. Originally this command was documented twice, the first one has /interest commented out.

censize [RADIUS]

Set size of point-of-interest marker.

where (also) w

Report the 3-D camera position and forward direction vector.


Clipping distances. The computer graphics setup always requires drawing only objects in some finite range of distances in front of the viewpoint. Both values must be strictly positive, and their ratio is limited; depending on the graphics system in use, distant objects may appear to blink if the FAR/NEAR ratio exceeds 10000 or so.

To set the far clip range without changing the near, use a non-numeric near clip value, e.g. clip - 1000.

jump [X Y Z] [Rx Ry Rz]

Get or set the current position (XYZ) and/or viewing (RxRyRz) angle.


Read a Wavefront (.wf) file describing a path through space.


Synonym for readpath.

play speed[f]

Play the currently loaded (from readpath/rdata) camera animation path, at speed times normal speed, skipping frames as needed to keep up with wall-clock time. (Normal speed is 30 frames per second.) With "f" suffix, displays every speed-th frame, without regard to real time.

frame [frameno]

Get or set the current frame the frameno-th.


Ensures the display is updated, as before taking a snapshot. Probably only useful in a stream of control commands from an async subprocess.

winsize [XSIZE [YSIZE]]

Resize graphics window. With no arguments, reports current size. With one argument, resizes to given width, preserving aspect ratio. With two arguments, reshapes window to that height and width. With complete X geometry specification (no embedded spaces), e.g. winsize 400x350+20-10, also sets position of graphics window, with +X and +Y measured from left/top, -X and -Y measured from right/bottom of screen.

detach [full|hide] [+XPOS+YPOS]

Detach graphics window from GUI control strip and optionally specify position of control strip. With full or hide, makes graphics window full-screen with GUI visible or hidden, respectively. With neither full nor hide, the graphics window is detached but left at its current size.

The +XPOS+YPOS is a window position in X window geometry style, so e.g. detach full -10+5 places the GUI near the upper right corner of the screen, 10 pixels in from the right and 5 pixels down from the top edge.

If you don't mind typing blindly, it's still possible to enter text-box commands even with the controls hidden; press the Tab key before each command to ensure that input focus is in the text box. Use Tabdetach fullEnter to un-hide a hidden control strip.

bgcolor R G B

Set window background color (three R G B numbers or one grayscale value).

focallen distance

Focal length: distance from viewer to a typical object of interest. This affects stereo display (see below) and navigation: the speed of motion in [t]ranslate and [f]ly modes is proportional to this distance.

stereo [on|off|redcyan|glasses|cross|left|right] [separation]

Stereo display. Also toggled on/off by typing 's' key in graphics window. Where hardware allows it, stereo glasses selects CrystalEyes-style quad-buffered stereo. All systems should be capable of stereo redcyan, which requires wearing red/green or red/blue glasses, and of cross (crosseyed), which splits the window horizontally. left and right show just that eye's view, and may be handy for taking stereo snapshots.

Useful separation values might be 0.02 to 0.1, or -0.02 to -0.1 to swap eyes. See also focallen command, which gives the distance to a typical object of interest: left- and right-eye images of an object at that distance will coincide on the screen.

Virtual-world eyes will be separated by distance 2 * focallen * separation, with convergence angle 2 * arctan(separation).

See also the winsize and detach commands for control over graphics window size and placement.

Beware: some systems which support hardware ("glasses") stereo also require that the display be set to a stereo-capable video mode. Partiview does not do this automatically. For example, on stereo-capable SGI Irix systems, you may need to type (to a unix shell) /usr/gfx/setmon -n 1024x768_96s to allow stereo viewing and something like /usr/gfx/setmon -n 72 to revert. Otherwise, turning partiview's stereo on will just show the left eye's view -- displacing the viewpoint but nothing else.


Set parameters for future snapshot commands. FILESTEM may be a printf format string with frame number as argument, e.g. snapset pix/%04d.ppm, generating image names of pix/0000.ppm, pix/0001.ppm, etc. If FILESTEM contains no % sign, then .%03d.ppm.gz is appended to it, so snapset ./pix/fred yields snapshot images named ./pix/fred.000.ppm.gz etc.

Frame number FRAMENO (default 0) increments with each snapshot taken.

snapshot [FRAMENO]

Capture a snapshot image of the current view. Use snapset to specify the output image name. Default format is snap.%03d.tif.

Partiview generally invokes the ImageMagick program convert(1), which must be installed and be on the user's $PATH. Convert determines the type of image (jpeg, sgi, bmp, etc.) based on the file suffix.

Convert is not needed if the snapset FILESTEM ends in .ppm.gz (invokes gzip rather than convert) or .ppm (no external program required).

4.5 Particle Display Control Commands

These commands affect how particles (in the current group) are displayed.

psize scalefactor

All particle luminosities (as specified by lum command) are scaled by the product of two factors: a lumvar-specific factor given by slum, and a global factor given by psize. So the intrinsic brightness of a particle is value-specified-by-lum * slum-for-current-lumvar * psize-scalefactor.

slum slumfactor

Data-field specific luminosity scale factor, for current choice of lumvar as given by the lum command. A slumfactor is recorded independently for each data field, so if data fields mass and energy were defined, one might say

lum mass
slum 1000
lum energy
slum 0.25
having chosen each variable's slumfactor for useful display, and then freely switch between lum mass and lum energy without having to readjust particle brightness each time.

ptsize minpixels maxpixels

Specifies the range of apparent sizes of points, in pixels. Typical values might be ptsize 0.1 5. The graphics system may silently impose an upper limit of about 10 pixels.

polysize [on|off] [a|s|r]
polymin minradius [maxradius]

Specify how particles are colored. Generally, a linear function of some data field of each particle becomes an index into a colormap (see cmap, cment).

color colorvar [minval maxval]

Use data field colorvar (either a name as set by datavar or a 0-based integer column number) to determine color. Map minval to color index 1, and maxval to the next-to-last entry in the colormap (Ncmap-2). The 0th and last (Ncmap-1) colormap entry are used for out-of-range data values.

If minval and maxval are omitted, the actual range of values is used.

color colorvar exact [baseval]

Don't consider field colorvar as a continuous variable; instead, it's integer-valued, and mapped one-to-one with color table slots. Data value N is mapped to color index N+baseval.

color colorvar -exact

Once the exact tag is set (for a particular data-field), it's sticky. To interpret that data field as a continuous, scalable variable again, use -exact.

color const R G B

Show all particles as color R G B, each value in range 0 to 1, independent of any data fields.


Specify how particles' intrinsic luminosity is computed: a linear function of some data field of each particle.

lum lumvar [minval maxval]

Map values of data field lumvar (datavar name or field number) to luminosity. The (linear) mapping takes field value minval to luminosity 0 and maxval to luminosity 1.0.

If minval and maxval are omitted, the actual range of values is mapped to the luminosity range 0 to 1.

Note that the resulting luminosities are then scaled by the psize and slum scale factors, and further scaled according to distance as specified by fade, to compute apparent brightness of points.

lum const L

Specify constant particle luminosity L independent of any data field values.

fade [planar|spherical|linear refdist|const refdist]

Determines how distance affects particles' apparent brightness (or "size"). The default fade planar gives 1/r^2 light falloff, with r measured as distance from the view plane. fade spherical is also 1/r^2, but with r measured as true distance from the viewpoint. fade linear refdist gives 1/r light falloff -- not physically accurate, but useful to get a limited sense of depth. fade const refdist gives constant apparent brightness independent of distance, and may be appropriate for orthographic views.

The refdist for linear and const modes is that distance r at which apparent brightness should match that in the 1/r^2 modes -- a distance to a "typical" particle.

point[s] [on|off]

Turn display of points on or off. With no argument, toggles display.

poly[gons] [on|off]

Turn display of points on or off. With no argument, toggles display.

texture [on|off]

Turn display of textures on or off. With no argument, toggles.

label[s] [on|off]

Turn display of label text on or off. With no argument, toggles.

txscale scalefactor

Scale size of all textures relative to their polygons. A scale factor of 0.5 (default) make the texture square just fill its polygon, if polysides is 4.


Report setting of polyorivar data-command, which see.


Report setting of texturevar data-command, which see.

laxes [on|off]

Toggle label axes. When on, and when labels are displayed, shows a


Number of sides a polygon should have. Default 11, for fairly round polygons. For textured polygons, polysides 4 might do as well, and be slightly speedier.


see also ptsize

ptsize minpixels [maxpixels]

Specifies range of apparent (pixel) size of points. Those with computed sizes (based on luminosity and distance) smaller than minpixels are randomly (but repeatably) subsampled -- i.e. some fraction of them are not drawn. Those computed to be larger than maxpixels are drawn at size maxpixels.

gamma displaygamma

Tells the particle renderer how the display + OpenGL relates image values to visible lightness. You don't need to change this, but may adjust it to minimize the brightness glitches when particles change size. Typical values are gamma 1 through gamma 2.5 or so. Larger values raise the apparent brightness of dim things.

alpha alpha

Get or set the alpha value, in the range 0 to 1; it determines the opacity of polygons.


For time-dependent data, advance datatime by this many time units per wall-clock second.

step [timestep]

For time-varying data, sets current timestep number. Real-valued times are meaningful for some kinds of data including those from Starlab/kira; for others, times are rounded to nearest integer. If running, step also stops datatime animation. (See run.)

step [+|-]deltatimestep

If preceded with a plus or minus sign, adds that amount to current time.

(note that fspeed has been deprecated)


Continue a stopped animation (see also step).

tfm [-v] [numbers...]

Object-to-world transformation. May take 1, 6, 7, 9 or 16 parameters: either scalefactor, or tx ty tz rx ry rz scalefactor>], or 16 numbers for 4x4 matrix, or 9 numbers for 3x3 matrix. See Coordinates and Coordinate Transformations.

With no numeric parameters, reports the current object-to-world transform. Use tfm -v to see the transform and its inverse in several forms.

move [gN] {on|off}

Normally, navigation modes [r]otate and [t]ranslate just adjust the viewpoint (camera). However, if you turn move on, then [r]otate and [t]ranslate move the currently-selected object group instead, e.g. to adjust its alignment relative to other groups. ([o]rbit and [f]ly modes always move the camera.)

To indicate that move mode is enabled, the control strip shows the selected group's name in bold italics, as [g3]. Use move off to revert to normal. The tfm command reports the current object-group-to-global-world transformation.

datawait on|off

For asynchronously-loaded data (currently only ieee data command), say whether wait for current data step to be loaded. (If not, then keep displaying previous data while loading new.)

cmap filename

Load (ascii) filename with RGB values, for coloring particles. The color command selects which data field is mapped to color index and how.

Colormaps are text files, beginning with a number-of-entries line and followed by R G B or R G B A entries one per line; see the Colormaps section.

vcmap -v fieldname filename

Load colormap as with cmap command. But use this colormap only when the given data field is selected for coloring. Thus the cmap color map applies to all data fields for which no vcmap has ever been specified.

cment colorindex [R G B]

Report or set that colormap entry.

rawdump dump-filename

All particle attributes (not positions though) are written to a dump-filename. Useful for debugging. Warning: it will happily overwrite an existing file with that name.

4.6 Particle subsetting & statistics

clipbox ...

see cb below.

cb ....

Display only a 3D subregion of the data -- the part lying within the clipbox.

cb xmin ymin zmin xmax ymax zmax

Specified by coordinate ranges. Note only spaces are used to separate the 6 numbers.

cb xcen,ycen,zcen xrad,yrad,zrad

Specified by center and "radius" of the box. Note no spaces after the commas!

cb xmin,xmax ymin,ymax zmin,zmax

Specified by coordinate ranges.

cb off

Disable clipping. The entire dataset is again visible.

cb on

Re-enable a previously defined clipbox setting. It will also display the clipbox again

cb hide

Hide the clipbox, but still discard objects whose centers lie outside it.

Note this command does not toggle clipping if no arguments given (that would be handy and more in line with similar commands). If no arguments given, it reports the current clipbox.


Display a subset of particles, chosen by the value of some data field. Each thresh command overrides settings from previous commands, so it cannot be used to show unions or intersections of multiple criteria. For that, see the only command. However, unlike only, the thresh criterion applies to time-varying data.

thresh field minval maxval

Display only those particles where minval <= field field <= maxval. The field may be given by name (as from datavar) or by field number.

thresh field <maxval
thresh field >minval

Show only particles where field is <= or >= the given threshold.

thresh [off|on]

Disable or re-enable a previously specified threshold.

only= datafield value minvalue-maxvalue <value >value ...
only+ datafield value minvalue-maxvalue <value >value ...
only- datafield value minvalue-maxvalue <value >value ...

Scans particles (in the current timestep only!), finding those where datafield has value value, or has a value in range minvalue <= value <= maxvalue, or whatever. Multiple value-ranges may be specified to select the union of several sets. The resulting set of particles is assigned to (only=), added to (only+) or subtracted from (only-) the thresh selection-set. Also display just particles in that selection-set, as if see thresh had been typed.

The net effect is illustrated by these examples:

only= type 1-3 5

Show only particles of type 1, 2, 3 or 5.

only- mass <2.3 >3.5

After the above command, shows only the subset of type 1/2/3/5 particles AND have mass between 2.3 and 3.5. (Note that to take the intersection of two conditions, you must subtract the complement of the latter one. Maybe some day there'll be an only&.

see selexpr

Show just those particles in the selection-set selexpr. Predefined set names are all, none, thresh and pick, and other names may be defined by the sel command. The default is see all. Using the thresh or only commands automatically switch to displaying see thresh.

Note that you can see the complement of a named set, e.g. all except the thresh-selected objects, with see -thresh.

sel selname = selexpr

Compute a logical combination of selection-sets and assign them to another such set. The set membership is originally assigned by thresh or only commands. Yeah, I know this doesn't make sense. Need a separate section to document selection-sets.

sel selexpr

Count the number of particles in the selection-set selexpr.


Erase all particles in this group. Useful for reloading on the fly.

every N

Display a random subset (every N-th) of all particles. E.g. every 1 shows all particles, every 2 shows about half of them. Reports current subsampling factor, and the current total number of particles.

hist datafield [-n nbuckets] [-l] [-c] [-t] [minval] [maxval]

Generates a (numerical) histogram of values of datafield, which may be a named field (as from datavar) or a field index. Divides the value range (either minval..maxval or the actual range of values for that field) into nbuckets equal buckets (11 by default). Uses logarithmically-spaced intervals if -l (so long as the data range doesn't include zero). If a clipbox is defined, use -c to count only particles within it. If a thresh or only subset is defined, use -t to count only the chosen subset.

bound [w]

Reports 3D extent of the data. With w, reports it in world coordinates, otherwise in object coordinates.


Report names and value ranges (over all particles in current group) of all named data fields.

4.7 Boxes

showbox list of integer box level numbers...
hidebox list of integer box level numbers...
box[es] [off|on|only]

Turn box display off or on; or display boxes but hide all particles.

boxcmap filename

Color boxes using that colormap. Each box's level number (set by -l option of box data-command, default 0) is the color index.

boxcment colorindex [R G B]

Get or set the given box-colormap index. E.g. boxcment 0 reports the color of boxes created with no -l specified.

boxlabel [on|off]

Label boxes by id number (set by -n option of box data-command).

boxaxes [on|off]

Toggle or set box axes display mode.

boxscale [float] [on|off]
gobox boxnumber
menu fmenu

                        BEGIN CAVEMENU
        pos P1 P2
        wall P1
        hid [P1]
        show [P1]
        h  [P1]
        demandfps [P1]
                        END CAVEMENU    


4.8 Data commands

(see also partibrains.c::specks_read)

Data Commands can be placed in a data file. Lines starting with # will be skipped.

Control Commands can also be given, if prefixed with the eval command.

read file

read a speck formatted file. Recursive, commands can nest. (strtok ok??) Note that read is also a Control Command, doing exactly the same thing.

include file

read a speck formatted file.

ieee [-t time] file

read a IEEEIO formatted file, with optional timestep number (0 based). Support for this type of data must be explicitly compiled into the program.

kira file

read a kira formatted file. See the kiractl Control Command to modify the looks of the objects.

setenv name value

Add (or change) a named variable of the environment variables space of partiview. Enviroment variables, like in the normal unix shell, can be referred to by prepending their name with a $. Note there probably is not an unsetenv command.

object gN=ALIAS

Defines/Selects a particular group number (N=1,2,3....) to an ALIAS. In command mode you can use gN=ALIAS. Any data following this command will now belong to this group.

object ObjectName

Select an existing group. Following data will now belong to this group.

sdbvars var

Choose which data fields to extract from binary sdb files (any of: mMcrogtxyzSn) for subsequent sdb commands.

sdb [-t time] file

Read an SDB (binary) formatted file, with optional timestep number. (Default time is latest datatime, or 0.)

pb [-t time] file

Read a .pb (binary) particle file, with optional timestep number. (Default time is latest datatime, or 0.) A .pb file contains (all values 32-bit integer or 32-bit IEEE float):

  1. magic number, 0xFFFFFF98 (int32)
  2. byte offset of first particle (int32)
  3. number of attributes (int32)
  4. sequence of null-terminated attribute name strings, attributename0 \0 attributename1 \0 ...
  5. possibly some pad bytes, enough to reach the specified first-particle file offset
  6. sequence of particle records, each (number-of-attributes + 4)*4 bytes long:
    1. particle-id (int32)
    2. particle X, Y, Z (3 float32's)
    3. particle attributes (number-of-attributes float32's)
    ending at the end of the file (i.e. there's no particle-count field).
Either big- or little-endian formats are accepted; the value of the magic number determines endianness of all values in that file.

box[es] ....

Draw a box, using any of the following formats:

xmin ymin zmin xmax ymax zmax
xmin,xmax ymin,ymax zmin,zmax
xcen,ycen,zcen xrad,yrad,zrad
[-t time] [-n boxno] [-l level] xcen,ycen,zcen xrad,yrad,zrad
level determines color.

mesh [-t txno] [-c colorindex] [-s style]

Draw a quadrilateral mesh, optionally colored or textured. Following the mesh line, provide a line with the mesh dimensions: nu nv

Following this comes the list of nu*nv mesh vertices, one vertex (specified by several blank-separated numbers) per line. (Blank lines and comments may be interspersed among them.) Note that the mesh connections are implicit: vertex number i*nu+j is adjacent to (i-1)*nu+j, (i+1)*nu+j, i*nu+(j-1), and i*nu+(j+1). Each vertex line has three or five numbers: the first three give its 3-D position, and if a -t texture was specified, then two more fields give its u and v texture coordinates.


-t txno

Apply texture number txno to surface. In this case, each mesh vertex should also include u and v texture coordinates.

-c colorindex

Color surface with color from integer cmap entry colorindex.

-s style

Drawing style:


filled polygonal surface (default)


just edges


just points (one per mesh vertex)

Xcen Ycen Zcen ellipsoid [options]... [transformation]

Draw an ellipsoid, specified by:

Xcen Ycen Zcen

Center position in world coordinates

-c colorindex

Integer color index (default -1 => white)

-s style

Drawing style:


filled polygonal surface (default)


3 ellipses: XY, XZ, YZ planes


latitude/longitude ellipses


point cloud: one per lat/lon intersection

-r Xradius[,Yradius,Zradius]

Radius (for sphere) or semimajor axes (for ellipsoid)

-n nlat[,nlon]

Number of latitude and longitude divisions. Relevant even for plane style, where they determine how finely the polygonal curves approximate circles. Default nlon = nlat/2 + 1.


Sets the spatial orientation of the ellipsoid. May take any of three forms:


If absent, the ellipsoid's coordinate axes are the same as the world axes for the group it belongs to.

9 blank-separated numbers

A 3x3 transformation matrix T from ellipsoid coordinates to world coordinates, in the sense Pworld = Pellipsoid * T + [Xcen, Ycen, Zcen].

16 blank-separated numbers

A 4x4 transformation matrix, as above but for the obvious changes.

waveobj [-time timestep] [-static] [-texture number] [-c colorindex] [-s style] file.obj

Load a Wavefront-style .obj model. Material properties are ignored; the surface is drawn in white unless -c colorindex in which case it's drawn using that color-table color. Also if -texture (alias -tx) is supplied, the surface is textured using whatever texture coordinates are supplied in the .obj file. The model is displayed at all times only if marked -static; otherwise it's displayed only at the time given by -time timestep or by the most recent datatime.

A subset of the .obj format is accepted:

v X Y Z

-- vertex position

vt U V

-- vertex texture coordinates


-- vertex normal

f V1 V2 V3 ...

-- face, listing just position indices for each vertex. The first v line in the .obj file has index 1, etc.

f V1/T1 V2/T2 V3/T3 ...

-- face, listing position and texture coordinates for each vertex of the face.

f V1/T1/N1 V2/T2/N2 V3/T3/N3 ...

-- face, listing position, texture-coordinate, and normal indices for each vertex.

Note that material properties (mtl) are ignored. Waveobj models are colored according to the -c colorindex option (integer index into the current cmap colormap), or white if no -c is used. If texturing is enabled -- if the .obj model contains vt entries, and the -texture option appears, and that numbered texture exists -- then the given texture color multiplies or replaces the -c color, according to the texture options.

tfm [camera] numbers...

Object-to-world transformation. May take 1, 6, 7, 9 or 16 numbers: either scalefactor or tx ty tz rx ry rz [it/scalefactor/] or 16 numbers for 4x4 matrix, or 9 numbers for 3x3 matrix. See Coordinates and Coordinate Transformations.

Normally the transform is to world coordinates; but with optional camera prefix, the object's position is specified relative to the camera, useful to place legends in a fixed position on the screen. In camera coordinates, (0,0,0) is the viewpoint, x=y=0 at screen center, and negative z extends forward. Try for example

    tfm camera -3 -3 -20  0 0 0
    0 0 0 text -size 20  Legend

eval command

execute a Control Command.

feed command

Synonym for eval.

VIRDIR command

Synonym for eval.

filepath path

A colon-separated list of directories in which datafiles, color maps, etc. will be searched for. If preceded with the + symbol, this list will be appended to the current filepath.

polyorivar indexno

By default, when polygons are drawn, they're parallel to the screen plane -- simple markers for the points. It's sometimes useful to give each polygon a fixed 3-D orientation (as for disk galaxies). To do this, provide 6 consecutive data fields, representing two 3-D orthogonal unit vectors which span the plane of the disk. Then use polyorivar indexno giving the data field number of the first of the 6 fields. The vectors define the X and Y directions on the disk, respectively -- relevant if texturing is enabled.

Actually, unit vectors aren't essential; making them different lengths yields non-circular polygonal disks.

If polyorivar is specified for the group, but some polygons should still lie in the screen plane, use values 9 9 9 9 9 9 for those polygons.

texture [-aiAOlmnMDB] txno file.sgi


A single-channel image would normally be used as luminance data. With -a, the image is taken as opacity data instead (GL_ALPHA texture format).


For 1- or 3-channel images, compute the intensity of each pixel and use it to form an alpha (opacity) channel.


Use additive blending. This texture will add to, not obscure, the brightness of whatever lies behind it (i.e. whatever is drawn later).


Use "over" compositing. This texture will obscure features lying behind it according to alpha values at each point.


Multiply texture brightness/color values by the colormap-determined color of each particle.


The textured polygon's color is determined entirely by the texture, suppressing any colormapped color.


Probably not very useful.

texturevar field

If polygon-drawing and texturing are turned on, use the given field (datavar name or number) in each particle to select which texture (if any) to draw on its polygon.

coord name ... 16 world-to-coord tfm floats (GL order)
dataset indexno datasetname

Give names to multiple datasets in IEEEIO files (read with ieee command). indexno is an integer, 0 being the first dataset.

datavar indexno name [minval maxval]

Name the variable in data field indexno. The first data field has indexno 0. If provided, minval maxval supply the nominal range of that data variable; some control commands (lum, color) need to know the range of data values, and will use this instead of measuring the actual range.

datatime time

Label subsequent data with this time (a non-negative integer).

Xpos Ypos Zpos Var0 ....

These lines, with XYZ positions in the first 3 columns, will make up the bulk of a typical dataset. The 4th and subsequent columns contain the values of the datavariables as named with the datavar commands. Note that data variable (field) numbers are 0-based.

4.9 Kira/Starlab

To read Kira output, in human-readable or binary tdyn form, use the ``kira kirafilename'' data-command.

Kira particle attributes

The particles read in have the following attributes:


positive integer worldline index for single stars (matching the id in the kira stream). For non-leaf (center-of-mass) tree nodes, id is a negative integer.


Mass, in solar mass units (see ``kira mscale'' control command).


Number of stars in this particle's subtree. 1 for isolated stars, 2 for binaries, etc.


base-10 log of temperature (K)


Luminosity in solar-mass units. (Note this is linear, not log luminosity.)


Stellar type code (small integer). The [bracketed] message reported when picking (button-2 or p key) on a star gives the corresponding human-readable stellar type too.


Is this star still a member of (bound to) the cluster?


id of root of subtree. For single stars, rootid = id.


bit-encoded location of star in subtree.


0 for stars. For nonleaf nodes, this is the semimajor axis or instantaneous separation (according to ``kira sep''). This field isn't multiplied by the scale factor given in kira sep; it gives the actual distance in kira units.


Square root of mass/Msun. Might be useful for luminosity scaling.


Mass ratio for center-of-mass nodes. Zero for stars.

Hertzsprung-Russell diagram

The H-R diagram can be invoked via the More... menu (upper left) or by the kira hrdiag on control command. Axes for this plot are log temperature (initial range from 5 to 3) and log luminosity (initial range -4 to 6). Ranges may be changed with the kira hrdiag range command or with keystrokes.

Keystroke commands in the H-R window:


Adjust the (b)rightness (dot size) of the dots plotted for each star. Small b brightens (enlarges); capital B shrinks.


Adjust (a)lpha (opacity) of dots plotted for each star. If many stars coincide in H-R, their brightnesses add. Thus reducing opacity may help clarify the relative L-T space densities, if there are many stars.


Zoom out (v) or in (V) by 33%. The point under the cursor becomes the center of the view.

kira control commands

Viewing control options for kira/Starlab formatted data that have been read in with the kira Data Command. All control commands begin with kira too.

kira node {on|off|root}

Show or hide center-of-mass nodes for multiple stars. With on, show CM nodes for each level in a binary tree. With root, show only the top-level CM node for each multiple.

kira ring {on|off|root}

Show circles around multiple stars; on and root as above.

kira tree {on|off|cross|tick} [tickscale]

Show lines connecting pairs of stars at each binary-tree level in a multiple group. With cross, also show a perpendicular line -- a tick mark -- which crosses at the CM point, and whose length is tickscale (default 0.5) times the true separation of the pair. With tick, just show the tick-mark with no connecting line.

kira size [sep|semi] [ringscalefactor]

Determines 3-D size of circles when kira ring on. With kira size sep, ring diameter is scalefactor * instanteous separation. With kira size semi, ring radius is scalefactor * a (the semimajor axis of the two-body system, or |a| for hyperbolic orbits). Using semi gives typically more stable-looking rings, though they will pop if they become marginally (un-)bound. Default: kira size semi 1.5.

kira scale ringscalefactor

Synonym for kira size above.

kira span minpix maxpix

Sets screen-space (pixel) size limits on rings. They'll never get smaller than radius minpix nor larger than maxpix, regardless of true 3-D size. Thus even vanishingly tight binaries can always be visibly marked. Default: kira span 2 50.

kira track id|on|off

As particle id moves through time, move the viewpoint in the same way, so that (if you don't move the view by navigation) the particle remains fixed in apparent position. kira track off disables tracking, and kira track on re-enables it. Use the p key or mouse button 2 to pick a particle (or CM node if kira node on) to see its numeric id. Transient center-of-mass nodes (shown if kira node on) can be tracked while they exist.

kira mscale massscalefactor[!]

Set/check the mass scale factor. Starlab dynamical mass values are multiplied by this factor for reporting to the user. Normally massscalefactor should equal the initial cluster mass in solar-mass units. For some input files, starlab can determine what was specified in the original kira run. If so, ``kira mscale number'' will be ignored unless number ends with an exclamation point (!). So with no !, the user (or .cf script) provides a default value; use ! to override the original mass scale.

kira int seldest [= selsrc]

Track interactions between particles. As the cluster evolves, whenever any star matching selection-expression selsrc encounters (is a member of the same kira tree as) another particle, then the other particle is added to the seldest set. If seldest and selsrc are the same (or if ``= selsrc'' is omitted), then kira int computes the transitive closure of the interaction set. Otherwise, only stars that encounter members of the initial selsrc set become members of the seldest set. Example:

click on some star

The clicked-on star(s) become members of the pick set.

sel x = pick

Save a copy in the new set named x.

kira int x

Accumulate encounters in the set x.

emph x

Increase brightness of members of x.

kira trail x

Extend trails from these set members.

kira trail selexpression|off

Leave trails behind particles selected by selexpression (see the sel command). As (dynamical) time passes, for each display update, one sample point is added to the trail for each selected particle. (If you reverse the direction of time, the trails will fold back on themselves.) Some examples:

kira trail all

Makes trails grow behind all particles (including CM nodes, if they're displayed)

kira trail pick

Clicking on a star will make a trail grow behind it. If several stars are within picking range (under the cursor), trails will grow behind each of them.

thresh -s big mass > 1.5

threshold when masses are larger than 1.5

kira trail big

These two commands (a) select all stars exceeding 1.5 solar masses and (b) extend trails behind them.

kira trail clear

Erase current trails, but let them continue to accumulate as time passes.

kira maxtrail nsamples

Set how many time-points are kept for each particle's trail, initially 50.

kira hrdiag on|off

toggle to turn HD Diagram on or off. Initially off.

kira hrdiag range logTleft logTright logLbottom logLtop

set limits on the HD Diagram axes.

4.10 Textures

To make polygons be textured:

It doesn't matter whether the texture-index data field is given a datavar name.

For each particle, if the value of its texturevar'th field either (a) doesn't match the value in some texture command or (b) the file named in that texture command couldn't be read, then its polygon is drawn as if texturing were disabled.

4.11 Coordinates and Coordinate Transformations

Matrices as for the tfm command are intended to be multiplied by an object-coordinate row vector on the left, so that 4x4 matrices specify a translation in their 13th through 15th entries. Generally they're in the sense of an object-or-camera-to-world transform.

The six- or seven-number transforms (tx ty tz rx ry rz [it/scalefactor/], as accepted by the tfm and jump commands) are interpreted as

Pworld = Pobject * scalefactor * rotY(ry) * rotX(rx) * rotZ(rz) * translate(tx,ty,tz)

4.12 Colormap Files

Colormap files, as read by the cmap and vcmap commands, are line-oriented text files. Blank lines are ignored, as are # comments. The first nonblank, non-comment line gives the colormap size (number of entries). Later lines may have the form

  <it/R G B/
giving red, green, and blue, each in the range 0 .. 1. Typically there will be size of these lines. However the colormap need not be written sequentially; a line like
  <it/colorindex/:  <it/R G B/
places that RGB value at that colorindex, in the range 0 .. size-1. Later R G B lines are assigned to colorindex+1, colorindex+2 and so on. Also,
  <it/colorindex/ := <it/oldcolorindex/
copies the (previously-assigned) RGB value from oldcolorindex and assigns it to colorindex.

Next Previous Contents