Manual:Navigating in the 3D view

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A word about the 3D space

If this is your first contact with a 3D application, you will need to become familiar with some concepts first. If not, you can safely skip this section.

The FreeCAD 3D space is a Euclidean space. It has an origin point and three axes: X, Y and Z. If you look at your scene from above, conventionally, the X axis points to the right, the Y axis to the back, and the Z axis upwards. In the lower right corner of the FreeCAD view, you can always see from where you are viewing the scene:

Axes orientation.png

The point where the three axes meet is the origin. It is the point where the value of all coordinates is zero. For any given axis, moving in one direction will increase the coordinate value and moving in the opposite direction will decrease the coordinate value. Every point of every object that exists in the 3D space can be located by its (x,y,z) coordinates. For example, a point with coordinates (2,3,1) will lie at +2 units on the X axis, +3 units on the Y axis, and +1 unit on the Z axis:

3dspace coordinates.jpg

You can look at that scene from any angle, as if you were holding a camera. That camera can be moved left, right, up and down (pan), rotated around what it is pointing at (rotate) and brought closer to or further from the scene (zoom).

The FreeCAD 3D view

Mouse Navigation

Navigating in the FreeCAD 3D view can be done with a mouse, a Space Navigator device, the keyboard, a touchpad, or a combination of those. FreeCAD implements several navigation modes, which determine how the three basic view manipulation operations (pan, rotate and zoom) are done, as well as how selection of objects on the screen is performed. Navigation modes are accessed from the Preferences screen, or directly by right-clicking anywhere on the 3D view:


Each of these modes allocates different mouse buttons, or mouse + keyboard combinations, or mouse gestures, to these four operations. The following table shows the principal available modes:

Mode Pan Rotate Zoom Select
OpenInventor Click middle button mouse Click left button mouse Roll middle button mouse Hold Ctrl + drag Click left button mouse
CAD (default) Click middle button mouse or Click right button mouse + CTRL key Hold middle then left mouse button or Click right button mouse + SHIFT key Roll middle button mouse or Click right button mouse + CTRL + SHIFT key Click left button mouse
Blender Hold Shift + drag Click middle button mouse or drag Click left + right button mouse and drag Click middle button mouse Roll middle button mouse Click left button mouse
Touchpad Hold Shift + drag Touchpad (mouse) pointer Alt + Touchpad (mouse) pointer PgUp / PgDn Click touchpad (mouse) left button
Gesture drag Click right button mouse drag Click left button mouse Roll middle button mouse Click left button mouse
OpenCascade Click middle button mouse Hold middle then right mouse button Roll middle button mouse Click left button mouse

Keyboard Navigation

Alternatively, some keyboard controls are always available, no matter the navigation mode:

  • Ctrl + Ascii 043.svg and Ctrl + Ascii 022.svg to zoom in and out, respectively.
  • The arrow keys, Ascii 017.svgAscii 016.svgAscii 030.svgAscii 031.svg, to shift the view left/right and up/down
  • Shift + Ascii 017.svg and Shift + Ascii 016.svg to rotate the view by 90 degrees
  • The numeric keys, Ascii 048.svgAscii 049.svgAscii 050.svgAscii 051.svgAscii 052.svgAscii 053.svgAscii 054.svg, for the seven standard views: Std ViewIsometric.svg Isometric, Std ViewFront.svg Front, Std ViewTop.svg Top, Std ViewRight.svg Right, Std ViewRear.svg Rear, Std ViewBottom.svg Bottom, and Std ViewLeft.svg Left
  • VO will set the camera in View-isometric.svg Orthographic view.
  • While VP sets it in View-perspective.svg Perspective view.
  • Ctrl will allow you to select more than one object or element

These controls are also available from the View menu and some from the View toolbar.

Using the Navigation Cluster

In the default setup, there is a Navigation Cluster in the upper right corner of the 3D display. This may be used to rotate the displayed object by a fixed amount, reset the display to one of several standard views, and change the display mode.

FreeCAD-v0-18-NavCube SelectCorner.png

When using the navigation cluster, a control point will turn light blue when the pointer is hovering over a sensitive area. If the area below the pointer does not change color, clicking on it will have no affect. As of this writing (v0.18), there are some registration issues which prevent all parts of some control points from being active.

Clicking on a face will switch the view to that face; clicking on a corner will switch to a view with that corner pointing towards you.

Clicking one of the four triangles will rotate the view 45 degrees in the indicated direction. Clicking one of the two curved arrows at the top will rotate the view 45 degrees in the indicated direction around a line pointing towards you.

The navigation cluster may be moved to any part of the 3D display by dragging. The drag (left) mouse button must be pressed inside the cube itself to initiate a drag. The structure will not begin moving until the pointer is dragged outside the cube.

There is a smaller mini-cube in the lower right of the cluster which activates a drop-down menu allowing you to switch the viewing mode.

Selecting objects

Objects in the 3D view can be selected by clicking them with the corresponding mouse button, depending on the navigation mode (described above). A single click will select the object and one of its subcomponents (edge, face, vertex). Double-clicking will select the object and all its subcomponents. You can select more than one subcomponent, or even different subcomponents from different objects, by pressing the CTRL key. Clicking with the selection button on an empty portion of the 3D view will deselect everything.

A panel called "Selection view", available from the View menu, can also be turned on, which shows you what is currently selected:

Selection view.jpg

You can also use the Selection View to select objects by searching for a particular object.

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