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Exploring the 801 Layout

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When you first open up MODO after installing it, this is the interface you're presented with. Think of it as the cockpit for the MODO 3D rocket; designed and refined over multiple versions for the smoothest user experience. Users of any previous version on MODO will be very familiar with this tabbed version of the interface where each focused workspace is selected directly using the tabs across the viewport. If your viewport doesn't match for some reason, you can select the matching interface from the menu bar under "Layout > Layouts > Tabbed". Each of the workspaces for the most part work off the same layout, setup as three main sections. The left side column for tools and commands, the center viewport is where you will likely spend the greatest amount of time using MODO and lastly, the right hand side houses information regarding the scene, its many items and their respective attributes. Understanding all the various areas and their roles in working in MODO are essential to getting the most out of it. Hover over the image below to see the interface sections highlighted, LMB+click to jump to the different areas for more detail--

menu bar Interface tabs toolbox toolprops modes bar 3D Viewport Item List Properties

Section 1 -- Application Menu Bar

Menu Bar

Virtually any function of MODO is available from the menu bar, organized by their respective application. LMB-clicking on any of the menu bar items will reveal the menu itself, a list of commands that sometimes activates a tool that requires further action within the 3D viewport (Section 6), or sometimes initiates a popup window requesting additional input. Most of the functions within the menu bar are repeated elsewhere within the application as a button or are available via MODO's many keyboard shortcuts (listed to the right of the menu item). This functional duplication is meant to enhance overall workflow reducing the number of clicks necessary to accomplish a specific task, exemplified by the various image loaders found throughout the interface.


Section 2 -- Interface Layout Tabs

Interface Tabs

Directly below the menu bar is a series of click-able tabs that open separate workspaces, each dedicated to the particular task named by the tab. While nearly all layout configurations share the same basic structure, toolbox on left, viewport in center and info and properties on the right, each tab features the tools specific to the task at hand, the modeling tab has the tools for creating and manipulating your geometry, the painting tab features the brush tools for sculpting and texturing your models and so on. Think of each tab as its own workroom geared toward streamlining the workflow of that particular function. For those users wishing to gain a little more screen real-estate, there is a workspace switching function that replaces the tabs, detailed below.


Section 3 -- The Toolbox


The toolbox section resides in the upper area of the left hand side of the screen. Nearly every interface tab has its own particular dedicated toolbox, illustrated here with the 'Model' tabs toolbox. The toolbox itself will house the various tools and commands. Down the right side of the toolbox are a series of rotated tabs or sub-sections (referred to as sub-tabs) that organize the various tools by their function. Clicking on any of the tool icons will activate the tool for use within the 3D viewport. One can easily tell which tool is active by the orange highlighting that appears behind it. Most tools function interactively with a left mouse button (LMB) click dragging within the 3D viewport (section 6). Some tools can be modified by control/command, alt/option and shift keys on the keyboard with some tools support additional function for the middle and right mouse buttons. Depending on the tools function, properties appear for it in the section directly below where settings can be modified and applied. A tool can be dropped (deactivated) by pressing 'Q' or the space bar, essentially freezing the current state of the model or by selecting another tool. Buttons to quickly access alternate toolboxes are available just above the toolbox.


Section 4 -- Tool Properties

Tool Properties

Directly below the toolbox are the properties dedicated to the currently active tool, in this case the 'Cube' tool. Tool properties will only appear when a tool has been activated and will change depending on which tool is selected. For most tools, one can interactively LMB-click drag in the viewport, and see the properties themselves update in realtime, conversely, users can directly edit the properties by LMB-clicking over a value in the light gray area and typing in a new value; though you wont see it update in the viewport until you hit the 'Enter' key. The 'Tab' key can be used as well, to jump between value input fields eliminating the need to click over each field. Once the user is satisfied with the settings they want, one simply needs to drop the tool by pressing the 'Q' key or hitting the space bar to 'freeze' those particular settings. Users can also activate a tool, and enter values directly into the properties panel but will need to press the 'Apply' button to see their effect, losing any interactive editing functionality. By clicking in a 3D viewport while a tool is active, you are placing MODO into an interactive mode, where the 'Apply' becomes unnecessary.


Section 5 -- MODO modes


The modes section appears under the menu bar and above the 3D viewport. The first three buttons from the left are the component editing modes, an important distinction in MODO. These modes set how one selects and works directly with geometry for manipulation --pushing, pulling and modify polygons. Users can easily toggle between any of these modes by pressing the space bar, continuously looping through the three. The fourth button, 'Items' mode is for editing items. It can be somewhat confusing as the same transform tools modify both, but if you think of each item layer as a container, the component modes edit what's inside the container, and item mode edits the container itself, its much easier to understand. Why a separate 'Item' mode you might ask? Well, for one, when animating in MODO, you are transforming items (the containers), individual vertices are not directly animateable (to do this, one would use an animated deformer, but that's another section). Also, replicators, and instances work by duplicating the container.

If you LMB-click and hold over the Items mode button, a popup reveals some additional modes for selecting 'Materials' these are the defined surfaces within the Shader Tree (the heart of MODO's shading system) and for selecting an items 'Center' and 'Pivot' points. The rest of the buttons are modifiers for tools, changing their basic behaviors. 'Action Centers' are useful in that they can automatically adjust a tools axis and orientation. 'Symmetry', does exactly what its name implies, duplicating manipulations across an axis. 'Falloff' can control the affect a tool has on a selection based on an interactively applied distance. 'Snapping' can ease certain workflows that require levels of precision and lastly the 'Work Plane' is an interactive and modifiable virtual workbench within MODO that can simplify many modeling tasks among other things. The documentation has dedicated sections that further explain each of these functions, but none are strictly necessary to start working in MODO.


Section 6 -- 3D Viewport

3D Viewport

The 3D viewport is where you will likely spend the greatest amount of time working in MODO. It is your virtual window into MODO's 3D world. One should immediately notice the dark grid going off into the distance, this plane is purely for reference, denoting the zero position of the 'Y' axis. Think of this as the ground plane. As items move up, they will increase their 'Y' position value (sometimes referred to as the 'up' axis). The 'X' values move from left to right, and the 'Z' axis (depth) moves from front to back. (For users used to an alternate up axis, this setting can be modified in the 'System > Preferences') The darkest lines represent zero for the X and Z planes, and where all 3 intersect is the origin --'0,0,0' on all 3 axes; Item level transforms all take place from this position.

Navigation of the viewport can take place using the 3 icons in the upper right hand corner, LMB-click dragging over the four arrows icon will move the viewpoint position, same thing for the rotation icon rotating the view and the magnifying glass icon scaling it. Of course there are also keyboard shortcuts for viewport navigation, making for easier navigation. Pressing both the shift and alt/option keys and then LMB-click dragging over the viewport will move the view position around left and right and up and down, the middle mouse button (MMB) will move the view forwards and backwards while the right mouse button will restrict the view change to just up and down. To rotate the viewpoint, press the alt/option key alone and LMB-click drag over the viewport; MMB-click dragging will restrict the rotation around the 'Y' axis, and the RMB will flick the view i.e. it will slowly stop when the button is released instead of directly stopping. Zooming can be done in the viewport by scrolling the mouse wheel over the viewport, or by ctrl/command-alt/option LMB-click dragging over the viewport; RMB-click dragging will define a rectangular area that when the button is released, MODO instantly zooms to.

If you've been trying out the keyboard shortcuts for navigating the viewport, you likely noticed the lighter grid, and how it would interactively change position based on the current viewpoints position. This is the Work Plane, think of it as the virtual desktop within the viewport. If one were to select the 'Make Box' tool and LMB-click drag over the viewport, the first plane of the box would originate upon the work plane itself. Drop the tool by hitting the space bar and rotate your viewpoint until the Work Plane changes position and then activate the cube tool again and draw another square, this time it originates from the new work Plane position. So based on your viewports position, the Work Plane always tries to face the user, and appears within the viewport as reference to where new items will be created. For users used to working in a 4 viewport type system where one can easily place items in 3D space by moving it around in each viewport, the Work Plane helps by allowing users to work in a single large perspective viewport, and easily position items within the scene without surprises as to where items will be created. There are several functions for modifying the Work Planes position and how it adapts to the viewport covered more fully in the dedicated Work Plane section.


Section 7 -- Items List, Shader Tree, Groups and Images


The top right area of the interface basically lists all the various items that make up a MODO scene, these lists are important to the overall MODO workflow, as such, they appear in nearly all the various workspaces with some variation. The tabs across the top of this section choose basically which items are listed; grouped by how MODO sees them. The 'Items' list shows all the items that make up the scene itself --a geometry layer is an item (the container), a camera is an item, lights are items. Within the list, items can be grouped together by parenting for organization or for animation hierarchies. Selecting the various items will display their properties within a properties viewport along with numerous other functions covered in the Items List page. The 'Shader Tree' viewport organizes all the surfaces within the scene and their respective items, such as materials, shaders, textures and groups. When rendering a scene, it is the shader tree that controls how the final rendered image appears, covered fully in the rendering and shading section of the docs. The 'Groups' viewport is useful for creating groupings of items in a scene, making it easier to select and manipulate multiple items, as well as for controlling lighting (light linking), making multi-item replicators and for working with animated scenes when setting keyframes. The 'Images' tab lists all the external images currently loaded into MODO and offers functionality for working with them. Note that images aren't saved in the MODO file itself, so they'll need to be available each time a scene is loaded. Lastly, the 'Quick Tips' viewport offers some shortcuts to videos and such for quickly getting up to speed in MODO.


Section 8 -- Properties, Channels, Display and Lists


Directly below the item and shader tree lists section are, drum roll please, more lists! As scenes fill up with items and textures, UV maps and such, a serious amount of information is created along with it, and MODO offers many ways of viewing and manipulating all that info. In this particular gang of lists, the 'Properties' is the most important, users will most likely have this one open most of the time.

The first tab across the top is the main item 'Properties' tab. Every item in MODO has a series of attributes associated with it, and this is the viewport where users can edit them. Selecting any item will display the properties specific to it, dynamically changing as different types of items are selected. Next over, the 'Channels' tab is a more concentrated version, displaying every animateable attribute associated with an item as a continuous list. Lastly, the 'Display' viewport has settings specific to how items are displayed in the 3D viewport.

The next tab is the Channels viewport. Basically, every animateable attribute of an item is listed on the Channels list for easy view, selection and manipulation. The channel list is covered more in depth in the 'Channels' page of the documentation. The 'Display' tab controls the visibility and display of items within the 3D viewport, also more fully covered on its own page.

The next tab 'Lists' is actually three mini viewports in one. The top section lists all the associated 'Vertex Maps'. A vertex map is an instruction associated with a vertex to tell it do a certain thing, such as move a specific offset distance (morph map), specify a 2D position on an image (UV) or simply a value that is fed into another function such as weight maps do. To see the vertex map associated to an item, the item(s) must be selected (highlighted in the item list). From this window, users can create, rename and delete any of the various maps.

Next down is the 'Pipeline' viewport, also known as the tool pipe; the heart of the MODO toolbox. A tool can be made up from a single function like the make cube tool. Or a tool can be a combination of functions rolled together, such as a transform tool with a certain falloff and action center (flex tool!). The tool pipe is where a user can make custom tool combinations. 'Presets' contains the various pre-made tool combinations included in the various tool boxes that install with MODO.

'Statistics' is precisely that, a listing of scene statistics -the total number of polygons, how many of them are triangles or have more than 5 sides. More than just a list, users can use the little +/- signs that precede each line for selecting/deselecting geometry in the scene based on the specific criteria. Lastly, the 'Info' tab will give you all the information associated with a selection. Select an item, you get info on that item. Select some geometry and you'll get info on all the associated vertices and map values as well as applied surfaces and selection sets associated with it, among other things.

Layout Switching


MODO employs an interface switching option using the standard 'Ctr+Tab' key combination to quickly switch workspace Layouts. While defaulting to the familiar 'Tabbed' workspace users or previous versions are familiar with, the tab switching method is a more streamlined way to swap workspaces. Pressing the 'Ctrl' key and then the 'Tab' key on the keyboard opens the selection popup. While continuing to hold down the 'Ctrl' and then releasing and pressing the 'Tab' key again will cycle to the next workspaces highlighted by the orange outline, subsequent 'Tab' presses will continue to cycle through the selections organized by the Layouts most recent use. Releasing the keys will open the currently selected interface. This new method eliminates the space used by the tabs in the interface, gaining some additional real estate for each workspace. This option is also available from the menu bar command "Layout > Recent Layouts..." or specific layouts are accessible from the menu bar under "Layout > Layouts" and then choose the specific workspace you want. Each of the various workspaces is covered in more details below. Additionally, users can access the pie menu version of the layout switcher by pressing 'Ctrl+ ~ (tilde)'.




The Animate tab focuses specifically on animation, especially refined for character work. This viewport is unique in that the standardized layout is gone in order to maximize the 3D viewport. Toolboxes have been reduced to popup palettes with the essential keying tools laid out as a special toolbox below the Timeline. Hidden just above the timeline is the Track View designed to allow users to easily re-time animated elements. To open, simply drag the top frame edge of the timeline upward revealing the hidden viewport. Timeline playback controls run across the bottom of the interface with additional controls for setting keyframes and controlling the auto keying feature with additional easy access to the Channel Sets and Actor/Pose functions. With so much specific functionality, a page of the documentation was created, dedicated to its use. For users wishing to animate in a workspace similar to previous versions of MODO should use the 'Layout' and 'Setup' interfaces with the more familiar controls.



Layout Editor

The Layout editor is a useful interface to block out scenes, set up Replicators and Instances, and generally design the layout of any scene. The Preset Browser dominates the area below the 3D viewport, providing users effortless access to the many preset assets provided with MODO for a streamlined workflow. Users can simply drag and drop from the preset viewport into the 3D viewport to populate a scene with anything from Environment maps, Assemblies, Mesh Items and Surfacing presets, for realistic surfacing.



Model Quad Interface

The Model interface is the dedicated model creation space, with all the creation and deforming specific tools close at hand in the toolbox on the left side. Below the Toolbox is the standard tool properties panel. The middle section is the maximized 3D GL viewport where users interact with the tool handles and selected geometry. The right panel contains all the lists viewports, the Items List for selecting Item layers in a scene, the Lists viewport with access to Vertex Maps, the Tool Pipe for customizing tools, and finally the Statistics viewport that allows statistical selections based on component features.



Paint Interface

The 'Paint' interface tab focuses on painting and sculpting. The left hand tool box is separated into the various tools and controls for Painting textures and Sculpting meshes. Directly below the 3D viewport is located a Preset Browser for viewing brushes and preset tool options. Users can also directly access a Color Picker and see the details of the current brush tip in the tip view window.



Render Tab

The Render Layout provides streamlined access to the main options users need when focusing on the task of rendering a project. On the right hand side is the Items List and Shader Tree panels stacked with a tall Render Properties panels so users can easily access and edit the various material and texture items and settings. The main 3D workspace is split into two views; a Preview window that provides an extremely fast near final preview of the rendered scene, and camera view providing direct control over the positioning of the camera. To render in this view, press 'F9' or select the 'Render' command from the 'Render' options of the menu bar.



Setup Editor

The Setup layout is mainly designed for rigging using the Schematic Editor. Users can easily select items in the Items List and Shader Tree and grab their associated Channels in the Channel list and drag them into the schematic view for node linking. The toolbox also offers command related to channel links and modifiers. Additionally, this is the place for setting up Dynamics and Particle Simulations.



Topology Tab

The 'Topo' interface tab, or retopology as the case may be, contains all the retopology related tools. Retopology is the act of taking very dense (high resolution) mesh and using its surface in the background as a constraining surface to build a clean lower resolution mesh. This is a common task when creating game assets where low polygon counts are a requirement, also when cleaning up scanned mesh data for animation or when simply making it easier to change the topology and polygon flow of an existing model. The toolbox contains tools that automatically conform to any item in the background, with a special OpenGL drawing mode to make it easier to see what is being drawn in the foreground over what is located in the background.



UV Interface

The UV editor interface splits the 3D viewport vertically adding a UV view on the left. Users can select from the various maps in the Vertex Map list on the right hand side. The toolbox focuses on the various UV creation and editing tools.



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