How to work with all these combo boxes, and how they are synchronized with '3D View' windows

Common user interface in products of the Shadow Analyzer Collection

How to read this topic ...

This topic is a part of the chapter "Getting Started" of the downloadable full Documentation of the Shadow Analyzer Collection.

This topic is a short summary of the user interface for your first session with any product of the Shadow Analyzer Collection. Look this topic trough, but do not try to remember all the details. It is enough to remember what it is written about. Return to this topic in next reading, and use it as a reference.

A note about the screen shots ...

We illustrate this Tutorial mostly by the screen shots of a typical session with Shadow Analyzer, because this "highest" product of the Shadow Analyzer Collection includes all the features (and consequently, contains all the elements of the user interface) of all other "lower" products.

Each time, when some elements of the user interface are specific to a certain "lower" product (or its Trial version), we add the corresponding comments. For example, the toolbar 'Sun' is available only in Shadow Analyzer but not in other products. The toolbar 'Texture' is not available in 3D Message Free, etc.

Sometimes we use 'old' screen shots of previous versions of Shadow Analyzer, not to update all the pictures each time, when we issue a new versions. For example, the toolbar 'Sun' on 'old' screen shots contains less buttons than you can see on 'new' screen shots. However, it is not so important for the cases discussed in this online Tutorial.

Note also that the appearance of the user interface depends on the ''color scheme' and the version of the Windows system installed on your PC.

Common User Interface

All the products of the Shadow Analyzer Collection have the advanced parametric CAD features that allow you to compose scenes, populate them with objects, change object dimensions, location, orientation, colors, and reflectivity. You can also apply textures to objects' surfaces.

All the products have common elements of the user interface for the scene management. A combination of combo boxes allows easily find and select objects, their types, parameters, coordinates, and their places in the CS (coordinate systems) hierarchy. You can transform objects smoothly and continually using Spin controls to change their parameters.

After all the transformations, you can save scenes in files with the same (.sa1) extension.

Elements of the User Interface

Start Shadow Analyzer (or other product) to try elements of the user interface.

The user interface consists of the Menu bar, several Toolbars, and the Status bar. Some control options are represented by the keyboard and the mouse.

See several toolbars Document, Factory, Scene, Location, Parent, Color, Texture, Show, 3D View, and Sun on the screen shot below (you can see the names of toolbars in the menu section Toolbars).

Note: the toolbar Sun is available only in Shadow Analyzer but not in other products; the toolbar Texture is not available in 3D Message Free.

Toolbars contain several control elements: buttons, combo boxes, Edit controls, Spin controls, and Static controls.

You can see the following combo boxes NEW, SCENE, PAR, CS, REF CS, COLOR, TEX, TPAR, and TCOL inside the toolbars. Actually inside the combo box SCENE, you see not the title line with the word 'SCENE' but another line with the selected object "1. 3D_Box" of the 'Scene1'.

The user interface of Shadow Analyzer
1. The user interface of Shadow Analyzer is shown without the '3D View' and 'solar' widows to simplify the picture.

Get hints ...

Get hints about the functionality of the control elements. The hint appears even if an element is disabled like combo boxes TEX, TPAR, and TCOL on the screen shot above. Move the mouse pointer to an element (a button, a combo box, etc.) and see its description in the status line of the Status bar.

See also a small yellow window with a tip near the element, when the mouse pointer is over the element. On the next screen shot, you see this small yellow window below the combo box NEW. This screen shot shows the 'old' version of Shadow Analyzer. The 'Scene1' is still empty in this case, and the most of control elements are disabled.

The user interface of Shadow Analyzer (old version)
2. The user interface of Shadow Analyzer (old version) is shown with the '3D View' widow of empty 'Scene1'.

The synchronization between the user interface and '3D View' windows of different scenes ...

At its start, Shadow Analyzer automatically prepares a blank scene "Scene1" and displays it in the '3D View' window.

Shadow Analyzer can represent 3D views of created scenes in multiple '3D View' windows. You can work with different scenes and / or different views of the same scene. In any case, the state of the user interface corresponds to the currently active '3D View' window -- the active window, which title bar is currently highlighted. It is an active view of an active scene. Click on the desired 3D view to make it active.

The state of combo boxes stays the same when you click on a window with another 3D view of the same scene, but it changes when you click on any 3D view of another scene.

The user interface of Shadow Analyzer (old version) is shown with three '3D View' widows of two scenes'.
3. The user interface of Shadow Analyzer (old version) is shown with three '3D View' widows of two scenes'.

When there is no allowed action for a control element, the element is disabled (grayed). On the second screen shot above, the Scene 1 is empty. There is nothing to display in the list of the combo box SCENE. Therefore, the combo box SCENE is disabled. All other controls of the toolbars Scene, Location, Parent, Color, etc. are disabled too. However some controls of the toolbars Document and Factory are enabled, because for example, you can open combo box NEW and select a type of a new object to be created in the Scene 1. Once you select the object type, the button N becomes enabled (it is disabled now), and you can add the object of the selected type to the active scene. For the contrast, compare the second screen shot with the third screen shot, where most of the controls are enabled.

When you close all 3D view windows (that is close all scenes) most of the toolbars disappears. Also the Menu bar becomes shorter. Only the toolbars Document and Sun can be shown in this case. The toolbar Document allows you to open a scene file or create a new blank scene. The toolbar Sun allows you to open additional 'solar' windows that display some general information about the solar radiation even if there is no scene.

The user interface of Shadow Analyzer (old version) is shown with the toolbars 'Document' and 'Sun'.
4. When all the scene are closed, you can see only the toolbars 'Document' and 'Sun'.

Menu bar ...

The menu bar in its 'normal' state (when a scene is opened) consists of the sections: File, Edit, 3D View, Toolbars, Window, and Help.

The menu has three standard main tasks:

Some menu items of the File, Edit, and 3D View menu sections duplicate some simple commands of the toolbars Document, Scene, Color, and Show.

However, the menu does not duplicate many commands of the scene management (like changing of the parameter values), because most of them need a more complex interaction of the control elements of the Toolbar interface, including the consequent selections in several combo boxes.

Please remember that some important commands concerning to the scene structure, textures, and the texture files are available in the menu only. Also, the names of toolbars are displayed only in the menu section Toolbars.

Note that each menu command is shortly described in the status line of the Status bar, so that you can easily learn the sense of commands working with scenes.

See the chapters "Getting Started" and "Your Solar Project" of the downloadable full Documentation for the description of all the menu commands.


Toolbars and their control elements

Toolbars ...

Toolbars of the user interface of Shadow Analyzer
Each toolbar is situated on a separate level.

The toolbars constitute the main part of the user interface for your work with scenes.

There are several toolbars:

These toolbar names are listed in the 'Toolbars' menu.

Note: the toolbar Sun is available only in Shadow Analyzer but not in other products of the Shadow Analyzer Collection.

The sequence of toolbars stays the same even if you hide some of them or resize the main window so that each toolbar occupies one level.

Toolbars contain several control elements: buttons, Combo boxes, Edit controls, Spin controls, and Static controls. Buttons are used for simple commands. Combinations of Combo boxes, Edit and Spin controls provide operations that are more complex.

Combo boxes ...

A combo box combines a drop down list control with a "read only" edit control. You can click on the combo box arrow to open the list and select an item. The selected item appears in the edit control of the combo box. For a convenience, first line of each combo box list is a title line. It represents its short name. It exists even if the list is empty. It does not correspond to any selection. Note, the edit controls of all combo boxes are "read only", so you cannot edit names of the selected items.

There are the following combo boxes:

Edit controls ...

There are two Edit controls (do not confuse them with "read only" edit controls of combo boxes):

Each Edit control is equipped by a Spin control (a pair of vertical up/down arrows) at its right side followed by "E" button. You can either edit a value in the Edit control and then click on its "E" button, or click on up/down arrows of the corresponding Spin control.

Static controls ...

There are also some Static controls (they behave like "read only" Edit controls) and some "read only" Edit controls (we name them also "Static" for the simplicity):

Elements of the Texture toolbar (as well as some corresponding menu items) are described briefly in the next topic A Typical Session, and in more details in the topic Textures.


Variants of the Status bar and the toolbar 3D View

Status bar ...

See the status bar at the bottom of main window. It consists of the status line and two or five indicators.

The status line displays hints for all the controls. It also displays descriptions of all selected lines in combo boxes NEW, SCENE, PAR, CS, etc.

Note: the status bars of 3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows have two indicators,
while the status bars of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer have five indicators.

Two indicators of 3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows display:

Five indicators of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer display:

The coordinate system of the scene and the azimuth definition ...

In Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer, we assume that the axes X, Y, and Z of the coordinate system of the scene are looking to the East, North, and Zenith, respectively.

The azimuth is counted clockwise from the North. So the azimuth values of the North, East, South, and West directions are 0°, 90°, 180°, and 270°, respectively.

If the azimuth is very near (but is not equal) to the North direction, its value can be rounded either to 0° or to 360°.

Toolbar 3D View ...

The toolbar 3D View is perhaps the most frequently used toolbar. It manages parameters of the active '3D View' window. However, you can hide it and use the keyboard, as it is described in the next sections below.

The toolbar 3D View is implemented differently in different products.

The '3D View' toolbar of 3D Draw Shadows The '3D View' toolbar of Shadow Analyzer

In 3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows, you can manage the Sun position directly, setting its elevation and azimuth by first two (vertical and horizontal) Spin controls of the toolbar.

In Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer, you can manage the Sun position indirectly, setting the geographical latitude, the month, the day, and the time by first four (3 vertical and 1 horizontal) Spin controls of the toolbar.

Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer have also the button "View from Sun" that allows to switch quickly between the usual view mode and the specific view mode "Looking from Sun". In the mode "Looking from Sun", the viewpoint automatically follows the current Sun position that is calculated by the current day/time settings.

The following Spin controls and buttons are common for all products.

Two Spin controls (vertical and horizontal) manage the viewpoint elevation and azimuth. These Spin controls become disabled in Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer if the view mode "Looking from Sun" is switched on (because the Sun position is calculated automatically by the day/time settings).

The information button "inf" ("Sun Azimuth/Elevation") displays a short string with the values of the Sun azimuth and elevation in the left top corner of the active 3D view window.

The button "##" ("Object Numbers") marks all objects in the active 3D view window by their numbers in the scene. If an object is a parent of other ones, then its number is prefixed by the underscore "_". The numbers of the corresponding parent objects are shown in parentheses (without the underscore). This option is useful when you work with object families attaching one objects to other objects to construct object aggregates (see the topic "Set Parent Coordinate System" of the chapter "Getting Started" in the full documentation). To find a parent object (a handle to an aggregate), you can also use the command "Scene Structure" of the 3D View menu.

The Spin control "Zoom In/Out" changes the zoom factor value. You can also use the keyboard keys "PAGE UP" / "PAGE DOWN" or the wheel of your Wheel mouse.


Keyboard

The keyboard modes reinterpret the behavior of the arrow keys...

Some control options are represented by the keyboard (not to overload the graphical user interface by additional toolbars).

You can use the same arrow keys (LEFT, RIGHT, UP, and DOWN) of your keyboard for different purposes switching between several modes by number-keys with numbers "1", "2", "3", "4", "9", and "0" (above the alphabetical keys on your keyboard), and by the "space bar"-key.

Do not use keys of the numeric pad (on the right side of your keyboard) for the scene management.

3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows have modes "2", "3", and "0":

Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer have modes "1", "2", "3", "4", "9", and "0":

Mode "0" is the "Default viewpoint" mode (same as mode "3", but in addition returns the viewpoint to its default position).

Firstly, select a mode by a number-key, then use LEFT / RIGHT and UP / DOWN arrow keys.

In the "Geographical latitude" mode (1) of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer, you can increase / decrease geographical latitude by UP / DOWN arrow keys. The value of the latitude is shown in the first indicator of the Status bar of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer. The LEFT / RIGHT arrow keys do not work in this mode.

In the "Light source azimuth/elevation" mode (2) of 3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows, you can increase / decrease the Light source elevation by UP / DOWN arrow keys. Or you can increase / decrease the Light source azimuth by LEFT / RIGHT arrow keys. The Light source azimuth/elevation are shown in the first indicator of the Status bar of 3D Message and 3D Draw Shadows.

In the "Date/Time" mode (2) of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer, you can decrease / increase the Date (day by day) by UP / DOWN arrow keys. Or you can decrease / increase time by LEFT / RIGHT arrow keys. Date is shown in the second indicator, and Time is shown in the third indicator of the Status bar of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer.

In the "Viewpoint" mode (3), you can move your viewpoint to the left, to the right, up, and down by LEFT / RIGHT and UP / DOWN arrow keys. The scene in the active 3D view will rotate, as if you are running around the scene.

In the "Month/Time" mode (4) of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer, you manage the view as you do in the mode "2", but the UP / DOWN arrow keys change the date month by month, while the day is always 15th day of the month.

The "Looking from Sun" mode (9) of Shadow Visualizer and Shadow Analyzer is designed specifically for the visual analysis of solar collector systems (especially for the sun-tracking collectors). The arrow keys in this mode act as in mode "2" or "4" (depending on which mode was the latest) -- they change the date (day by day or month by month) and the time of the 3D view. But the viewpoint also moves following the current Sun position -- as if we are looking from Sun, along the direction of solar beams. In addition, if we switch the projection from "perspective" to "orthographic" (using the button "PJ"), we can switch the rendering of shadows off (by the button "sh"), because the shadows become unseen, being blocked by visible surfaces of the nearest to us objects. Sometimes, you can use this mode merely to speed up the rendering of too complex scenes. See the topic Set Scene Show Filters for further information about the buttons "sh" and "PJ".

Use the "0"-key to switch the 3D view to the "Viewpoint" mode and return the viewpoint to its default position.

Use the "space bar"-key to switch the 3D view between the "Viewpoint" mode (3) and the mode (2) -- the "Light source azimuth/elevation" mode (3D Message, 3D Draw Shadows) or the "Date/Time" mode (Shadow Visualizer, Shadow Analyzer). It is the most often switch, when you are working with scenes.

Alphabetical keys (case insensitive) ...

Most of alphabetical keys are associated with "show / hide" operations (what to show or what to hide in the 3D view).

The following keys duplicate buttons of the Show toolbar:

Some specific operations ...

Zoom ...

You can "zoom in" / "zoom out" the active scene by the keyboard keys "PAGE UP" / "PAGE DOWN" or rotating the wheel of your Wheel mouse. Also, you can use the Spin control "Zoom In/Out" of the toolbar 3D View.