Purpose: To understand the layout and general navigation of the application.

Objective: Navigate around the interface, menus, and viewports.

Launch the AutoDesk XSI MOD Tool 7.5

At a first glance, the MOD Tool will look very complicated and intimidating. As First Impressions are critical to any experience, let’s dive in immediately to dispel the notion that this program is beyond our level of understanding.

NOTE: Areas that need particular attention will be highlighted. The rest of the features can be safely ignored for now.

Main Menu Bar

  • The main menu bar is the horizontal bar at the top of the Softimage interface. It displays menus containing commands for general operations such as managing files, editing, setting preferences, opening tools and editors, displaying elements, and accessing the documentation.

Toolbar – (Module Menu)

  • The toolbar panel on the left side of the interface displays one of five default toolbars at a time: Model, Animate, Render, Simulate, and Hair. Each of these toolbars contains menus of the commands most commonly used for tasks in their area. These toolbars are also displayed on the main menu bar.

To switch toolbars

  • Press 1, 2, 3, 4, or Ctrl+2 on the keyboard, or
  • Click the toolbar name at the top and select a toolbar from the list.

Lower Interface Controls

  • The controls in this area give you information, such as what each mouse button does or the last command that you used. There is also animation information and tools, from the timeline and playback controls to the Animation panel.

MCP – (Main Command Panel)

  • The main command panel on the right side of the interface contains all the commands and tools you will use most frequently while working in your scene. Commands and tools that have a similar purpose are grouped into panels.

Custom Toolbars and Shelves

The View > Toolbars menu on the main menu bar contains various customizable toolbars and shelves.

We will add a useful panel to our Interface that will provide a handful of very useful Icons for common actions we will be performing.

View > Optional Panels > Main Shelf

  • Once the Main Shelf is opened, select the Interaction Tab.

Here you will find Icons for some of the most common actions we will be performing (Selecting, Translating, Rotating, And Scaling).

TIP: Hover your mouse over any Icon in the XSI MOD Tool interface to display a Tooltip for what the Icon will do.


The viewing area of the interface contains four windows, called viewports, where you can view and work on your scene. Each viewport can display different types of views. You can display up to four different views in the viewports.

Clicking anywhere in a viewport makes it the “active” viewport. This is indicated by a thin grey border around the viewport.

The Default Layout will include the following Viewports:

  • Top
  • Front
  • Right (side)
  • Camera

The Top, Front, and Right views are orthographic, which orients the camera so it is perpendicular (orthogonal) to specific planes:

  • The Top view faces the XZ plane.
  • The Front view faces the XY plane.
  • The Right view faces the YZ plane.

Orthographic views can be thought of as a piece of graph paper representing a certain angle or perspective we are viewing an object from. Utilizing the Top, Front, and Right views we can manipulate our object in any direction in our 3D workspace.

To Isolate and enlarge a Viewport we are working in, at any time you can select (and toggle) the Resize icon towards the upper right hand corner of a viewport.

Viewports contain a variety of menus specific to the Viewport they are accessed from, but for now we will skip these and return to them later.

TIP: Selecting the X Y or Z icons in the camera menu will arrange the camera in the camera view in a similar fashion as the orthographic views offer:

((X) = Front
(Y) = Top
(Z) = Right

  • Uncheck the axis selected to return the camera position to the last state it was in previously.

Now that we are familiar with the Interface for the XSI MOD Tool, we will learn how to move around in the Viewports utilizing Hotkeys and the Transform Tool. But before we get started, let’s create a simple object (aka primitive) to display in our Viewports for reference.

Create a Sphere

From the Toolbar on the left, use the following to create a primitive sphere:

Get > primitive > Polygon Mesh > Sphere

Note: You can close the options box that opens with the sphere. We will get into these options later.

This creates a Primitive sphere at the center of our workspace, also known as the Origin.

The XYZ Coordinates for the Origin are always 0, 0, 0.

Add Shading to the Sphere

To make the sphere a little more visually appealing, let’s change the wireframe display to that of a Shaded display.
In the Camera Viewport:

  • Select the Wireframe dropdown arrow, and select Shaded

This adds some nice shading to our model allowing us to see that indeed we are working with a 3D object!

Move the Sphere

To understand Coordinates and their relationship to our object a bit more, let us utilize the Transform actions to “move” our object around.

  • Select your sphere in the Camera Viewport by dragging and drawing a box that intersects with the Sphere.
  • With your Object selected, in the right side menu (MCP) press the (T) button under the Transform header. This activates the Transform Tool on our currently selected sphere.

In one of the 4 Viewports select and drag any of the 3 colored arrows to move the object along the X, Y, or Z coordinates.

Note: The Hotkey to access the Translate Tool is (V) XYZ Coordinates

All Viewports utilize a coordinate system to identify where you are in the 3D workspace, which is simply the Cartesian coordinate system.

The following should be taken very slowly:

X (red) = Left to Right Axis (Front View Port)
Y (green) = Up and Down Axis (Top View Port)
Z (blue) = Forward and Backwards Axis (Right View Port)

Excellent! Now that we are familiar with Transforming our sphere around the XYZ coordinates, let’s learn some basic Navigation around the Viewports through the use of Hotkeys.

General Navigation

With the Camera window selected (active), press the (S) key to activate the Navigation Mode.

  • Track = Hold LMB and move mouse in any direction to observe effect.
  • Dolly = Hold MMB and move mouse forward and backward to zoom in and out.
  • Orbit = Hold RMB and move mouse in any direction.

To sync our camera with our navigation more precisely, with the sphere still selected, press (F) to frame the current selection in our camera Viewport. Now when you Orbit around the sphere using the RMB, or similarly Dolly using the MMB, the sphere will always remain in the center.

If at any time you lose track of the sphere and wonder too far away in the workspace, simply pressing (R) will reset the view to default.

Navigation Hotkeys

  • (S) To activate Navigation Mode (Track-Dolly-Orbit)
  • (R) To reset view at any time to default
  • (F) To frame selected Object in View
  • (Spacebar) to activate the Object Selection Mode*

Final Note

Navigation works very similarly in the Orthographic Viewports, however, as they are 2D Views only, Orbiting is not allowed as it is in Camera Viewport.

Definitions Activity

Review the following definitions to ensure you understand these fundamental concepts. Before proceeding forward to later modules, this module should be completely understood first. Please re-read it until you are comfortable.

  • Hotkey: A keyboard shortcut to execute a command in a program.
  • Viewport: A viewing area of the interface where you can view and work on your scene.
  • Orthographic View: AKA Isometric view – think of an Orthographic view as a piece of graph paper whereby you can view and edit your object in the X, Y, or Z axis.
  • Panel: An area of the Interface that you can add Toolbars to.
  • Transform: To Move an object (or part of an object) to a new coordinate, to transform it from one location to another.
  • Polygon: Polygons are one of the most all-encompassing shapes in geometry. From the simple triangle up through squares, rectangles, trapezoids, to dodecagons and beyond.
  • Toggle: To enable/disable, turn on/turn off, yes/no, etc.
  • Track: To move the camera up, down, left or right.
  • Dolly: To dolly towards or away from an object.
  • Orbit: To rotate, or Orbit around an object in 3D space.
  • Origin: The center of our workspace coordinate grid is 0,0,0. Note: all models are also created with their own Origin default of 0,0,0

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