Getting Started With ParaView

ParaView is a powerful data visualization software that many researchers can find useful for getting a visual understanding of their data. This guide will be a brief introduction to ParaView including how to install it and use its GUI interface. For more information on how to use the ParaView terminal (PvPython), see the tutorial here. This tutorial was created using Windows 10 but should apply to most if not all ParaView installations.

Note: while programming experience with python is not required to follow along, it can be useful for working with more advanced ParaView features.

Installation (for HPC)

These instructions will get you setup with the Paraview GUI on our HPC systems. Feel free to copy and paste this code into an OOD Remote Desktop Terminal, and consult the lower explanations for details about each line.

singularity pull docker://
wget "" -O paraview.tar.gz
tar xf paraview.tar.gz
singularity exec vtk_latest.sif ./ParaView-5.11.0-MPI-Linux-Python3.9-x86_64/bin/paraview

singularity pull docker://

This line of code will pull a container the packages provided by our visualization consultant

wget "" -O paraview.tar.gz

This line will pull the paraview binary from their downloads, and rename  it to paraview.tar.gz

tar xf paraview.tar.gz

This line will extract the contents of the gzipped tar file

singularity exec vtk_latest.sif ./ParaView-5.11.0-MPI-Linux-Python3.9-x86_64/bin/paraview

This line will execute the paraview binary and launch the GUI

If you'd like to know more about what's happening here, we are technically using the container to package the dependencies needed by paraview, and using the program downloaded to our local folder launch to the gui. This decouples the paraview version from the dependencies, freeing you up to use whatever version suits you without having to download other singularity containers.

Installation (for workstations)

ParaView is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded at this website:

Find the installation option that best applies to you. For most cases, the top option will work.

Run the downloaded executable and follow the instructions to install it.

Running ParaView

There are two ways to work with ParaView, either through the GUI (visual editor) or through a terminal. This tutorial will focus on the GUI, if you wish to use the terminal, check out the PvPython tutorial here.

ParaView GUI

To run the ParaView GUI, find the Paraview executable and run it on your computer.

Once open, close any popups and you will see the default layout

If you plan on working with python, from the top drop-down you can click View→Python Shell. This python shell is equivalent to PvPython in the ParaView Terminal option.

To get started with the terminal, first, add a shape. Try adding a sphere to the scene from the drop-down by clicking Sources→Geometric Shapes→Sphere. While nothing is added to the view here, you can see that in the pipeline tab on the left, a sphere has been added. To show this in the view, you can click the eye icon to the left of the new object.

To maneuver in the view you can use your left mouse button to rotate, your right mouse button to zoom, and your middle mouse button to pan. Alternatively, shift+ right mouse button can be used to pan and the scroll wheel can be used to zoom. The view can be reset at any time with the Reset button shown below:

Loading Data

Let’s load some example data into ParaView. Click the “Open” button from the toolbar (shown below), go to File → Open, or press Crtl + O.

On the left side under Favorites, there should be a directory called Examples. From that, click can.ex2 and hit OK.

No data should appear yet but information about the data should appear in the properties tab. In this, we can select what information from our data set we want to load. For this example, we can leave all the default settings. Press Apply to confirm the settings and you should see the example data appear in the view.

Changing The Visualization

This visualization can be played with the green play button at the top of the screen.


Currently, the colors just show the two different shapes. Let’s say we want to visualize the acceleration of all the points of the shape. In the toolbar, find the drop-down that currently says vtkBlockColors and switch it to vel. Play the animation again to visualize the result.

While this does provide some useful information, it may not be the best way of visualizing velocity. Instead, let's add some vectors to see how each point is moving.

Start by adding a Glyph to your data. With your data selected click the Glyph button from the toolbar. Next, set both the Orientation Array and Scale Array to vel and hit apply. You should notice that the arrows do get added but they are way too large. Change this by editing your scale factor until it looks right (0.0005 worked for me).

And there you have it! You can play the animation and watch as the arrows change with time.

Later tutorials will work with specific data types as well as other features included in ParaView but after this, you should have a base understanding of how to navigate the scene and load some basic data.