The Add-Ons Options in Blender's User Preferences - dummies

The Add-Ons Options in Blender’s User Preferences

By Jason van Gumster

Blender ships with an assortment of extensions, called add-ons, which provide users with additional capabilities within Blender. For example, if you’re a veteran Blenderhead and you’re used to the old Spacebar menu from much earlier versions of Blender, there’s an add-on that puts that feature back. Other add-ons modify Blender’s interface, add new primitive objects, or provide additional tools that can help speed up your work.

Another key feature of add-ons is that they are tightly integrated into Blender’s interface. Once an add-on is enabled, its functionality looks and works just like native features in Blender, like it was there all along!

You can manage all add-ons from the Add-ons section of User Preferences.

The Add-ons options in User Preferences.
The Add-ons options in User Preferences.

There are three types, or support levels, for add-ons:

  • Official: These add-ons officially ship with Blender on release. Core development team supports them and ensures that they continue to work with each Blender release.

    Although these add-ons come with Blender, they aren’t all enabled by default, because some of them favor very specific workflows.

  • Community: These add-ons also officially ship with Blender on release. However, rather than being supported by the core developers, the add-ons at this support level are maintained by community developers (usually the people who first wrote them). None of these add-ons are enabled by default, but many of them are very useful.

  • Testing: There are two kinds of add-ons at this support level:

    • Very new add-ons that haven’t been thoroughly tested by users.

    • Veteran add-ons that aren’t actively maintained and supported by any developer.

    The Testing add-ons don’t ship with Blender’s official release, but you can download them individually from the Blender Add-ons Catalog.

You can use the buttons on the left side of the Add-ons section in User Preferences to filter the add-ons you see according to support level. By default, all community supported add-ons that ship with Blender are disabled. Most of the officially supported add-ons are for importing and exporting file types to and from other programs. The bulk of these are enabled by default. To enable or disable a specific add-on, use the following steps:

  1. Find the add-on that you’re interested in enabling.

  2. Left-click the check box on the right side of the add-on’s box.

    Left-clicking the triangle on the left of the box expands it so that you can get more details about a specific add-on.

That’s it! The add-on is enabled. Depending on what the add-on does, you should be able to find it in the interface and use it immediately.

All of Blender’s add-ons are broken down into specific categories, and you can use the buttons on the left to see just the add-ons that are specific to a single category. Alternatively, you can use the search field above the category buttons.