The File Options in Blender's User Preferences - dummies

The File Options in Blender’s User Preferences

By Jason van Gumster

The File options relate to how Blender works with files. The following figure shows the settings in the File options section of the User Preferences editor.

The File options in User Preferences.
The File options in User Preferences.

The following list describes the important parts of this section:

  • File Paths: Like most programs, Blender works with files. The values in this column show the default locations where Blender either places files or looks for them. Here you can indicate where your fonts are located, where you want to save your renders by default, and where to look for textures and sounds.

    Probably the most important path in this section is the one for Temp. This location is where Blender stores auto save files, and it’s also where it stores the notorious quit.blend file, which is great for recovering your last blender session. The default location for temporary files is /tmp/ on Linux and Mac OS X. On Windows, it’s your user’s temporary folder in C:Users<Your Username>AppDataLocalTemp.

    Linux users may want to change this location because some Linux distributions like Ubuntu automatically clear the /tmp directory on each boot. A lot of people have closed Blender without saving their work and later realized that they couldn’t recover any of their work because this path wasn’t properly set.

  • Auto Execution: As a security feature, the Auto Run Python Scripts check box is disabled. This provides a bit of a safeguard in the event that you download a .blend file from the internet and run it in Blender, preventing potentially dangerous scripts from running right when you open the file. At the same time, this feature can prove to be quite frustrating if you don’t download a lot of .blend files from untrusted sources and you have animation rigs that rely on Python to work. If that’s the case and you trust every .blend file that you open, you can enable this check box.

  • Save and Load: These options relate to how Blender opens and saves project files. Of these options, the two most worth knowing about are Compress File and Load UI, both of which you can modify from the File Browser, but these check boxes define the default behavior.

    • Compress File: This option is handy because it makes your .blend project files smaller when you save.

    • Load UI: Load UI is short for Load User Interface, meaning that when you open a .blend file, Blender will adjust your screen layout to match the one that was used to create that file.

  • Auto Save: Before Blender had undo functionality, users relied heavily on its auto save features. Even in the age of undo, these options are a life saver. For that reason, the following list goes into these settings in more detail:

    • Save Versions: Each time you manually save a file in Blender, it takes your last save and stores it as an earlier version. You may have already created work in Blender and noticed some .blend1 and .blend2 files in the same place you saved your .blend files. Those .blend1 and .blend2 files are the earlier versions. This option allows you to determine how many of these earlier versions you’d like Blender to retain for you. Each version has a number appended to the end of it, so if you have MyFile.blend and you have Save Versions set at 2, then after a few saves, you should see MyFile.blend, MyFile.blend1, and MyFile.blend2 all in the same folder.

    • Recent Files: The number in this field tells Blender how many of your past files to remember when you go to File→Open Recent or press Shift+Ctrl+O. You can also use the File Browser (F1 or Ctrl+O) and look on the sidebar under the Recent heading.

    • Save Preview Images: When this option is enabled, each time you save, Blender embeds a small preview image of your current screen layout, as well as each texture and material in your project, into your .blend file. This way, you can use Blender’s Image Browser to see materials and textures when you append or link from other files. Also, with this enabled, .blend files will show these previews in your operating system’s file manager.

    • Auto Save Temporary Files: Enabled by default, this option is Blender’s auto save functionality. It saves a copy of the current state of your file, or what I call a “hot backup”, in your Temp directory (adjustable in the File Paths options) every few minutes, as dictated by the Timer field below this button.

Some file paths begin with two forward slashes (//). These slashes are Blender’s notation for a relative path, or file path as it relates to the location on your hard drive of your current file. In contrast is an absolute path, which is the full path to your file from the root of your file system. For example, if you have a file saved as /home/user/Documents/project.blend, then the absolute path to project.blend is /home/user/Documents/. Now say that you have a folder named textures in the same folder as your project.blend file, and in that folder is an image named sandpaper.png. The absolute path to that image is /home/user/Documents/textures/, while its relative path (relative to project.blend) is //textures.