7.2 Interacting with dialog boxes

This section explains how to use the various dialog box components that appear within ABAQUS/CAE. The following topics are covered:

7.2.1 Using basic dialog box components

The following types of components are present in dialog boxes throughout ABAQUS/CAE:

Text fields

Text fields are areas in dialog boxes in which you can enter information. For example, when you save a display group, you must enter its name in the text field shown below:

If you are entering a floating point number, most text fields allow you to enter an expression; for example, cos(2.5/(4.9*pi)). The expression can be any valid Python expression. For more information, see Entering expressions, Section 7.2.2.

Text fields are available whenever you need to name an object, such as a part, material, set, path, or X–Y data. Object names must adhere to the following rules:

  • The name can have up to 38 characters.

  • The name can include spaces and most punctuation marks and special characters.

  • The name must not begin with a number.

  • The name must not begin or end with an underscore or a space.

  • The name must not contain a period or double quotes.

  • The name must not contain a backslash.

Additional restrictions apply to model names and to job names.
  • When you name a model or a job, the name can begin with a number.

  • When you name a model, you cannot use the following characters:

  • When you name a job, you cannot use the following characters:

    In addition, a job name cannot begin with a dash -.

In general, when you are specifying a name that will be external to ABAQUS/CAE, such as a file name, you should avoid any character that may have a reserved meaning on your platform.

ABAQUS/CAE retains the case of any text you enter. For example, if you name a material STEEL in the Property module, the material will appear as STEEL in the material manager and the section editor. However, within ABAQUS/CAE, ABAQUS/Standard, and ABAQUS/Explicit all text is case insensitive; you cannot use case to distinguish between objects such as parts and materials. If you create a material called STEEL in the Property module, you cannot create a second material called Steel.

Numeric fields

Numeric fields are specialized text fields for integer input values. They have two opposing arrows directly to the right of the text area. You can enter a numeric value into the text field, or you can use the arrows to cycle up and down through a list of fixed values.

Unlike other text fields, numeric fields do not accept text or special characters.

Numeric fields often have upper and lower limits. If the value you enter exceeds the limits ABAQUS/CAE changes the entry to the closest acceptable value when you move to another field or try to apply the value.

Combo boxes

Combo boxes are fields having an arrow directly to the right of the field. If you click this arrow, a list of the possible choices that you can enter in the field appears. For example, if you click the arrow to the right of the Color field shown below, a list of all the possible colors you can enter in the field appears, and you can select the color of your choice from the list.

Radio buttons

Radio buttons present a mutually exclusive choice. When an option is controlled by radio buttons, you can choose only one of the buttons at a time.

Check boxes

You can toggle a check box to turn a particular option off or on.

For example, the visibility of the triad in the current viewport depends on the status of the Show triad check box. If the box is toggled on, as shown below, the triad appears in the viewport.

If the box is toggled off, as shown below, the triad does not appear in the viewport.

In some cases the option controlled by a check box can apply to more than one object. For example, a single Show line check box in the XY Curve Options dialog box individually controls the display of all X–Y curve lines in an X–Y plot. If you have toggled Show line on for some curves and off for others, that check box appears gray with a darker gray check mark, as shown below.

Scroll bars

Scroll bars appear in lists whose contents are too big to display; they allow you to scroll through the visible contents of the list as well as any contents that are hidden. Scrolling is often necessary when numerous items must be listed, as shown below.


Sliders allow you to set the value of an option that has a continuous range of possible values. An example of a slider is shown in the following figure:

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7.2.2 Entering expressions

If a field in a dialog box is expecting a floating point number or a complex number, you can enter an arithmetic expression, as shown in Figure 7–1.

Figure 7–1 An expression in a text field.

The expression is evaluated by the Python interpreter that is built into ABAQUS/CAE. The arithmetic expression is replaced by its value; if you reopen a dialog that contained expressions, only the values are available. Variables like pi and functions like sin() are available because ABAQUS/CAE imports the Python math module when you start a session. As a result, you can enter any expression that can be evaluated by Python's built-in functions or by the Python math module. For more information, see the documentation for built-in functions and the math module on the official Python home page.

To make sure that your expression is evaluated as expected, you should be aware of the following:

  • If you enter numbers as integers, Python will perform integer division and round down any remainder. For example, Python will interpret 3/2 as 1 and 1/2 as 0. In contrast, Python interprets 3./2 as 1.5 and 1/2. as 0.5.

  • Python interprets numbers with leading zeros as octal numbers. For example, 0123 is interpreted as 83.0.

  • Python interprets e as the natural logarithm; for example, e equates to 2.71828182846 and e+2 equates to 4.71828182846.

  • If the “e” character is preceded by a number, Python interprets it as an exponent, not a natural logarithm. For example, Python interprets 2e+2 as 2 × 102 and equates it to 200.

  • Python interprets 2e+ as 2 × 100 and equates it to 2. Similarly, Python interprets 2e++11 as 2 × 100 + 11 and equates it to 13.

If you are unsure how Python will interpret your expression, you can enter the expression on the command line; ABAQUS/CAE will print the resulting interpreted value in the message area. To access the command line interface, click in the bottom left corner of the main window. For more information, see Components of the main window, Section 6.2.1

You can also test how ABAQUS/CAE interprets an expression by entering abaqus python at an operating system prompt and entering the expression at the Python prompt that appears. The prompt line and some dialog boxes do not allow you to enter an expression. As an alternative, you can enter the expression on the command line or at the Python prompt and paste the resulting value in the prompt line or dialog box.

7.2.3 Using dimmed dialog box and toolbox components

Some objects in dialog boxes and toolboxes are available only under certain circumstances. When an object is unavailable, it appears dimmed in the dialog box. Items are usually dimmed as a result of some other setting in the dialog box. For example, if Show triad is not selected, the triad customization options below it are not available and appear dimmed, as shown below.

Context-sensitive help is available even for dimmed options, although tooltips are not.

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7.2.4 Disabling warning dialog boxes

Some dialog boxes can be disabled so that they will not appear again during the current ABAQUS/CAE session. For example, if you submit a job for analysis and job files with the same name already exist, ABAQUS/CAE displays a dialog box asking if it is OK to overwrite the job files, as shown below.

If you toggle off Show this warning next time, the dialog box will be disabled for the remainder of the current ABAQUS/CAE session.

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7.2.5 Understanding the OK, Apply, Defaults, Continue, Cancel, and Dismiss buttons

When you are finished working with a dialog box, you can specify how to proceed by using different action buttons. For example, if you enter data in a dialog box, you can save the data and apply them by clicking OK. If the dialog box is part of an intermediate step of a procedure, you can click Continue to move on to the next step.

The following action buttons can appear in a dialog box:


Click OK to commit the current contents of a dialog box and to close the dialog box.


When you click Apply, any changes you have made in the dialog box take effect, but the dialog box remains displayed. This button is useful if you make changes in a dialog box and would like to see the effects of these changes before closing the dialog box.


If you want to revert back to the predefined default values after entering data or specifying preferences in a dialog box, you can click Defaults. This button affects only the information entered in the dialog box. It does not apply your changes or close the dialog box; therefore, to see the effect of reverting to the default values, you must click Apply or OK.


Click Cancel to close a dialog box without applying any of the changes that you made. If the dialog box appears in the middle of a procedure, clicking Cancel usually also cancels the procedure. In some cases clicking Cancel returns you to the previous step in the procedure.


Dialog boxes that appear in the middle of a procedure contain Continue buttons. When you click Continue, you indicate that you have finished entering data in the current dialog box and would like to move on to the next step of the procedure. Continue causes the dialog box to be closed and all data in it to be saved unless you click Cancel at some point later in the procedure.


Dismiss buttons appear in dialog boxes that contain data that you cannot modify. For example, some managers contain lists of objects that exist but no fields in which you can enter data or specify preferences. Dismiss buttons also appear in message dialog boxes. When you click Dismiss, the dialog box closes.

To close a toolbox or a dialog box that does not have a Cancel or Dismiss button, click the close button in the upper right corner of the toolbox or dialog box. Alternatively, you can close an active toolbox or dialog box by pressing [Esc].

Note:  On Linux platforms, depending on your settings, [Esc] may be the only way to close a toolbox or dialog box. For more information, see Linux settings that affect ABAQUS/CAE and ABAQUS/Viewer, Section 5.1.3 of the ABAQUS Installation and Licensing Guide

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7.2.6 Using dialog boxes separated by tabs

For the sake of organization and convenience, some dialog boxes are separated by tabs. Only one dialog box is visible at a time. To view a particular dialog box, click its labeled tab.

For example, Figure 7–2 displays the Undeformed Plot Options dialog boxes.

Figure 7–2 Dialog boxes separated by tabs.

If you click the Color & Style tab, the dialog box containing the color and edge attributes options comes forward, obscuring the other four dialog boxes, as shown in Figure 7–3.

Figure 7–3 Using tabs to display particular dialog boxes.

In addition, separated dialog boxes can exist within a single dialog box. In this case the tabs of the separated dialog boxes are aligned vertically but work the same way as tabs aligned horizontally. In Figure 7–4 the Other dialog box contains two dialog boxes separated by tabs: Scaling and Translucency.

Figure 7–4 Dialog box containing additional dialog boxes.

The action buttons in a dialog box apply to the whole set of dialog boxes, not just the one you are currently viewing. If you click Cancel, all of the unapplied changes you have made in the set of dialog boxes are canceled, not just those in the current dialog box. Likewise, clicking OK saves all changes that you have made in any of the dialog boxes.

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7.2.7 Entering tabular data

Some operations require the entry of tabular data. For example, the XY Data toolset can produce plots of data that you enter in the dialog box shown in Figure 7–5.

Figure 7–5 X–Y data table.

Data tables are composed of input boxes, or cells, organized into rows and columns. You can type data into a table using the keyboard, or you can read data in from a file.

The following list describes techniques for entering and modifying tabular data:

Entering data

Click any cell, and type the required data. You can press [Enter] to commit the data in a particular cell.

ABAQUS/CAE does not allow you to enter character data in tables requiring numeric data; the program beeps if you attempt to enter character data in a numeric field. (The letter E that denotes scientific notation, as in 12.E6, is an exception to this rule.)

Adding new rows

Use the menu that appears when you click mouse button 3 to add a new row before or after an existing row. Click mouse button 3 while holding the cursor over the row of interest; then select the item of your choice from the menu that appears:

  • Select Insert Row Before to add a blank row above the current row.

  • Select Insert Row After to add a blank row below the current row.

Alternatively, you can add a blank row to the end of the table by clicking the cell in the last row and in the last column of the table and then pressing [Enter].

Reading data from a file

You can enter data by reading it in from an ASCII file. Data fields within the file can be delimited by any combination of spaces, tabs, or commas; each space, tab, or comma is considered a single field delimiter. To enter data from a file, click mouse button 3 while holding the cursor over the target cell; then select Read From File from the menu that appears. The Read Data from ASCII File dialog box appears. In this dialog box, specify the following:

  • In the File text field, enter the name of the file to read.

  • Specify the row number and column number of the target cell in the Start reading values into table row and Start reading values into table column fields, respectively. (By default, ABAQUS sets these fields to the cell your cursor was over when you clicked mouse button 3.)

Click OK. ABAQUS reads data values from the file into the table according to your specifications.

Moving from cell to cell

Use the [Enter] key to move from left to right between the cells in a row. When you have reached the end of the row, press [Enter] to move the cursor to the first cell in the following row.

In addition, you can use a combination of the [Tab] key and the up and down arrow keys to move from cell to cell. Use [Tab] to move to the right and [Shift]+[Tab] to move to the left; use the up and down arrows to move up and down. You can also simply click the cell of interest.

Changing data

If a cell already contains data, clicking the cell highlights the data; as soon as you begin typing, the highlighted contents of the cell disappear and are replaced by whatever you type. You can also use the [Backspace] or [Delete] keys to delete highlighted data in a cell.

After clicking the cell once, you can click a second time to remove the highlighting and position the cursor within the cell. Use the [Backspace] key and the other keys on your keyboard to modify the data.

Cutting, copying, and pasting data

Use the menu that appears when you click mouse button 3 to cut, copy, and paste data from one location in a table to another. You can cut or copy data in single cells, in rows or parts of rows, in columns or parts of columns, and in series of consecutive rows or columns.

First, drag the mouse over the cells containing the data that you want to cut or copy. All of the selected cells will become highlighted except the cell that you selected first. This cell becomes highlighted when you move the cursor outside the data table window or if you click mouse button 3.

Once you have selected the cells of interest, click mouse button 3 while holding the cursor over the selection; then select either Cut or Copy from the menu that appears. To paste the data, select the target cell, click mouse button 3, and select Paste from the menu that appears.

Sorting data

Some data tables offer a sorting feature. (To determine if sorting is available for a particular table, hold the cursor over the table; then click mouse button 3. If it is available, Sort is listed in the menu that appears.)

To sort table data, click mouse button 3 while holding the cursor over the table; then click Sort. The Sort Table dialog box appears. In this dialog box, choose the following:

  • In the Sort by text field, choose the column by which to sort.

  • Choose Ascending or Descending sort order.

Click OK or Apply. ABAQUS sorts all rows according to data values in the specified column.

Expanding and contracting columns

You can change the size of the columns in some tables. To expand or contract a column, move the cursor to the line that divides the headings of the columns you want to resize; a resize cursor will appear. Drag this cursor to the left or right to resize the two columns on either side of the dividing line.

You can also resize the last column in some tables by horizontally enlarging the dialog box that contains the table.

Viewing data that extend beyond the edge of the dialog box

Use the horizontal and vertical scroll bars to view portions of a table that are outside the boundaries of the dialog box. In some cases scroll bars may not be available; instead, increase the size of the dialog box to display more data.

Deleting rows of data

Click any cell within the row you want to delete, or select multiple cells in consecutive rows. Then, while holding the cursor over the dialog box containing the table, click mouse button 3 and select Delete Rows from the menu that appears. The row or rows disappear; if the rows are numbered, ABAQUS/CAE automatically renumbers the remaining rows.

You cannot delete rows from tables that display matrices or tensors of fixed size, such as those used in the orthotropic or anisotropic elasticity data input forms in the Property module.

Creating X–Y data from table data

While you are creating a material in the Property module, you can use the data in a table to create X–Y data. You can then use the Visualization module to plot the X–Y data and to visually check its validity. To create an X–Y data object, click mouse button 3 while holding the cursor over the table; then select Create XY Data from the menu that appears. The Create XY Data dialog box appears. In this dialog box, do the following:

  • Enter the name of the X–Y data to create.

  • Specify the column number containing the X-values and the column number containing the Y-values.

  • Click OK. ABAQUS reads the data values from the table into the X–Y data. ABAQUS/CAE retains saved X–Y data only for the duration of the session.

To view the X–Y data, do the following:
  • From the module list on the context bar, select Visualization.

  • From the main menu bar, select ToolsXY DataPlot, and select the X–Y data from the pull-right menu.

For more information, see Chapter 33, X–Y plotting.”

Clearing the table

You can delete all data from a table. While holding the cursor over the table, click mouse button 3 and select Clear Table from the menu that appears. The table data disappear.

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7.2.8 Customizing fonts

The Select Font dialog box allows you to customize the font of certain kinds of text; for example, you can use this dialog box to customize the font that appears in viewport annotations. A similar dialog box is used to customize the font of the Visualization module labels and titles.

The Select Font dialog box allows you to specify and preview the following:

  • Proportional or fixed fonts.

  • The font family.

  • The font size, in points.

  • Regular, bold, or italic font.

The available options vary depending on which fonts are installed on your system.

To customize viewport fonts:

  1. Display the Select Font dialog box for the text that you want to customize. For more information, see the following sections:

  2. Select the desired font and properties.

    A preview of the selected font appears in the Sample area of the Select Font dialog box.

  3. In the Apply To field of the Select Font dialog box, toggle on the items to which the selected font will apply. The Apply To field does not appear unless there are multiple items to which the font can apply.

  4. Click OK to accept your changes and to close the Select Font dialog box.

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7.2.9 Using file selection dialog boxes

File selection dialog boxes allow you to select files from lists that are filtered based on file type or location. To use a file selection dialog box, you first choose the type of file to open and then specify the directory to list. ABAQUS/CAE refreshes the dialog box to list only files that meet your criteria. From this list, you select the file to open.

The dialog box for selecting model databases or output databases is shown in Figure 7–6.

Figure 7–6 Selecting a model database or an output database.

Note:  In ABAQUS/Viewer you can open only output database files; therefore, Output Database (*.odb) is the only type available in the File Filter field.

Similar file selection dialog boxes appear when you perform other File menu functions, such as importing a part or printing to a file.

Use the following techniques to select the file of your choice:

Filtering the file list according to file type

File selection dialog boxes contain File Filter fields, which allow you to select the file extension of interest. For example, the File Filter selection in Figure 7–6 is Output Database (*.odb). Therefore, only files with the extension .odb appear in the list in the center of the dialog box.

Specifying the directory from which to select a file

By default, the Directory field shows the directory in which you started ABAQUS/CAE. If you want to view a list of files from a different directory, you can double-click the directory name in the list to view directories within the current path or you can click the arrow next to the Directory field to access other paths that are available on your system. In addition, icons at the top of the dialog box allow you to do the following:

Note:  Keyboard shortcuts are shown in parentheses when available.

  • Go up one directory level ([Backspace]).

  • Access your system default, or Home, directory ([Ctrl]+H).

  • Access the Work directory from which you started ABAQUS/CAE ([Ctrl]+W).

  • Set or use Bookmarks to any directory on your system.

  • Create a new directory ([Ctrl]+N).

Selecting a file

To select and open a file, double-click the file name of interest from the list. You can also begin typing the file name; the cursor will reposition to the matching location in the file list, and the first file starting with the letters you typed will be selected. Alternatively, you can enter the entire directory path and file name of interest directly in the File Name field and then click OK. Icons at the top of the dialog box allow you to change the displayed file format to one of the following (keyboard shortcuts are shown in parentheses):

  • A list ([Ctrl]+S).

  • Icons ([Ctrl]+B).

  • A detailed list ([Ctrl]+L).

The icon to the right of the others allows you to display or suppress “hidden” files.

7.2.10 Selecting multiple items from lists and tables

In some ABAQUS/CAE dialog boxes it is necessary to select an item from a list or a table before you can perform certain functions. For example, if you want to plot X–Y data, you must first select the data object of your choice from the list in the XY Data Manager, shown in Figure 7–7, and then click Plot.

Figure 7–7 Single item selected.

Some functions allow you to operate on more than one item. For example, if you wanted to delete the first two data objects in the manager shown in Figure 7–7, you could select them both and then click Delete.

To select a single item from a list, you need only click that item in the dialog box. To select a single item from a table, click the table row heading. To select multiple items, you can use the following techniques:

Selecting consecutive items from a list or table

Click the first item of interest from a list or row heading from a table and then, while continuing to hold down mouse button 1, drag the cursor over the remaining items. Release the mouse button when all of the items of interest are selected. For example, consecutive items are selected in Figure 7–8.

Figure 7–8 Consecutive items selected.

Another way to select consecutive items is to click the first item of interest from a list or row heading from a table and then [Shift]+Click the last item of interest. All items between the first and the last are selected automatically.

Selecting nonconsecutive items from a list or table

Click the first item of interest from a list or row heading from a table and then [Ctrl]+Click any other items you want to select. For example, nonconsecutive items are selected in Figure 7–9.

Figure 7–9 Nonconsecutive items selected.

Canceling a selection

You can [Ctrl]+Click previously selected items to remove them from your selection. For example, if you [Ctrl]+Click Displacement in the list shown in Figure 7–9, that data object is no longer selected, as shown in Figure 7–10.

Figure 7–10 Individual item removed from selection.

Certain functions in a dialog box may become unavailable when you select multiple items. For example, the Edit, Copy, and Rename functions in the Data Manager shown in Figure 7–10 are valid only for individual data objects. When you select multiple data objects, these three functions become unavailable.

7.2.11 Using keyboard shortcuts

You can use the keyboard instead of the mouse to perform most actions within the ABAQUS/CAE main window and dialog boxes. The following actions have keyboard shortcuts:

Context-sensitive help

Press [F1] to display context-sensitive help concerning the currently selected object in the ABAQUS/CAE main window or dialog box. For more information on using [F1] for context-sensitive help, see Displaying context-sensitive help, Section 6.6.1.


You can display a particular menu by pressing the [Alt] key in combination with the underlined character in that menu's name. For example, the letter V is underlined in the View menu in the main menu bar:

Therefore, you can type [Alt]+V to display the View menu.

Menu items

Once the menu is displayed, you can select a particular menu item by continuing to press the [Alt] key and pressing the underlined character in that menu item's name. For example, the letter T is underlined in Views Toolbox in the View menu:

Therefore, you can type [Alt]+V to display the View menu and then, without releasing the [Alt] key, type T to select Views Toolbox.