A Cinema 4D Primer for Maya Artists: Customizing Your Workspace

Photo of Edna Kruger

Instructor Edna Kruger

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Rearrange and save your own layouts, create custom palettes, remap keyboard shortcuts, and make your own menus.

This video shows how to customize the Cinema 4D interface by rearranging the layout of panels by docking and creating tabs, saving a custom layout, editing palettes, creating custom palettes with the Customize Command Manager, assigning and reassigning keyboard shortcuts, editing menus with the Menu Editor, and creating custom menus.



Now that you've worked in Cinema 4D a bit, you may notice that you like to work in a certain way, or you want to make it more like the setup that you have in Maya or another application. In this video, we're going to show you how you can customize C4D so that you can work in the way that is most comfortable to you. This includes rearranging the layout of the panels in the workspace, creating custom palettes, setting keyboard shortcuts to what you want, and editing and creating custom menus. The C4D interface is divided into panels that give you access to different icons, tools, and managers, the same basic idea as in Maya. There are a bunch of preset layouts for different workflows that you can get from the Layout menu here in the upper right corner. Try them all out to see which ones you might like to work with. These are also a good starting point for customizing the layout to what you want. We'll start out with the Model layout, which creates a panel of modeling tools at the bottom. Let's say we want to make it feel a little bit more like the Modeling Toolkit in Maya, so we need to rearrange the panels. Just drag this little square icon, called the "Grasp" icon, to any edge that gets highlighted in white. Then release the icon to dock it, and we'll dock these so that they're vertical beside the view panel. You can also choose Undock from this icon's menu, and leave the panel as a floating window. When you've had enough of that, just drag on the icon back to an edge to redock the panel. Let's make some room on the right side by docking these editors as tabs. Drag the Grasp icon of the Object Manager, and drop it onto the Grasp icon of the view panel, which turns both of these panels into tabs. We'll add the Attribute Manager, Coordinate Manager, and Layer Manager as tabs as well. Now, we'll close the rest of the panels on the right side since we aren't using them so much. You can press Shift+W to do this too. Remember that you can always find any manager in the Window menu if you want to bring it back. To save this layout, choose Window, Customization, Save Layout As, and give it a name. It gets saved in your C4D library Layouts folder, and if you like this layout so much that you want to have it load whenever you open up C4D, choose Save as Startup Layout. Don't worry about overwriting the existing startup layout, because all layouts that you create have a user tag appended to it. If you've just made a big mess of the layout and don't want to save it, just choose the startup or standard layout again to reboot, and the changes you made are gone as if they never happened. Now that you know how to change the layout of panels and palettes, let's look at how to edit what's in the palettes. Right-click the Grasp icon in any palette, and choose Customize Palette. This brings up the Customize Command Manager, which you can also open by choosing Window, Customization, Customize Command, or by pressing Shift+F12. Just make sure that the Edit Palettes option is on. Blue outlines around the icons in all of the palettes remind you that you're in Editing mode. Now, you can rearrange the order of the icons. For example, we can just move these two buttons out of the way to have the Component modes closer to the Model mode icon. Or even drag icons from one palette to another, like moving the Selection icon and the Move, Rotate, and Scale icons to the left palette to make it feel more like the Maya toolbox. When you're done, turn off Edit Palettes to end that mode, or close the manager. You don't have to be in Edit mode to change the rows and columns layout, or show text with the icons, and move the text below the icons, or change the icon size. So you can do these at any time. The real power of palettes is that you can create your own custom one so that your most commonly used tools are close at hand, pretty much the same as creating a custom shelf in Maya. Right-click the icon and choose New Palette, which creates an empty palette that needs to be filled. You can press Shift+C to open the Commander and enter the name of the command, and then drag it into the new palette. You can even drag a command into the view panel itself to have it around for ultimate convenience. But we'll just remove that and close this palette, and we'll try it another way. This time, we'll open the Command Manager by pressing Shift+F12, then click the New Palette button. Instead of scrolling down this huge list to find a command, just enter a string in the Name Filter field to search for the commands, such as Render. For example, we want to keep just our favorite rendering tools in a separate palette. Make sure that you select the correct command if there are several commands with the same name, and just drag that command onto the palette. We'll bring in the render settings, the render queue, and all of our render previewing tools. It's sometimes useful to make icons for commands that are in submenus or for commands that don't have keyboard shortcuts. We'll find the Make Preview command to add that one too. We'll just right-click the Grasp icon and choose Change Orientation to make it vertical. Then, right-click and choose Rename to give it a good name, like "Render Pal", which can be short for "palette" or just because it's your new buddy. You can keep it in a floating window to move it around as you like, or dock it like you would any other panel, which we'll do on the left side here. Another cool thing is that you can right-click and choose Fold Palette, which creates a little icon that represents the other commands in a menu. If we just turn on Edit Palette mode, we can add it to an existing palette, and then close the empty one. Note that you can drag commands to add them to any palette, not just to custom ones, as we'll do with Make Preview. Let's just turn off Edit Palette. Another way of making commands accessible is to either assign keyboard shortcuts to commands that don't have any, or to change the assigned keyboard shortcuts to something that you like more. For example, we want to assign the F9, F10, and F11 keys to the Points, Edges, and Polygon modes so that they're the same as what we're used to in Maya. Let's start by finding out if the F10 key is available by pressing the F10 key itself in the Shortcut Filter field. You can see that there's something assigned to Shift+F10, but we're clear for takeoff for F10 on its own. Now, we can assign the F10 key. So enter Edge in the Name Filter field to find the Edges mode command, and select it. You can see that there's no key currently assigned to it. Press the F10 key itself in the Shortcut field at the bottom, and then click the Assign button. Now, it's listed as the shortcut. You could always click Delete to unassign it. But let's just put that back. Now, we can do the same thing to assign the F11 key to Polygon mode. First, we'll check what's assigned to F11. Then, we'll find the Polygons mode command, and then press the F11 key in the Shortcut field and click Assign. So this works okay for F10 and F11, but you can see that F9 is already assigned to the Record Active Objects command. So let's reassign the Record Active Objects command to something like KO, as in Key Objects. The keys are also close together on the keyboard. Now, we'll find the Points mode command and assign the F9 key to it. Notice that the shortcuts show up when we mouse over these icons, which is nice if you forgot what you did. One more way to customize C4D is to edit the menus in the Menu bar, or create your own custom menu to show up there. This time, choose Window, Customization, Customize Menus to bring up the Menu Editor. You can select a menu here and drag it to a new place, or select it and click the Move buttons to change the order of the menus. We'll just do a little rearranging here to, say, put them in alphabetical order. You can double-click a menu to expand it and see its contents, and then you can rearrange these commands as you like too, including moving them to a different menu. We're just doing some random moving commands around here. But a real reason for rearranging the commands is, let's say there's an update to the UI in the latest version, but you've just gotten used to your favorite commands being in a certain menu. So you can rearrange the menus to revert them to what they used to be like in a previous version. You can also delete items. For example, we'll delete the Team Render commands, because we work alone and never use them. Click Apply to make the changes and see them in the Menu bar. Because you always need a safety net, you can click Revert to Last Saved Version or Revert to Original to reload the factory settings to undo whatever weirdness you may have just done. If you want to create your own custom menu that will show up on the Menu bar, click New Submenu and give it a name. You can copy and paste commands here from other menus, or just move the different commands that you want into this new menu. Let's say we want to move all our favorite MoGraph and simulation tools in the same menu. We can just drag them in here. But then, they won't be in the original menus anymore. Click Save All Changes to keep this menu, and now you can use it from the Menu bar as if it was always there. But we'll revert to original, because we were just messing around and don't really want to keep it like that. So now, you know the many ways in which you can customize C4D to make it comfortable for you to work in, and here's the cheat sheet for all the features and keyboard shortcuts that we used in this video. In the next video, we'll take a quick look at some features in C4D that you really should explore, because they are awesome. We'll also check out cineversity.com.
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