rgl Overview

setupKnitr(autoprint = TRUE)


The rgl package is used to produce interactive 3-D plots. It contains high-level graphics commands modelled loosely after classic R graphics, but working in three dimensions. It also contains low level structure inspired by (but incompatible with) the grid package.

This document gives an overview. See the help pages for details.

For installation instructions, see the README file in the top level directory of the source tarball r paste0("rgl_", packageVersion("rgl"), ".tar.gz") (or a later version).

About this document

This document was written in R Markdown, using the knitr package for production. It corresponds to rgl version r packageVersion("rgl").

Most of the highlighted function names are HTML links. The internal links should work in any browser; the links to help topics should work if you view the vignette from within the R help system.

The document includes WebGL figures. To view these, you must have Javascript and WebGL enabled in your browser. Some older browsers may not support this -- see https://get.webgl.org for tests and links to a discussion.

Basics and High Level Functions

The r indexfns("plot3d") function plots points within an RGL window. It is similar to the classic r linkfn("plot", pkg="graphics") function, but works in 3 dimensions.

For example

with(iris, plot3d(Sepal.Length, Sepal.Width, Petal.Length, 
                  type="s", col=as.numeric(Species)))

\noindent can be used to plot three columns of the iris data. Allowed plot types include "p", "l", "h", "s", meaning points, lines, segments from z=0, and spheres. There's a lot of flexibility in specifying the coordinates; the r linkfn("xyz.coords", pkg = "grDevices") function from the grDevices package is used for this.

You can use your mouse to manipulate the plot. The default is that if you click and hold with the left mouse button, you can rotate the plot by dragging it. The right mouse button is used to resize it, and the middle button changes the perspective in the point of view.

If you call r linkfn("plot3d") again, it will overwrite the current plot. To open a new graphics window, use r linkfn("open3d").

The other high level function is r indexfns("persp3d") to draw surfaces. It is similar to the classic r linkfn("persp", pkg = "graphics") function, but with greater flexibility. First, any of x, y or z can be specified using matrices, not just z. This allows parametric surfaces to be plotted. An even simpler specification is possible: x may be a function, in which case persp3d will work out the grid itself. See r linkfn("persp3d.function", text="?persp3d.function", pkg="rgl") for details. For example, the MASS package estimates Gamma parameters using maximum likelihood in a r linkfn("fitdistr", text="?MASS::fitdistr", pkg="MASS") example. Here we show the log likelihood surface.

# This example requires the MASS package
# from the fitdistr example
x <- rgamma(100, shape = 5, rate = 0.1)
fit <- fitdistr(x, dgamma, list(shape = 1, rate = 0.1), lower = 0.001)
loglik <- function(shape, rate) sum(dgamma(x, shape=shape, rate=rate, 
loglik <- Vectorize(loglik)
xlim <- fit$estimate[1]+4*fit$sd[1]*c(-1,1)
ylim <- fit$estimate[2]+4*fit$sd[2]*c(-1,1)

mfrow3d(1, 2, sharedMouse = TRUE)
        xlim = xlim, ylim = ylim,
        n = 30)
zlim <- fit$loglik + c(-qchisq(0.99, 2)/2, 0)
        xlim = xlim, ylim = ylim, zlim = zlim,
        n = 30)

On the left, the whole surface over a range of the parameters; on the right, only the parts of the surface with log likelihood values near the maximum.

Note: this example used the knitr hook functions (see r linkfn("setupKnitr")) to insert the scene into this vignette; the previous example used the rglwidget function. We generally recommend the newer r linkfn("rglwidget") approach.

Note that both plot3d and persp3d are generic functions, with the following methods defined:


Adding Graphical Elements

Primitive shapes

Just as we have r linkfn("points", pkg="graphics") and r linkfn("lines", pkg="graphics") in classic graphics, there are a number of low level functions in rgl to add graphical elements to the currently active plot. The "primitive" shapes are those that are native to OpenGL:

Function | Description ----------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns("points3d"): | adds points r indexfns("lines3d"): | adds lines r indexfns("segments3d"): | adds line segments r indexfns("triangles3d"): | adds triangles r indexfns("quads3d"): | adds quadrilaterals

Each of the above functions takes arguments x, y and z, again using r linkfn("xyz.coords", pkg="grDevices") for flexibility. They group successive entries as necessary. For example, the r linkfn("triangles3d") function takes each successive triple of points as the vertices of a triangle.

You can use these functions to annotate the current graph, or to construct a figure from scratch.

Constructed shapes

rgl also has a number of objects which it constructs from the primitives.

Function | Description ----------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns(c("text3d", "texts3d")): | adds text r indexfns("abclines3d"): | adds straight lines to plot (like abline) r indexfns("arc3d"): | adds spherical arcs or spirals to plot r indexfns("planes3d"): | adds planes to plot r indexfns("clipplanes3d"): | add clipping planes to plot r indexfns(c("sprites3d", "particles3d")): | add sprites (fixed shapes or images) to plot r indexfns("spheres3d"): | adds spheres r indexfns(c("surface3d", "terrain3d")): | a surface (as used in r linkfn("persp3d")) r indexfns("drape3d"): | drapes lines on a surface or object(s) r indexfns("shadow3d"): | projects mesh onto a surface r indexfns("arrow3d"): | add an arrow to a scene r indexfns("pch3d"): | draw base-style plotting symbols r indexfns("plotmath3d"): | used by r linkfn("text3d") for math text

Axes and other "decorations"

The following low-level functions control the look of the graph:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns(c("axes3d", "axis3d")): | add axes to plot r indexfns(c("box3d", "bbox3d")): | add box around plot r indexfns("title3d"): | add title to plot r indexfns("mtext3d"): | add marginal text to plot r indexfns("decorate3d"): | add multiple "decorations" (scales, etc.) to plot r indexfns("aspect3d"): | set the aspect ratios for the plot r indexfns(c("bg3d", "bgplot3d")): | set the background of the scene r indexfns("show2d"): | show a 2D plot or image in a 3D scene r indexfns("legend3d"): | set a legend for the scene r indexfns("grid3d"): | add a reference grid to a graph r indexfns("thigmophobe3d"): | choose label positions to avoid overlap r indexfns("setAxisCallbacks"): | set user-defined axis annotations

For example, to plot three random triangles, one could use

triangles3d(cbind(x=rnorm(9), y=rnorm(9), z=rnorm(9)), col = "green")

Besides the *3d functions mentioned above, there are even lower-level functions r indexfns(c("rgl.primitive", "rgl.points", "rgl.linestrips", "rgl.lines", "rgl.triangles", "rgl.quads", "rgl.texts", "rgl.abclines", "rgl.planes", "rgl.bg", "rgl.clipplanes", "rgl.bbox", "rgl.spheres", "rgl.sprites", "rgl.surface")).
You should avoid using these functions, which do not work well with the higher level *3d functions. See the r linkfn("r3d", text="?r3d", pkg="rgl") help topic for details. The functions r indexfns(c("rgl.setAxisCallback", "rgl.getAxisCallback")) provide low-level support for r linkfn("setAxisCallbacks").

Controlling the Look of the Scene

Camera angle

By default when you open a new plot with r linkfn("open3d"):

You can change the camera angle simply by dragging the picture with the mouse.

To set the camera angle programmatically, use r indexfns("view3d"). This uses polar coordinates:

The default angle is roughly theta = 0, phi = -70. Starting from this position:

You can also use r indexfns("observer3d") to change the camera location using x,y,z coordinates. In particular, increasing the z coordinate lets you zoom out, and decreasing it zooms you in.

One useful approach is to use the mouse to find a nice viewing angle. You can then save it using par3d("userMatrix") and restore the same view later:

myview <- par3d("userMatrix")
# ... later ...
par3d(userMatrix = myview)


In most scenes, objects are "lit", meaning that their appearance depends on their position and orientation relative to lights in the scene. The lights themselves don't normally show up, but their effect on the objects does.

Use the r indexfns("light3d") function to specify the position and characteristics of a light. Lights may be infinitely distant, or may be embedded within the scene. Their characteristics include ambient, diffuse, and specular components, all defaulting to white. The ambient component appears the same from any direction. The diffuse component depends on the angle between the surface and the light, while the specular component also takes the viewer's position into account.

The r indexfns("rgl.light") function is a lower-level function with different defaults; users should normally use r linkfn("light3d").


The mental model used in rgl is that the objects being shown in scenes are physical objects in space, with material properties that affect how light reflects from them (or is emitted by them). These are mainly controlled by the r indexfns("material3d") function, or by arguments to other functions that are passed to it.

The material properties that can be set by calls to material3d are described in detail in the r linkfn("material3d", text="?material3d", pkg="rgl") help page. Here we give an overview.

Property | Default | Meaning --------- | ------- | ------------------ color | white | vector of surface colors to apply to successive vertices for diffuse light alpha | 1 | transparency: 0 is invisible, 1 is opaque lit | TRUE | whether lighting calculations should be done ambient | black | color in ambient light specular | white | color in specular light emission | black | color emitted by the surface shininess | 50 | controls the specular lighting: high values look shiny smooth | TRUE | whether shading should be interpolated between vertices texture | NULL | optional path to a "texture" bitmap to be displayed on the surface front, back | fill | should polygons be filled, or outlined? size | 3 | size of points in pixels lwd | 1 | width of lines in pixels

Other properties include "texmipmap", "texmagfilter", "texminfilter", "texenvmap", "fog", "point_antialias", "line_antialias", "depth_mask", "depth_test", "polygon_offset", "margin", "floating" and "tag"; see r linkfn("material3d", "the help page", pkg = "rgl") for details.

There is also an r indexfns("rgl.material") function that works at a lower level; users should normally avoid it.


As described in the previous section, one of the material properties is texture, the name of a bitmap file (in .png format) containing an image to be displayed on the surface. This section gives more details about textures.

In OpenGL, each vertex in a polygon may be associated with a particular location in the bitmap. The interior of the polygon interpolates within the bitmap. There are two conventions in rgl functions for specifying these coordinates.

Functions which specify primitives (r linkfn("triangles3d"), etc.) accept an optional matrix argument texcoords which gives s (horizontal) and t (vertical) locations within the bitmap in columns with one row per vertex. The coordinates are (0,0) for the lower left, and (1,1) for the upper right. If values outside this range are given, the image repeats, i.e. (1.1, 1.1) would specify the same point in the image as (0.1, 0.1).

Other functions such as r linkfn("surface3d") that take matrices for each vertex coordinate accept texture coordinates as matrices as well, in arguments texture_s and texture_t.

For example, the following code displays four copies of a 2D plot on a quad, because the texture coordinates run from 0 to 2 in both s and t:

filename <- tempfile(fileext = ".png")
png(filename = filename)
plot(rnorm(1000), rnorm(1000))
xyz <- cbind(c(0,1,1,0), 0, c(0,0,1,1))
quads3d(xyz, texture = filename, texcoords = xyz[,c(1, 3)]*2, col = "white", specular = "black")

Some other notes:


rgl uses the same ideas as base graphics for drawing text: there are font families named "sans", "serif", and "mono" for drawing text of those types. In rgl, the "symbol" family is not supported.

New font families can be defined using the low-level function r indexfns("rglFonts"), or more simply using the higher level function r indexfns("rglExtrafonts"). The latter function requires the extrafont package to be installed.

par3d: Miscellaneous graphical parameters

The r indexfns("par3d") function, modelled after the classic graphics r linkfn("par", pkg="graphics") function, sets or reads a variety of different rgl internal parameters. Some parameters are completely read-only; others are fixed at the time the window is opened, and others may be changed at any time.

Name | Changeable? | Description ----------- | ----- | ----------- antialias | fixed | Amount of hardware antialiasing cex | | Default size for text family | | Device-independent font family name; see r linkfn("text3d", text="?text3d", pkg="rgl") font | | Integer font number useFreeType | | Should FreeType fonts be used if available? fontname | read-only | System-dependent font name set by r linkfn("rglFonts") FOV | | Field of view, in degrees. Zero means isometric perspective ignoreExtent | | Should rgl ignore the size of new objects when computing the bounding box? skipRedraw | | Should rgl suppress updates to the display? maxClipPlanes | read-only | How many clip planes can be defined? modelMatrix | read-only | The OpenGL ModelView matrix; partly set by r indexfns("view3d") or the obsolete r indexfns("rgl.viewpoint") projMatrix | read-only | The OpenGL Projection matrix bbox | read-only | Current bounding-box of the scene viewport | | Dimensions in pixels of the scene within the window windowRect | | Dimensions in pixels of the window on the whole screen listeners | | Which subscenes respond to mouse actions in the current one mouseMode | | What the mouse buttons do. See r linkfn("mouseMode", '<code>"mouseMode"</code>') observer | read-only | The position of the observer; set by r indexfns("observer3d") scale | | Rescaling for each coordinate; see r linkfn("aspect3d") zoom | | Magnification of the scene

Default settings

The r indexfns("r3dDefaults") list and the r indexfns("getr3dDefaults") function control defaults in new windows opened by r linkfn("open3d").
The function looks for the variable in the user's global environment, and if not found there, finds the one in the rgl namespace. This allows the user to override the default settings for new windows.

Once found, the r3dDefaults list provides initial values for r linkfn("par3d") parameters, as well as defaults for r linkfn("material3d") and r linkfn("bg3d") in components "material" and "bg" respectively.

Meshes: Constructing Shapes

rgl includes a number of functions to construct and display various solid shapes. These generate objects of class "shape3d", "mesh3d" or "shapelist3d". The details of the classes are described below. We start with functions to generate them.

Specific solids

These functions generate specific shapes. Optional arguments allow attributes such as colour or transformations to be specified.

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns(c("tetrahedron3d", "cube3d", "octahedron3d", "dodecahedron3d", "icosahedron3d")): | Platonic solids r indexfns(c("cuboctahedron3d", "oh3d")): | other solids

cols <- rainbow(7)
layout3d(matrix(1:16, 4,4), heights=c(1,3,1,3))
text3d(0,0,0,"tetrahedron3d"); next3d()
shade3d(tetrahedron3d(col=cols[1])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"cube3d"); next3d()
shade3d(cube3d(col=cols[2])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"octahedron3d"); next3d()
shade3d(octahedron3d(col=cols[3])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"dodecahedron3d"); next3d()
shade3d(dodecahedron3d(col=cols[4])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"icosahedron3d"); next3d()
shade3d(icosahedron3d(col=cols[5])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"cuboctahedron3d"); next3d()
shade3d(cuboctahedron3d(col=cols[6])); next3d()
text3d(0,0,0,"oh3d"); next3d()

A very large collection of polyhedra is contained in the r linkfn("Rpolyhedra-package", text = "Rpolyhedra", pkg = "Rpolyhedra") package.

Generating new shapes

These functions generate new shapes:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns("cylinder3d"): | generate a tube or cylinder r indexfns("polygon3d"): | generate a flat polygon by triangulation r indexfns("extrude3d"): | generate an "extrusion" of a polygon r indexfns("turn3d"): | generate a solid of rotation r indexfns("ellipse3d"): | generate an ellipsoid in various ways r indexfns("mesh3d"): | generate a shape from indexed vertices r indexfns("shapelist3d"): | generate a shape by combining other shapes as.mesh3d: | a generic function; see below

A related function is r indexfns("triangulate"), which takes a two dimensional polygon and divides it up into triangles using the "ear-clipping" algorithm.

The generic function r indexfns("as.mesh3d") is provided to allow data structures produced by other code to be converted to mesh structures. Currently the following classes are supported:

Class | Package | Description ----- | ------- | ----------- r indexfns("deldir", pkg = "deldir") | deldir | Delaunay triangulations of irregular point clouds r indexfns("triSht", pkg = "interp") | interp | Also Delaunay triangulations r indexfns("tri", pkg = "tripack") | tripack | Generalized Delaunay triangulations r indexfns("ashape3d", pkg = "alphashape3d") | alphashape3d | Alpha-shapes r linkfn("rglId") | rgl | rgl object identifiers

The r indexfns("checkDeldir") function checks that a compatible version of the deldir package is installed.

The default r indexfns("as.mesh3d.default") method is a simple way to construct a mesh from a matrix of vertices; it can use r indexfns("mergeVertices") (which can also be used on its own) to merge repeated vertices within the matrix, allowing r linkfn("addNormals") to be used to give a smooth appearance.

The r indexfns("as.tmesh3d") generic is a variation that guarantees the resulting object will have no quad entries.

Functions r indexfns(c("tmesh3d","qmesh3d")) are now obsolete; use r linkfn("mesh3d") instead.

The underlying class structure for shapes

"shape3d" is the basic abstract type. Objects of this class can be displayed by r indexfns("shade3d") (which shades faces), r indexfns("wire3d") (which draws edges), or r indexfns("dot3d") (which draws points at each vertex.)

"mesh3d" is a descendant type. Objects of this type contain the following fields:

Field | Meaning ------------ | --------------- vb | A 4 by n matrix of vertices in homogeneous coordinates. Each column is a point. ip | (optional) A vector of vertex indices for points. is | (optional) A 2 by s matrix of vertex indices. Each column is a line segment. it | (optional) A 3 by t matrix of vertex indices. Each column is a triangle. ib | (optional) A 4 by q matrix of vertex indices. Each column is a quadrilateral. material | (optional) A list of material properties. normals | (optional) A matrix of the same shape as vb, containing normal vectors at each vertex. texcoords | (optional) A 2 by n matrix of texture coordinates corresponding to each vertex. values | (optional) A vector of length n holding values at each vertex meshColor | (optional) A text value indicating how colors and texture coordinates should be interpreted.

Contouring shapes

These functions compute and plot contours of functions on surfaces, or clip objects along a contour of a function.

Function | Description -------------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns("contourLines3d"): | draw contour lines on surface r indexfns("filledContour3d"): | fill between contours on surface r indexfns("clipMesh3d"): | clip mesh object using curved boundary r indexfns("clipObj3d"): | clip general object using curved boundary

Manipulating shapes

These functions manipulate and modify mesh objects:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns("addNormals"): | add normal vectors to make a shape look smooth r indexfns("subdivision3d"): | add extra vertices to make it look even smoother r indexfns("merge.mesh3d", backticked("merge")): | merge mesh objects r indexfns("facing3d"): | subset of mesh facing "up" r indexfns("getBoundary3d"): | get the boundary of a mesh object

The individual steps in r linkfn("subdivision3d") are also available: r indexfns(c("deform.mesh3d", "divide.mesh3d", "normalize.mesh3d")). These are mainly intended for internal use.

Multi-figure Layouts

rgl has several functions to support displaying multiple different "subscenes" in the same window. The high level functions are

Function | Description ------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns("mfrow3d"): | Multiple figures (like r linkfn("par", text = 'par("mfrow")', pkg="graphics") r indexfns("layout3d"): | Multiple figures (like r linkfn("layout", pkg="graphics")) r indexfns("next3d"): | Move to the next figure (like r linkfn("plot.new", pkg="graphics") or r linkfn("frame", pkg="graphics")) r indexfns("subsceneList"): | List all the subscenes in the current layout r indexfns("clearSubsceneList"): | Clear the current list and revert to the previous one

There are also lower level functions.

Function | Description ---------------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns("newSubscene3d"): | Create a new subscene, with fine control over what is inherited from the parent r indexfns("currentSubscene3d"): | Report on the active subscene r indexfns("subsceneInfo"): | Get information on current subscene r indexfns("useSubscene3d"): | Make a different subscene active r indexfns(c("addToSubscene3d", "delFromSubscene3d")): | Add objects to a subscene, or delete them r indexfns("gc3d"): | Do "garbage collection": delete objects that are not displayed in any subscene

Documents with rgl Scenes

The rgl package can produce output that can be embedded in other documents. The recommended way to do this has changed several times over the years. We will start with the current recommendation, then list older methods.

The recommended method

Currently the best way to embed an rgl scene in a document is to produce the document in HTML using R Markdown. Early in the document, you should have code like this in one of the setup code chunks:

`r ''````r
setupKnitr(autoprint = TRUE)

The call to setupKnitr() will install a number of hooks and set options in knitr so that rgl code is handled properly. The autoprint = TRUE argument makes rgl act in the document almost the same way it would act in the console, or the way base graphics are handled by knitr: If you print the value of high level rgl functions, a plot will be inserted into the output, but maybe only after low level modifications to it are complete. For example, this code block prints both triangles and spheres in a single plot at the end:

xyz <- matrix(rnorm(27), ncol = 3)
triangles3d(xyz, col = rainbow(9))
spheres3d(xyz, col = rainbow(9), radius = 0.1)

There are a few differences if you have a complicated situation:

plots <- NULL
for (i in 1:3) {
  plot3d(rnorm(10), rnorm(10), rnorm(10))
  plots <- htmltools::tagList(plots, rglwidget())
foreignHigh()   # Produces a high level plot, but doesn't return
                # an appropriate value
foreignLow()    # Modifies the previous plot

This should display the output at the end of the code chunk, when modifications are assumed complete.

Producing PDF output

While some PDF previewers support interactive 3D graphics, most don't. To produce a screenshot of an rgl scene in an R Markdown document with PDF output, simply follow the directions given above. The auto-printing will detect PDF output and use snapshot3d to produce a PNG file to insert. (See below if you want to insert a different format of graphic.)

If you really need interactive output, see the r linkfn("writeASY") function.

Manual insertion of plots

You may not want to use the setupKnitr(autoprint = TRUE) method described above. It is very new, and may still have bugs; you may have an older document and not want to edit it to work that way.

In this case, you can insert plots manually. Use setup code

`r ''````r

and call rglwidget() at top level whenever you want to insert a plot.

There are a couple of other differences in default behaviour if you are not using autoprint:

Older methods

The original way to insert an rgl scene in a document was to use the r indexfns("writeWebGL") function to write HTML code to insert in a document. Later, Sweave and knitr hooks were added. These are no longer maintained, and it is recommended that you update old documents to use the newer methods. See the r linkfn("writeWebGL"), r linkfn("rgl.Sweave") and r linkfn("hook_rgl") help topics for details on these if you must use them. If you are reading documents that suggest using those methods, let the author know they need updating!

Utility Functions

User interaction

By default, rgl detects and handles mouse clicks within your scene, and uses these to control its appearance. You can find out the current handlers using the following code:


The labels c("left", "right", "middle") refer to the buttons on a three button mouse, or simulations of them on other mice. "wheel" refers to the mouse wheel, and "none" refers to actions that take place when the mouse is moved without pressing any button.

The button actions generally correspond to click and drag operations. Possible values for r indexfns("mouseMode", '<code>"mouseMode"</code>') for the mouse pointer or wheel are as follows:

Mode | Description -------------- | --------- "none" | No action "trackball" | The mouse acts as a virtual trackball. Clicking and dragging rotates the scene "xAxis", "yAxis", "zAxis" | Like "trackball", but restricted to rotation about one axis "polar" | The mouse affects rotations by controlling polar coordinates directly "selecting" | The mouse is being used by the r linkfn("select3d") function "zoom" | The mouse zooms the display "fov" | The mouse affects perspective by changing the field of view "pull" | Rotating the mouse wheel towards the user "pulls the scene closer" "push" | The same rotation "pushes the scene away" "user" | A user action set by r indexfns(c("setUserCallbacks", "rgl.setMouseCallbacks", "rgl.setWheelCallback")). Use r indexfns("rgl.getMouseCallbacks") and r indexfns("rgl.getWheelCallback") to retrieve.

The following functions make use of the mouse for selection within a scene.

Function | Description ---------------------------- | ----------- r indexfns("identify3d"): | like the classic graphics r linkfn("identify", pkg="graphics") function r indexfns("select3d"): | returns a function that tests whether a coordinate was selected r indexfns("selectpoints3d"): | selects from specific objects

r indexfns("selectionFunction3d") produces the selection function from information about the projection and mouse selection region; it is used internally in the functions above.

The r indexfns("rgl.select3d") function is an obsolete version of select3d, and r indexfns("rgl.select") is a low-level support function.


rgl has several functions that can be used to construct animations. These are based on functions that update the scene according to the current real-world time, and repeated calls to those. The functions are:

Function | Description ---------------------- | ------------- r indexfns("play3d"): | Repeatedly call the update function r indexfns("spin3d"): | Update the display by rotating at a constant rate r indexfns("par3dinterp"): | Compute new values of some r linkfn("par3d") parameters by interpolation over time

See the r linkfn("movie3d") function for a way to output an animation to a file on disk.
Animations are not currently supported in the HTML written by r linkfn("rglwidget"), though the playwidget function provides equivalent functionality.

Integration with TCL/TK

There are three functions in rgl that support control of an rgl scene using the TCL/TK framework.

Function | Description ---------------------- | ------------- r indexfns("tkspin3d"): | Set up buttons in a window to control a scene r indexfns("tkspinControl"): | Embed the control buttons in a separate TCL/TK frame r indexfns("tkpar3dsave"): | Create a dialog to interactively save mouse actions

These functions were formerly contained (without the tk prefixes on their names) in the tkrgl package. That package is now deprecated.

Exporting and importing scenes

rgl contains several functions to write scenes to disk for use by other software, or to read them in.

In order from highest fidelity to lowest, the functions are:

Function | Description ----------- | ------------- r indexfns("scene3d"): | Save a scene to an R variable, which can be saved and reloaded r indexfns("rglwidget"): | Prints as HTML and Javascript to display a scene in a web browser. (See also User Interaction in WebGL.) r linkfn("writeWebGL"): | Deprecated. r indexfns("writeASY"): | Write files for Asymptote r indexfns("writePLY"): | Write PLY files (commonly used in 3D printing) r indexfns(c("readOBJ", "writeOBJ")): | Read or write OBJ files (commonly used in 3D graphics) r indexfns(c("readSTL", "writeSTL")): | Read or write STL files (also common in 3D printing) r indexfns("as.rglscene"): | Generic function, no methods in rgl

The rgl2gltf package can read or write GLTF and GLB files. It includes an as.rglscene method to convert GLTF objects to rgl scenes. The code in rgl's r indexfns("Buffer") R6 class is based on the GLTF format. It is used by r linkfn("rglwidget") to make output webpages somewhat smaller than they were previously.

There are also functions to save snapshots or other recordings of a scene, without any 3D information being saved:

Function | Description ------------ | ------------- r indexfns("snapshot3d"): | Save a PNG file bitmap of the scene r indexfns("rgl.postscript"): | Save a Postscript, LaTeX, PDF, SVG or PGF vector rendering of the scene r indexfns("movie3d"): | Save a series of bitmaps to be assembled into a movie r indexfns("rgl.pixels"): | Obtain pixel-level information about the scene in an R variable r indexfns("rgl.Sweave"): | Driver function for inserting a snapshot into a Sweave document. r indexfns(c("hook_rgl", "hook_webgl")): | knitr hook functions for inserting images into a document. r indexfns("setupKnitr"): | Function to set up knitr hooks

The r indexfns("rgl.snapshot") function is a low level version of snapshot3d(); it requires that the rgl display be onscreen and copies from there. snapshot3d() tries to use the webshot2 package so it will work even with no display. The functions r indexfns(c("rgl.Sweave.off", "Sweave.snapshot")) are involved in Sweave processing and not normally called by users.

Default display

There are two ways in which rgl scenes are normally displayed within R. The older one is in a dedicated window. In Unix-alikes this is an X11 window; it is a native window in Microsoft Windows. On macOS, the XQuartz system (see https://www.xquartz.org) needs to be installed to support this.

To suppress this display, set options(rgl.useNULL = TRUE) before opening a new rgl window. See the help page for the r indexfns("rgl.useNULL") function for how to set this before starting R.

The newer way to display a scene is by using WebGL in a browser window or in the Viewer pane in RStudio. To select this, set options(rgl.printRglwidget = TRUE). Each operation that would change the scene will return a value which triggers a new WebGL display when printed.

Working with WebGL scenes

You should use the following scheme for exporting a scene to a web page. There's also an older scheme, which is no longer supported.

The recommended approach works with the htmlwidgets framework (see http://www.htmlwidgets.org/). In an R Markdown document in knitr, use the r linkfn("rglwidget") function. (You can also use chunk option webgl=TRUE; we recommend the explicit use of rglwidget.) This approach also allows display of rgl scenes in RStudio. Besides rgl scenes, various controls for them can be displayed, and there are a few utility functions that can be useful:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ------------- r indexfns("propertyControl"): | set individual properties r indexfns("clipplaneControl"): | control a clipping plane r indexfns("subsetControl"): | control which objects are displayed r indexfns("ageControl"): | "age" vertices of an object r indexfns("vertexControl"): | control properties of vertices r indexfns("par3dinterpControl"): | WebGL control like r linkfn("par3dinterp") r indexfns("playwidget"): | display and automate controls r indexfns("toggleWidget"): | display a button to toggle some items r documentedfns <- c(documentedfns, "%>%");indexfns("pipe", text="%>%"): | magrittr pipe r indexfns(c("figHeight", "figWidth")): | Dimensions of figures in R Markdown document r indexfns("rglShared"): | share data using crosstalk package r indexfns("rglMouse"): | change mouse mode in RGL scene r indexfns("asRow"): | arrange multiple objects in an HTML display r indexfns("getWidgetId"): | get the elementId from a widget

These functions work with the above scheme in Shiny apps:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ------------- r indexfns("sceneChange"): | used in Shiny for large scene changes r indexfns(c("shinyGetPar3d", "shinySetPar3d")): | get or set r linkfn("par3d") values from Shiny r indexfns("shinyResetBrush"): | reset the mouse brush in Shiny

The r linkfn("selectionFunction3d") function is also likely to be involved in mouse interactions when using Shiny.

Some functions are mainly for internal use: r indexfns(c("elementId2Prefix", "playwidgetOutput", "renderPlaywidget", "rglwidgetOutput", "renderRglwidget", "registerSceneChange")). More details are given in the vignette User Interaction in WebGL. The functions r indexfns(c("lowlevel", "highlevel", "rglId")) are also for internal use, marking function results for automatic printing. Finally, the function r indexfns("setUserShaders") allows you to use hand-written shaders in WebGL, and r indexfns("getShaders") allows you to see what shader would be used.

The older approach uses the r linkfn("writeWebGL") function to export a scene to HTML and Javascript code.
These functions write HTML and Javascript for working with the exported scene: r indexfns("propertySlider"), r indexfns("clipplaneSlider"), r indexfns("subsetSlider"), r indexfns("toggleButton"), r indexfns("propertySetter"), r indexfns("subsetSetter"), r indexfns("ageSetter"), r indexfns("par3dinterpSetter"), r indexfns("vertexSetter"), r indexfns("matrixSetter"). Use the newer functions instead.

Working with the scene

rgl maintains internal structures for all the scenes it displays. The following functions allow users to find information about them and manipulate them. In cases where there are both *3d and rgl.* versions of functions, most users should use the *3d version: the rgl.* functions are more primitive and are mainly intended for internal use.

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns("open3d"): | open a new window r indexfns(c("close3d", "rgl.close")): | close the current window r indexfns(c("cur3d", "rgl.cur")): | id of the active device r indexfns(c("set3d", "rgl.set")): | set a particular device to be active r indexfns(c("pop3d", "rgl.pop")): | delete objects from the scene r indexfns(c("clear3d", "rgl.clear")): | delete all objects of certain classes r indexfns(c("ids3d", "rgl.ids")): | ids, types and tags of current objects r indexfns("tagged3d"): | find tags or objects with tags

These functions are mainly intended for programming, and have no corresponding *3d counterparts:

Function | Description ------------- | ----------- r indexfns("rgl.bringtotop"): | bring the current window to the top r indexfns("rgl.dev.list"): | ids of all active devices r indexfns(c("rgl.attrib", "rgl.attrib.info", "rgl.attrib.count")): | attributes of objects in the scene r indexfns("rgl.projection"): | return information about the current projection r indexfns(c("rgl.user2window", "rgl.window2user")): | convert between coordinates in the current projection

The r indexfns("as.triangles3d") generic function is intended to extract coordinates in a form suitable for passing to r linkfn("triangles3d"). Currently a method is provided for r linkfn("rglId") objects.

In addition to these, there are some other related functions which should rarely be called by users: r indexfns(c("rgl.init", "rgl.open", "rgl.quit")).

Working with 3-D vectors

Most rgl functions work internally with "homogeneous" coordinates. In this system, 3-D points are represented with 4 coordinates, generally called (x, y, z, w). The corresponding Euclidean point is (x/w, y/w, z/w), if w is nonzero; zero values of w correspond to "points at infinity". The advantage of this system is that affine transformations including translations and perspective shifts become linear transformations, with multiplication by a 4 by 4 matrix.

rgl has the following functions to work with homogeneous coordinates:

Function | Description ------------------------------------ | ----------- r indexfns(c("asEuclidean", "asHomogeneous")): | convert between homogeneous and Euclidean coordinates when x, y and z are columns r indexfns(c("asEuclidean2", "asHomogeneous2")): | convert when x, y and z are rows r indexfns(c("rotate3d", "scale3d", "translate3d")): | apply a transformation r indexfns("transform3d"): | apply a general transformation r indexfns(c("rotationMatrix", "scaleMatrix", "translationMatrix")): | compute the transformation matrix r indexfns("identityMatrix"): | return a 4 x 4 identity matrix r indexfns("projectDown"): | a 3D to 2D projection down a vector

There is also a function r indexfns("GramSchmidt"), mainly for internal use: it does a Gram-Schmidt orthogonalization of a 3x3 matrix, with some specializations for its use in r linkfn("cylinder3d").

Working with other packages

Sometimes it may be convenient to interactively rotate a scene to a particular view, then display it in lattice or base graphics. The r indexfns("rglToLattice") and r indexfns("rglToBase") functions support this.

For example, we first display the volcano data in rgl:

persp3d(volcano, col = "green")

This display is interactive, but we can reproduce the initial view using the lattice r linkfn("wireframe", pkg = "lattice") or base graphics r linkfn("persp", pkg = "graphics") functions:

# Only evaluated if the lattice & orientlib packages are installed
lattice::wireframe(volcano, col = "green", 
           screen = rglToLattice())
angles <- rglToBase()
persp(volcano, col = "green", shade = TRUE,
      theta = angles$theta, phi = angles$phi)

Note that the orientlib package must be available for these functions to work.

Creating pkgdown websites

The "Using RGL in pkgdown web sites" vignette describes how to use rgl in a pkgdown web site. The utility function r indexfns("in_pkgdown_example") can be used to detect that pkgdown is being used.

Working with testthat

The testthat package is widely used for unit tests in packages. Such tests are hard to write with rgl, because the output is visual and interactive rather than a simple value. The r indexfns("expect_known_scene"), r indexfns("compare_proxy.mesh3d") and r indexfns("all.equal.mesh3d") functions help with this by removing system-dependent features of rgl output.

Working with Javascript

The WebGL displays created using r linkfn("rglwidget") rely on a large body of Javascript code included in this package. To help in development of this code, the r indexfns("makeDependency") function was written. It may be useful in other packages that include Javascript.

Other functions

This section is for miscellaneous functions that don't fall in any of the other categories in this document.

The r indexfns("setGraphicsDelay") function is designed to work around what appears to be a bug on macOS: if a standard plot window is opened too quickly after an rgl window, R can crash. This function inserts a one second delay when it appears to be needed.

Warning: Work in Progress!

This vignette is always a work in progress. Some aspects of the rgl package are not described, or do not have examples. There may even be functions that are missed completely, if the following list is not empty:

setdiff(ls("package:rgl"), documentedfns)

Index of Functions

The following functions and constants are described in this document:

writeIndex(cols = if (knitr::is_html_output()) 5 else 4)

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rgl documentation built on June 10, 2022, 9:05 a.m.