Default Web Browser for The Houdini Docs

Default Web Browser for The Houdini Docs

Is the built in Houdini help browser dragging you down? On OS X it’s a bit slow for my taste. On Windows and Linux it works well but maybe you’re like me who loads the documentation on the Side Effect server just because it’s faster in your default Web browser. Maybe not. Regardless, using your good old Web browser for the Houdini docs has a couple of advantages. Let me show you how to user your default Web browser for the Houdini docs instead of the built in Houdini browser.

Built-in Web Browser

Houdini has fantastic documentation and and each node gives you access to its help pages right in the window pane. One way is click on the Help icon. You can also right-mouse click on a node to access help from the context menu.

Houdini Help
Houdini Help

 

This is nice and dandy but if you see the following, especially on a Mac, you know it can be a bit annoying.

Beach Ball
Beach Ball

 

The problem is that the help system feels a bit slow. Your mileage may vary depending on the OS you are on. The other issue with the built in browser is that you can’t bookmark pages. At least not yet. This may change in the future however. If there is a way, send me a Tweet. For now, we are left as sad pandas. It sure would be nice to have a collection of bookmarked help pages.

This is the reason I use my OS browser to access the help files online. One disadvantage is I have to search for the topic I need as opposed to clicking on the Help icon on the Parameter panes. We also don’t get the fancy smart search that the built-in browser provides. Finally, we can’t launch the sample scenes. What are we to do? Since this is Houdini we are talking about, you know there is a solution. We are going to turn to our friend hconfig.

External Browser

In order to get Houdini to use our default web browser for the help documentation, we need to set an environment variable. The environment variable in question is the HOUDINI_EXTERNAL_HELP_BROWSER. When this variable is set, Houdini will launch a default web browser to display the help docs externally. Open up a Shell and type

hconfig -a

This will print out all a list of all the variables whether they are set or not. There are a lot of them so if you want to scroll and search for our variable go right ahead. Otherwise, here is a quicker way.

hconfig -a | grep EXTERNAL*

 

hconfig
hconfig

 

Here we are just piping the output from hconfig to grep to filter our results. As you can see, our variable is not set. We need to fix that.

Setting Env Variables

In order to set the variable we need to add it to our houdini.env file. You can find this file in your Houdini user preferences directory. Setting variables is not difficult. All you do is type in the variable name and set it equal to a value. The HOUDINI_EXTERNAL_HELP_BROWSER expects a boolean value or a value of 0 for off and 1 for on. Open your houdini.env file and go to the last line in the file. If you have never touched this file, the last line will be:

# HOUDINI_NO_SPLASH = 1

The hashtag in front of the line is commenting out the variable. So if you were to delete the hashtag, you are telling Houdini not to display the splash screen when you launch the application. Let’s set the HOUDINI_EXTERNAL_HELP_BROWSER to 1 so we can use our default web browser for the help docs.

HOUDINI_EXTERNAL_HELP_BROWSER = 1

 

houdini.env file
houdini.env file

 

You will need to relaunch Houdini for this to take effect. If you decide to go back to the built in browser, just make the value for the variable 0. Unlike, say the Bash shell which does not allow spaces when setting variables, it’s fine to use spaces between the variable name, the operator and the value.

There you have it! Now you have all the functionality of the Houdini help system in your default browser. #winning

Default Web Browser
External Help Browser

 

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990adjustments

990adjustments

I am a motion designer & developer based out of South Florida.
When not designing or animating pixels, I wrangle some code. If all else fails, I watch Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, or Three’s Company reruns.