User Interface Problems and Recovery

It can be frustrating when you can't find something on the user interface, especially when you saw it a few minutes ago and now it's gone missing. Of course, you've been so engrossed in your modeling that you forget what you might have done to cause the button, element or dialog to disappear. This section addresses several common user-interface situations and how you can fix them.

Problems and Resolutions

Large Fonts and 3ds Max Design

Lost Dialogs and Windows

Material Editor Defaults to Arch & Design Materials

Missing Command Panel

Missing Transform Gizmos

Multiple or Missing Buttons on the Toolbars

Large Fonts and 3ds Max Design

While some users like to configure their systems to use large fonts, this setting is not recommended with 3ds Max Design. The 3ds Max Design user interface was designed to operate with your system set to small fonts. Small fonts are the default setting for both Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

If you have your system set to use large fonts, some of the most common anomalies you can expect while running 3ds Max Design are as follows:

  • Buttons might be missing from the command panels.
  • Some text-entry fields may not allow you to type in them.
  • Garbled text appears in some dialogs.
  • Text labels in dialogs and rollouts might be cut off or overlap other fields.
  • Dialogs show cascading text fields and spinners.

To remedy these problems, set your system font back to small fonts.

  1. Exit 3ds Max Design.
  2. Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel, and click Display.

    You can also right-click anywhere in the open desktop and choose Properties.

  3. Open the Settings panel and click the Advanced button.
  4. In the Display group of the General panel, click the arrow to open the Font Size list and choose:
    • Small Fonts, if running Windows 2000
    • Normal Size, if running Windows XP
  5. Click OK to exit the Display Properties dialog.

    You will most likely have to reboot the system for these changes to take effect.

Lost Dialogs and Windows

3ds Max Design has many dialogs or windows that float when you open them. This feature allows you to drag them anywhere on your desktop. You can greatly improve your design efficiency by positioning dialogs out of the way of the main 3ds Max Design interface, such as on a second monitor if you have dual-monitor functionality.

However, there are times when a dialog gets lost. Either you drag it someplace and inadvertently let go of it, or some data is written incorrectly to an initialization file and you end up with a lost dialog.

There are a couple of ways to recover a lost dialog; both entail working with the 3dsmax.ini file.

Thorough Method

In this example, let's say you've got a single monitor that's configured for 1280x1024 resolution and you've lost your Rendering Progress dialog.

It was visible the last time you rendered, but that was awhile ago and someone else has been using the system.

  1. Make sure 3ds Max Design is not running.

    The 3dsmax.ini file is constantly being updated while 3ds Max Design is running.

  2. Use the Windows Search function to find the 3dsmax.ini file and browse to its location.
  3. Open a text editor and load 3dsmax.ini.
  4. Scroll down the list of entries until you find the data block:
    Dimension=-425 152 379 866

    A dialog's position is based off the location of the upper-left corner, anchored by the first pair of digits. Therefore, in this example, the upper-left corner of the dialog is -425 pixels from the left edge of the screen and 152 pixels from the top. The second pair of digits describe the horizontal and vertical size of the dialog, so this dialog is 379 pixels wide and 866 pixels tall.

    Since this example assumes a single monitor, configured for 1280x1024 resolution, this dialog is off-screen to the left. If the first number were greater than 1280, the dialog would be off-screen to the right.

  5. Place your cursor on the “Dimension” line and scroll over to the problem number.

    The problem number is usually the first or second, since the last two set the width and height of the dialog.

  6. Change the problem number to a value that is positive and within 1280x1024.
  7. Save the 3dsmax.ini file and start 3ds Max Design.

The next time you render, the Rendering Progress dialog appears appear on-screen.

This is the preferred method, because it causes no loss to other custom configuration settings that are stored in the 3dsmax.ini file.

Quick Method

There are really only two reasons you'd use this method:

    • You've just installed 3ds Max Design and haven't made any customized settings that get stored in the 3dsmax.ini file.
    • You're in a hurry and don't care about the customized settings that you have stored in the 3dsmax.ini file.
  1. Make sure 3ds Max Design is not running.
  2. Use the Windows Search function to find the 3dsmax.ini file and browse to its location.
  3. Delete the 3dsmax.ini file.
  4. Restart 3ds Max Design.

    A new 3dsmax.ini file is automatically created using default settings.

You need to be careful when using this method, because you don't necessarily know what custom settings are saved in the 3dsmax.ini file. Perhaps you have 3ds Max Design set to display the command panel on the left and you've changed the viewport background color. Furthermore, if you have third-party plug-ins installed, they sometimes write information to the 3dsmax.ini file. If you delete the file, you will losing all those settings.

If you're not sure about customized settings that are stored in the 3dsmax.ini file, you can rename the file to something like old3ds.ini. When you restart 3ds Max Design, you can continue working and, at a later time, compare the two files and copy the data you need from the old one to the new one.

Material Editor Defaults to Arch & Design Materials

When you open the Material Editor, you encounter Arch & Design materials instead of original Standard materials.

3ds Max Design allows you to set default user interfaces. If you build architectural models or require photorealistic rendering, you can set the user interface to default to features more relevant to the way you work. This is a new feature that is set from the Customize menu > Custom UI and Defaults Switcher dialog

The program saves this setting to the 3dsmax.ini file and you have to restart 3ds Max Design after using the defaults switcher.

Missing Command Panel

The command panel normally appears along the right side on the user interface. If you start 3ds Max Design and notice that the command panel is missing, there are usually three causes.

  • The command panel is turned off.
  • You floated the command panel to another monitor and attempted to drag it to a new location. When you released the mouse button, the command panel disappeared.
  • A custom user interface is active that places the command panel off-screen.

All of these situations can be quickly fixed by using the following steps.

  1. Start 3ds Max Design.
  2. From the main menu, choose Customize > Revert To Startup Layout.

    You're warned that all UI settings you've made during the current session of 3ds Max Design will be reset.

  3. Click Yes.

    The original user interface is restored.

Missing Transform Gizmos

Whenever you move, rotate or scale an object, the standard, red axis tripod is replaced by a special purpose transform gizmo. It's possible to lose the transform gizmo, but it's easy to get it back. If you find you've lost your transform gizmo, try these steps.

  1. Start 3ds Max Design.
  2. Press the X key.

    This is the keyboard shortcut that toggles the transform gizmo on and off.

  3. Press the = key.

    This keyboard shortcut increases the size of the transform gizmo. The key reduces the size.

  4. Open the Customize > Preferences > Gizmos panel, and match your setting to the default settings shown in the following image.

Multiple or Missing Buttons on the Toolbars

This is another tricky situation. You open a toolbar and find that there are duplicate buttons present or the button you expect to find is no longer there.

NoteThis is generally caused by holding the Ctrl key and dragging a button on the toolbar.

Three Select And Move buttons.

This is clearly a user-interface problem, so reverting to the startup layout will fix this problem.

  1. Start 3ds Max Design.
  2. From the Customize menu, choose Revert To Startup Layout, and confirm the change.

If you have multiple buttons and don't want to reset the entire UI, you can remove duplicate buttons manually by doing the following:

  • Hold down the Alt key and drag the duplicate button out of the toolbar.

    Click Yes when asked to confirm the deletion of the button.

If buttons are missing, use Revert To Startup Layout.