FreeWRL Users Guide


freewrl -- run the FreeWRL VRML97 browser on the command line, or, if the plugin is installed, via an HTML browser.


freewrl [options] url [debugcode ...]


This command runs the FreeWRL VRML browser.


FreeWRL supports, as per VRML97 spec, several different navigation modes. In each mode, the meanings of mouse movements and keystrokes are different.

Mouse button 2 + motion is usually unbound so if you want to click and drag something in the scene, use it.

In addition to the keys described below, there are some keys which work in all the modes:

Display this man page in a window

Switch to the Fly (Keyboard input) navigation mode

Switch to the Fly (External Sensor input) navigation mode

Switch to the Examine navigation mode

Switch to the Walk navigation mode

Go to the next viewpoint in the scene

Go to the previous viewpoint in the scene

Print out the position and orientation of the current viewpoint in the current Viewpoint node's local coordinate system.

You can add the view you currently see in the window by creating a new Viewpoint node (in the same coordinate system as the one you used to go to this viewpoint) with these values.

Save a snapshot. By default, snapshots are saved to freewrl.snap.NNNN.png; see option ``-snapb'' for directory specification. While saving images, freewrl is slower.

h / NumLock
Toggle the headlight on or off.

Toggle collision detection on or off.

Quit the browser


Drag the mouse while mouse button 1 is pressed to move forwards/backwards or turn. For translation in the x-y plane press mouse button 3 and drag.

Fly - keyboard mode

This mode allows translation/rotations in all planes. There are two keymappings: those from the game Descent, and a mapping using the keypad.

All motion is controlled by 12 keys, two for each of your 6 degrees of freedom (3 translations, 3 rotations).

The keymap in this mode is

'8'/'k' and 'Keypad Down'/'Keypad Up'
rotation down/up

'u'/'o' and 'Keypad Left'/'Keypad Right'
rotation left/right

'7'/'9' and 'Keypad 7'/'Keypad 9'
rotation about the Z axis

'a'/'z' and 'Keypad 0'/'Keypad .'
translation forwards/backwards

'j'/'l' and 'Arrow left'/'Arrow right'
translation left/right

'p'/';' and 'Arrow up'/'Arrow down'
translation up/down

It may take a while to get used to the FLY navigation mode but it is the only one with full freedom of motion currently.

Fly - External Sensor input

This mode is entered via the ``f'' key. It takes input from the file /tmp/inpdev: this file contains x,y,z and Quaternion-based rotation information, and puts the viewpoint there.

It is possible to force this mode in a NavigationInfo mode by making type ``EXFLY''.


The examine navigation mode is analogous to holding an object in your hand and rotating it to see it from various sides: your line of view always goes through the same point but you can rotate the object and translate yourself closer and farther away.

Currently, dragging with mouse button 1 pressed rotates the scene and dragging up or down mouse button 3 pressed translates you towards and away from the scene. There are no other controls.

The center around which you rotate is determined by taking the initial position and orientation of the viewpoint given in the VRML file. A ray is cast along your line of view and the closest that ray comes to the origin of the local coordinate system is defined as the origin of the rotations.


As the name says, there is nothing you can do in the NONE navigation mode.


Prints out the current FreeWRL version.

Forces FreeWRL to run in fullscreen mode. Note that if your graphics drivers have an alternate way to enable fullscreen rendering it may be best to use that way instead. The fullscreen flag will not enable hardware acceleration if it has not already been enabled. (see also --big option)

Forces FreeWRL to run in 800x600 mode. See also --fullscreen option

Starts FreeWRL without the on-screen status bar. See the ``.'' key definition for how to toggle this status bar display when running.

--plugin PIDstring
Tells FreeWRL that it is running within a web browser, and thus to get all URLs from the browser, use the browser for EAI, not to handle the ``q'' key, pass the XID (see X11 header file X.h) of the parent window, and to use the PID as the window title.

--geo[metry] geom
--parent xid
Set the initial window geometry with the usual X window format string.

--snapb basename
Specify base name for the snapshot files. Default is ``freewrl.snap''. Unsets the ``--seq'' option.

--seqtmp basename
Specify base name for the sequence temporary files. Default is ~/freewrl_tmp.

Forces FreeWRL to start in shutterglas stereo mode via GLX_STEREO in attributs of glXChooseVisual. This needs software and hardware like XIG DX Platiuum Xserver on a Linux PC with 3DRelevator shutterglasses or IRIX on a SGI Indigo2 Impact with crystal eyes shutterglasses. On some SGI machines, you need to switch to a stereo capable visual as root with setmon/xsetmon and then restart the X Server.

--eyedist number
Distance between the eyes of the viewer in shutter mode, default 0.06

--screendist number
Distance between screen and the eyes of the viewer in shutter mode, default 0.8

--eai host:port
The browser will try to connect to the socket at host:port to obtain an EAI connection. This option is mostly for internal use by the EAI libraries.

FreeWRL will behave as a server : it spawns a child browser, prints its PID on STDOUT and exits. The child then reloads the url given on the command line upon receipt of a SIGUSR1 signal.

Reload the URL given on the command line upon receipt of a SIGUSR1 signal.


If Netscape is installed, and the entries in vrml.conf are correct, the FreeWRL plug-in will be installed in Netscape's system plugins folder. If you go to Netscape's Help menu and select the About Plug-ins, there should be an entry for FreeWRL with Mime Type x-world/x-vrml.


This project is managed by John Stewart.

Please send bug reports to freewrl-09 --at-- including the word ``freewrl'' on the subject line will make sure that I'll notice it. Also, see the FreeWRL home page at

There is absolutely no warranty, express or implied for this software. For details on the conditions of use, see the FreeWRL distribution.

FreeWRL is Copyright (C) 1998, 1999...2005 Tuomas J. Lukka, John Stewart and others.

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Library General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Library General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Library General Public License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307 USA

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