Rhino Template Files

I am not associated with McNeel. The information below is based on knowledge gained reading publicly available information and by using Rhino for Windows. Some details may differ in Rhino for Mac. Corrections and additions are encouraged.

Rhino template files can be confusing. Why does a template file change some settings but not others? What is special about a template file? How is the template file selected? How can a new template file be created?

A Rhino template file is simply a standard .3dm file stored in a special location. The file itself is has the same .3dm format as all other .3dm files, and can contain objects. Document Properties and Layer Properties are stored in all .3dm files including template files. Rhino Options are not stored in .3dm files.

What makes template files unique compared to other .3dm files is when a template file can be used when starting Rhino or starting a new model using New the file will not be overwritten by Save or SaveAs (unless deliberate). This allows Rhino to have the Document Properties and Layer Properties and any objects of the template file without inadvertently changing the template file.

Settings in Rhino are divided into several including Rhino Options and Document Properties. Rhino Options are independent of .3dm files. Document properties are associated with .3dm files. The Document Properties can be viewed and changed by opening a panel using the Options or Document Properties commands, or by clicking on the File menu > Properties. Note that the panel opened by all of the these methods has Document Properties at the top and Rhino Options below.

When a .3dm file is saved the current Document Properties and Layer Properties are saved in the file in addition to geometry, etc. When a .3dm file is opened the Document Properties and Layer Properties are set to those saved in the file being opened.

The difference of template files from other files is the location where the template files are stored. That location can be changed in Rhino Options > Files. In addition a default template file can be designated.

When a Rhino is started Rhino opens the default template file if one has been designated. The Document Properties and Layer Properties are set to those in the file and any objects in the file are also opened. Otherwise Rhino opens with the “No template” Document Properties. Important - the “No template” Document Properties are built into Rhino and are not generally the same as the default template document properties.

When the New command is used the list of template files saved in the special location is presented to the user. The user can select a template file and Rhino opens that file from the selected template file. The Document Properties and Layer Properties are set to those in the file and any objects in the file are also opened. The user can also select to use the “No template” Document Properties. The user can also set the selected template file as the default template file.

When the user executes Save of Save As the first time after starting Rhino or using New the default location to store the file is last location a file was saved at, not the location of the template files. (It is possible to deliberately save a file to the special location of template files.)

New template files can be created using the SaveAsTemplateFile command. Set the Document Properties and Layer Properties as desired. Add any objects which are desired in the template file. Then SaveAsTemplateFile.


Thank you for doing this.

Bookmarked this thread. We get a lot of questions from confused members about what template files are. I’m going to direct people’s questions to this thread.

One thing i recently did as a seasoned rhino guy (sorta) . When starting rhino at default template and the view camera moved due to 3Dconnexion , so when I did (CRTL+O) to open my file, it asked me to Save the file for the first time.
I mistakenly out of habit navigated to the file I tried to open.

Luckily I was stopped by the confirmation dialog box. But things were almost got deadly.

Well, perhaps one other important thing to add to this thread is to detail what Document Properties are. As @davidcockey mentioned above, Document Properties are settings related to the file in question, and can be different for each file. In the Mac version of Rhino, Document Properties are actually called “Settings”.

These file-by-file settings are separate from Rhino global “Options” - called “Preferences” on Mac - which set different characteristics for Rhino’s user interface and do not change when different files are opened. Sometimes the difference is a bit confusing for Windows Rhino users, as both Document Properties and Options can be accessed from the same dialog window; whereas on Mac, they are in two separate sections.

So back to Document Properties/Settings:

These are the different items that can be set file-by-file:
(Windows Rhino shown, default Millimeter Small template)

Let’s go through the most important ones:

Annotation Styles allow one to set everything concerning dimensions, text blocks, etc. This includes font styles and sizes, dimension characteristics such as arrow styles, precision, etc… So, one can create as many different annotation styles as one wants (or modify existing ones) and save them in the template, every time Rhino is opened with that template, the styles will be there.

Grid allows one to set the visible and snap to grid sizes as well as the visibility of the grid axes. Files opened with a template will use the grid settings in the template file.

Hatch is the repository of hatch patterns contained in the file, which can be added to or modified - it is here that you can import .pat hatch pattern files. The collection of hatch patterns can be stored in the template file, and will then be available when a file based on that template is opened.

Linetypes - as in hatches above, the collection of linetypes for that file. The default ones cannot be deleted or modified, but you can add more of your own, to be available when a file based on your template is opened.

Mesh contains the display mesh settings for that file. Again, each file can have different mesh settings. A file opened from a particular template will use the display mesh settings stored in the template (of course they can be changed later).

Units - sets the file units and tolerances as well as the display precision. Rhino already comes with a default set of templates for different units and object sizes, but you can modify those or create new ones to suit.

Note that all of the above are document properties that can be changed at will at any time. Having them set in a template only determines how a new file will open based on that template, but the properties are not locked, you can modify them at any time when you are working in a document.

Then, there are a number of things that are also contained in a template file that are not listed in Document Properties. This includes layers as mentioned above - names, colors, arrangement etc. - but there is more - lots more. A few other things that can be set in the template files:

Viewports - you can have any arrangement of viewports and views you like stored in a template file. You can even have floating viewports stored there. Named views and CPlanes are also stored in a file.

Display modes - you can set your template file viewports in any display mode you like, when you open a new file based on the template, the viewports will be in the desired display mode.

Geometry - you can store objects in your template file if you like, as well as lights, etc. This allows you to create preset “scenes” if you like.

Materials - any render materials can also be stored in a template file for later re-use.

Plug-in data - data such as custom render materials, CAM toolpath data etc. may be stored in a template file for re-use. These will be stored only if the box “Save plug-in data” is checked in the dialog when saving the template. Note, what can be saved may also depend on how the plug-in is written - when in doubt, consult the author of the plug-in.

In short, pretty much anything you can save in a normal file can be saved in a template file.

What are not stored in a template file:

Global Rhino Options (Preferences)
Toolbar and panel arrangements

(I’m sure I left some stuff out, but I think I covered the basics)


Mitch’s summary of what is saved in a template file is excellent.

I would remove the qualifier “pretty much” and say “anything you can save in a normal file can be saved in a template file.”


The template also remembers settings for some plugins, V-Ray for example

Is that any different than what is saved by SaveAs with " Save plugin data" checked?

I dont think so

SUB-folders for template files?

I’d have a couple of small interface feature requests that, if possible, might help users when they want to store a number of different templates for several projects.

I’m using V7 on Mac (OS Mojave). Both start-up and the Menu Item New Using Template, display the (relatively small) splash screen of about three by four inches and one cannot see all the template titles at once. The list is not in alpha order and it anyway becomes unwieldy.

I created sub-folders in the Template Files folder (Library/ Application Support/ McNeel/ Rhinoceros), but these went unrecognised.

I wonder if it might be possible to

(a) list any template files alphabetically; and/or
(b) recognise one layer of sub-folders ?

And preferably, both.

Clive Carter