Documentation:Windows Section 1

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This section provides information on how to use the Microsoft Windows™ version of the Persistence of Vision Raytracer™ (also known as POVWIN).

Before we start, we'll have a brief discussion of just what this program is, and what it does.

What is POV-Ray for Windows?

POV-Ray for Windows (also known as POVWIN) is POV-Ray, ported to the Microsoft™ Windows™ operating system. It contains all the features of POV-Ray itself, plus some others specific to Windows. The additional features do not affect the core rendering code (apart from the fact that they include .BMP file format support). All of the other additional features relate to making the program easier to use under Windows.

An extensive discussion of the POV-Ray 3 Scene Description Language can be found elsewhere in this help file. For a quick demonstration of POV-Ray for Windows, start up the program by selecting 'Run Demo' from the Render menu.

... And What Is It Not?

POV-Ray for Windows is not a modeller. It will not let you design scenes graphically on-screen. There are several shareware and freeware programs available for this purpose. To write or modify POV-Ray scenes you just edit the actual text file containing the commands.

New users might be surprised to learn that, although this sounds primitive, it is in fact one of the things that gives POV-Ray so much power and flexibility. There are many other rendering programs that give you a point-and-click interface, but when it comes down to absolute control of your scene, it's hard to beat a text-based scene description language (even though it's harder for some to learn).

Who Can Use POV-Ray for Windows?

Almost anyone can use POV-Ray for Windows. If you have never seen a ray tracing program before, you can have great fun just rendering the sample scenes and animations installed together with POV-Ray for Windows. Once you have studied some scene files and spent a little bit of time reading this documentation, you can start putting basic scene files together.

Remember, though, that you do need to invest some time getting to know the program. For instance, you do not have to worry about most of the POV-Ray settings at first, but some of them are critical. Ignore them and POV-Ray for Windows may not do what you expect. The default settings have been selected so as to be satisfactory in the large majority of cases, but sometimes they will not give you what you want. Don't give up. The solution is bound to be a simple one, as long as you take the time to read the documentation. Investing a little bit of time getting to know the program will pay off - guaranteed!

As for experienced POV-Ray users, you will find POV-Ray for Windows makes life much easier. Working under Windows means you can edit one scene while rendering another and modifying the INI file of a third. This feature, combined with the File Queue option lets you speed up the scene generation cycle considerably while leaving you the option of doing some 'serious' work at the same time.

System Requirements

POV-Ray for Windows requires Windows 95/98, Windows NT4/2000, or later. We only support the Windows 95-style user interface; the old 'file manager' support has been removed.

For the HTML Help system to work properly, you need at least Internet Explorer v4.02, and a recent version of the Microsoft HTML Help control (preferably 4.74 or later). While the help system will function with Internet Explorer v3, not all portions will work correctly. It is not necessary for Internet Explorer to be your default browser.

You'll need at least 256-color graphic mode for the program and help to function in a relatively normal manner. Hi-color or better is strongly recommended.

The Alert on Completion (see Render Menu) option needs a sound card to be effective.

System Specific Features

SYS File Type

The section on Output File Type refers to the 'SYS' file type as being system specific. For the Windows implementation of POV-Ray, this system file type equates to .BMP files (the standard windows image format). The default output type is SYS.

System Specific Charset

The section titled Charset refers to a system specific charset. There is no system specific charset support specially implemented within POV-Ray for Windows.

Time Units in CPU Histogram

The CPU Utilization Histogram facility can output .CSV files containing system-dependent time units. For official compiles of POV-Ray for Windows, these units vary according to the results of the windows QueryPerformanceFrequency() API call. A scaling value is derived from this to prevent the values in the CSV file overflowing 32-bit integer precision (since the windows performance API returns 64-bit integers).

If you want to know what the actual value of the units in the CSV file is for your system, run POV-Ray for Windows with the /DEBUG command-line switch and observe the value that is printed in the message window when the program starts. On the author's system, this is 0.838096 microseconds.


Some US Residents have commented on the spelling of some words such as colour, initialisation, and minimised (they expect color, initialization, or minimized). POV-Ray is an international effort and as such our spelling sometimes conforms to British, European, or Australian, rather than American, English. You'll find examples of this both in this document and in POV-Ray itself (for example, POV accepts both 'color' and 'colour' as valid keywords).

Reporting Bugs

There is a section in this help file for bug reports. Make sure that you read it before sending us a complaint/bug report !


The terms 'POV-Ray', 'Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer' and 'POVWIN' are trademarks of Persistence of Vision Raytracer Pty. Ltd.

'Windows', 'Microsoft Windows', 'Windows 95', 'Windows 98', 'Windows ME', 'Windows NT', 'Windows 2000' and 'Windows XP' are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. All other trademarks are acknowledged as being the property of their respective owners.

Introduction Getting Started

This document is protected, so submissions, corrections and discussions should be held on this documents talk page.