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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Naming Objects and Using Datablocks

Before proceeding, you need to learn how to rename objects. This skill will come in handy when you’re working in complex scenes and want to recognize objects by their names. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself lost in a sea of objects called Plane.001, Sphere.028, and similar generic names.

If a Blender scene were a wall made of bricks, each brick would be a datablock. Every object in Blender has a datablock inside that represents its contents: meshes, materials, textures, lights, curves, and so on. Datablocks can be named and used in the ways discussed in the following section.

Renaming Objects

You have several ways of renaming an object:

  • Locate the object in the Outliner. Right-click its name and choose ID Data, Rename within the contextual menu. Alternatively, you can double-click the name, type the new name, and press Enter to confirm.

  • Press F2 anywhere in the interface, and a pop-up with the name text field will show up. Press Ctrl+F2 to open the menu for bulk renaming when you have multiple objects selected.

  • In the Properties Editor, go to the Object tab (the one with a yellow cube); type the new name in the text field in the top-left corner; and press Enter to confirm.

Managing Datablocks

Datablocks are the most basic Blender components. All the elements you can build—such as objects, meshes, lamps, textures, materials, and armatures (skeletons)—are made of datablocks. Everything in the 3D scene is contained in an object.

Whether you’re creating a mesh, a lamp, or a curve, you’re creating an object. In Blender, any object has object data inside it, so the object itself acts as a kind of container for the data and stores information about its location, rotation, scaling, modifiers, and so on. Object data defines what’s inside an object. If the object data is a mesh, for example, you see a mesh with its vertices and faces inside the object. When you access the object data, you can adjust its parameters. If you click the drop-down list of the object data datablock, you can load a different object data into the object. You could load a different mesh into the object’s position, for example. Several objects can use the same object data. (These objects are called instances or linked duplicates.) This means that even if the objects are in different positions in the scene, all of them synchronize their contents, so if you manipulate the mesh vertices in one of them, the others reflect those changes.

Figure 3.5 shows the difference between the Object and Object Data tabs and how to look for an object’s name inside the Properties Editor. The image to the right shows that the mesh’s name is inside the object’s name. In the image, the object data is a mesh; if it were a lamp or a curve, the icon would change accordingly. The Properties Editor always shows information about the selected object, but if you click the Pin icon, the selected object’s information is pinned, and even if you select a different object, the Properties Editor keeps displaying the pinned object’s information.


FIGURE 3.5 Left: Object Properties tab. Right: Object Data Properties tab. You’ll find both tabs in the Properties Editor, and in the image, you can see where the names for objects and object data can be found. You can also see how the title of the Properties Editor shows a hierarchy: Object’s Name > Object Data’s Name, which also serves as an indication of how the object data is contained in the object. The Object and Object Data tabs have been isolated in the image for clarification; you will find those tabs within the rest of the tabs of the Properties Editor.

To the right of some datablock names, you find a button with a Shield icon as well as a number. The number indicates the number of users that the datablock has. In Figure 3.5, the mesh datablock has two users, which means that two different objects are using that mesh data (they’re instances). If you want to turn an instance into an independent, unique datablock, just click the number. Blender creates a duplicate and indicates a single user for the new one.

Blender purges all datablocks with zero users when the file is closed to not accumulate unnecessary data, so if you’re not careful, you can lose that great material you created but weren’t using. That’s why the Shield button next to datablocks exists; it creates a fake user of that datablock. Even if you’re not using the datablock in the scene, that datablock will have a [fake] user, which prevents the datablock from being deleted when you quit Blender. Datablocks that have zero users are called orphan data.

Keep in mind that you usually work with the names of objects. Most of the time, you don’t need to access the names of object data like meshes inside objects, so if you are running low on time, you can generally skip object data naming.

Naming Your Scene’s Objects

After you understand what datablocks are and how to rename objects, you can name the objects in your scene accordingly. (You might name the plane Floor, for example.) Sometimes, you have to select a datablock’s name from a list, so naming objects and datablocks intuitively will help you find the one you’re looking for.

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