Ten Tips You Must Know If You Want to Learn ANSYS APDL Well

Ten Tips You Must Know If You Want to Learn ANSYS APDL Well

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As tech support providers for users of Mechanical APDL, we have had exposure to various users over the years. Through our experience, we have found that there are some basic yet essential things that every MAPDL user should know. Here are the top ten things that every user should know:

  • /SHOW,3D
  • /EFACET,2
  • Picking window reset button
  • Hot spots for picking and press and hold
  • Displaying more than 9 results contours
  • Copy and paste into input window
  • /EOF for input file debugging
  • Use the log file
  • Making results plot files


The command /SHOW,3D allows ANSYS Mechanical APDL to use your computer’s video card to dynamically manipulate the model. It provides a shaded image of the model during dynamic manipulation, unlike shaded wireframe while rotating. Users can switch to this option from the Mechanical APDL Product Launcher by going to the Customization/Preferences Tab and changing the Graphics Device Name to 3D. For those running ANSYS from the command line, they can use the 3D option after the ANSYS executable specification.


The /EFACET,2 command is used when running mid-side noded elements to include results for the midside nodes and to make results plots, which include any curvature of the element edges. The default is to not include midside noded results in listings or plots and to only give one facet per element edge in results plots. Users can set the number of facets to 2 (or even 4) on the /EFACET command to fix this. Note that Powergraphics needs to be on for this to work.

Picking window reset button

If you have been working interactively in ANSYS Mechanical APDL, you may have encountered the scenario where you click on a command that is supposed to activate a picking window, but no picking window shows up. This is due to a glitch in the Tcl/Tk GUI language used by ANSYS. To reset the picking window, users previously had to press Control-Shift-Delete simultaneously. However, the latest releases of ANSYS have a reset picking button that resides near the upper right corner of the user interface, between the Raised Hidden “Cheese Sandwich” button and the Contact Manager button.

Hot spots for picking and press and hold

Hot spots and press and hold are related tools for picking entities with the mouse. Hot spots are locations on each geometric entity, and lines have three hot spots. When you click a location in the graphics window to select an entity, the entity that has a hot spot closest to the picking location is the one that gets picked. Pressing and holding the left mouse button while picking is another useful tool for ensuring users actually pick the entities they want.

Displaying more than 9 results contours

By default, results plots in /POST1 have nine color contours. To obtain more, users can issue /show,win32c,,,8 or /show,x11c,,,8 if using the Win32 or X11 graphics drivers, respectively. If using the 3D graphics driver, users can display up to 128 color contours using the same /contour command.


We attempted a lot more contact debugging solves than are needed today, that’s for sure. CNCHECK can be used to interrogate one or more contact pairs prior to solving to help us ensure that contact regions are setup appropriately. Not only does it tell us which contact and target element sets are associated with each other, but it lists all of the ‘calculated’ settings such as the actual value of contact stiffness, penetration tolerance, etc. If there is an initial gap, it will tell us the gap distance. If a contact region is supposed to be initially touching but isn’t, CNCHECK will tell us. We can then hopefully take corrective action before we start the solution. This can be a huge timesaver. CNCHECK has other useful capabilities, all discussed in the Help.

Copy and paste into input window

Copying and pasting into the ANSYS Mechanical APDL input window can save you a lot of time, especially if you’re dealing with a long list of commands. Simply highlight the commands in your text editor, right-click and select “Copy”. Then, in the Mechanical APDL input window, right-click and select “Paste”. This will paste the copied commands into the input window, where you can execute them as usual. Note that this method will preserve all of your formatting, which can make your input file much easier to read and modify.

/EOF for input file debugging

The /EOF command marks the end of a Mechanical APDL input file. This command is especially useful when debugging input files, as it can help you locate the source of errors in your file. For example, if you run a long input file and receive an error message, you can use the /EOF command to determine which portion of the file is causing the error. Simply add the /EOF command at the end of a section of your input file, run the file, and if an error occurs, you’ll know that it occurred before the /EOF command.

Use the log file

The ANSYS Mechanical APDL log file contains a record of all of the commands that you execute, along with any error messages that are generated. By default, the log file is saved in the same directory as your input file, with the same name as your input file, but with the extension “.log”. You can use the log file to keep a record of your work, or to troubleshoot any issues that you encounter.

Making results plot files

Finally, when you’ve completed your ANSYS analysis, you’ll likely want to generate a plot file that contains your results. The plot file is a binary file that contains all of the graphical information necessary to recreate your results plot at a later time.

A quick way to make a result plot file is to get the plot and view setup the way you want on the screen, then click on Plotters > Hard Copy > To File. There are several plot file formats available, such as .jpg and .png. This command will automatically ‘reverse video’ meaning you get black text on a white background in your plot file. There are other techniques for getting results plots into plot files, but this is a quick and easy way that you will hopefully find helpful.

That’s all, Good Luck!


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