Using Project Directories to organize OpticStudio files

Introduced in OpticStudio and OpticsViewer 21.3, the Project Directory system enables easy packaging and storage of important Zemax files so that they can be easily accessed an manipulated on a project-by-project basis. Project Directories can help prevent overwriting data stored in common files accessed by multiple OpticStudio design files. 

Authored By Alissa Wilczynski

Problems with conventional file organization

The complete representation of an OpticStudio or OpticsViewer system relies upon data stored not only within the ZOS (or older ZMX) lens file, but also many other supporting file types. These contain supporting data, such as optical materials information, coating prescriptions, and CAD files.

In Zemax's conventional organizational system, many of these supporting files are located within the \Documents\Zemax\ folder structure. Often, the same file would be referenced by many different optical system models (ZOS or older ZMX files). When sharing files between users or machines, this structure can cause problems if the recipient has modified any of the underlying files on their computer. Upon opening an archive (ZAR) file, for example, they are given a choice to overwrite or skip any duplicate files when unpacking the ZAR. Overwriting the file may cause them to lose their edits and customization; skipping the file may prevent them from seeing a proper representation of the original system.

Each OpticStudio system will use different underlying files, but the full list of files used within a given system is accessible under Analyze...Reports..Prescription Data, in the Files Used section. A full listing of Zemax file types can be found here


Using the Project Directory file organization system

To avoid the problems described in the previous section, it is recommended that you organize your files in the Project Directory system. This allows for easy packaging and storage of all files associated with a given system so that those files can be easily accessed an manipulated on a project-by-project basis. When saving a system to a Project Directory, project-specific versions of the supporting files are saved to a unique folder, which prevents overwriting data stored in common folders. 

To save a system to a Project Directory, navigate to File...Convert to Project Directory. Pick an existing folder or make a new one; this will be the location for your ZOS (or older ZMX), ZDA, and supporting files. 


Within your specified Project Directory, the software will create subfolders and files for supported file types that are used in your model. These may include ABG_DATA, COATINGS, and GLASSCAT folders.


Your \Documents\Zemax\ folder will continue to exist, and it will still contain all files included with your OpticStudio or OpticsViewer installation. For a file saved as a Project Directory, if any required file cannot be found within that directory, the software will next look within the folder specified under File...Project Preferences...Folders and use the appropriate folder or file. 

Effective December 31, 2021, SOLIDWORKS integrations with Zemax products are deprecated and will not be available in future software releases of OpticsBuilder or OpticStudio. Learn more.

To see a list of supported file types, refer to product documentation. As of OpticStudio and OpticsViewer 22.1, the included files are (additions to 22.1 are noted in green):

Documents/Zemax/  Folder

File type

ABg_Data/ .ABGF, .DAT
DLL/SurfaceScatter/ .DLL
Macros/ .ZPL
Objects/CAD Files/ .IGS, .SAB, .SAT, .STEP, .STL, .STP, .ZAN, .ZEN, .ZOF
Objects/Creo Parametric Files/ .PRT
Objects/Inventor Files/ .IAM, .IPT
Objects/SolidWorks Files/ .SLDASM, .SLDPRT
Profiles/ .DAT
ScatterData/ .BSDF, .ISX


Receiving files saved as Project Directories

When loading an archive file, you have the option to extract files to a Project Directory. It is recommended that you leave this box checked. Doing so will create the same file structure as previously outlined.


If you do not want your files organized as a Project Directory, you can uncheck this option. When the archive is restored, only your ZOS and ZDA files will be located within the "To Folder" specified. All other supporting files will be organized in the \Documents\Zemax\ folder hierarchy or, where applicable, the folders specified in the Project Preferences.

For more information on sharing files with colleagues, see the article How to share an OpticStudio file.

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