ParaView Data Formats

ParaView has the capability to read in data in many different formats. Of particular note is that the user can customize ParaView by adding their own reader and writer for the format of their choosing. Many of the readers in ParaView are directly imported from VTK, although a few are specially written for use only in ParaView.

Data Types

Several data types are supported by ParaView. These include:

Image Data - Image data in ParaView refers to a uniform rectilinear grid that is a 1-D, 2-D, or 3-Dimensional array of data. The points of the grid are orthogonal to each other and are spaced evenly in each direction. A uniform, rectilinear grid is also called a Cartesian grid.

Rectilinear Grid - A Rectilinear Grid in ParaView refers to a non-uniform rectilinear grid or volume. The difference between this and a uniform rectilinear grid is that the spacing between the grid points does not have to be equally spaced.

Structured Grid - A structured grid in ParaView refers to what is commonly called a Curvilinear grid. A curvilinear grid has the same topology as a non-uniform rectilinear grid, with the exception that the coordinates for each point may vary in any or all of the three dimensions.

Unstructured Grid - An unstructured grid has no regular topology. Cells are typically formed from triangles and tetrahedra.

Polygonal Data - A collection of geometric primitives (typically points, lines, and triangles though other primitives may be used) that are formed to represent a model, isosurface, or some other structure.

Uniform Rectilinear Grid (Image Data)
Uniform Rectilinear Grid (Image Data)

Non-uniform Rectilinear Grid
Non-uniform Rectilinear Grid

Curvilinear Grid (Structured Grid)
Curvilinear Grid (Structured Grid)

Unstructured Grid
Unstructured Grid

Polygonal Grid (Polydata)
Polygonal Grid (Polydata)

Supported Data Formats

ParaView supports a wide variety of file formats for reading and writing.

Supported Data Formats in ParaView
Format Name Extension Description
ParaView Data Files *.pvd This is the default file format for ParaView.
VTK Polydata files *.vtp ParaView supports the VTK Polydata file format.
VTK Image Data files *.vti ParaView supports the VTK Image Data file format. While called the Image Data format, it also supports uniform rectilinear data sets.
VTK Rectilinear files *.vtr ParaView supports the VTK Rectilinear file format. This format is for non-uniform rectilinear data sets, unlike the Image Data format, which is for uniform rectilinear data sets.
VTK Structured files *.vts ParaView supports the VTK Structured file format. This format is for structured, curvilinear data sets.
VTK Unstructured files *.vtu ParaView supports the VTK Unstructured file format.
Parallel VTK Polydata files *.pvtp ParaView supports the parallel VTK Polydata file format.
Parallel VTK Image Data files *.pvti ParaView supports the parallel VTK Image Data file format. While called the Image Data format, it also supports uniform rectilinear data sets.
Parallel VTK Rectilinear files *.pvtr ParaView supports the parallel VTK Rectilinear file format. This format is for non-uniform rectilinear data sets, unlike the Image Data format, which is for uniform rectilinear data sets.
Parallel VTK Structured files *.pvts ParaView supports the parallel VTK Structured file format. This format is for structured, curvilinear data sets.
Parallel VTK Unstructured files *.pvtu ParaView supports the parallel VTK Unstructured file format.
VTK MultiBlock files *.vtm
Legacy VTK files *.vtk ParaView supports both reading and writing the legacy VTK file format.
Parallel Legacy VTK files *.pvtk
EnSight files *.case ParaView can read CEI EnSight data files.
EnSight Server files *.sos ParaView can read CEI EnSight Server of Servers data files.
Exodus files *.g, *.e, *.ex2, *.ex2v2, *.exo, *.gen, or *.exoII
BYU files (*.g)
XDMF files (*.xmf) ParaView can read and write files in the eXtensible Data Model and Format (XDMF).
PLOT3D files (*.xyz, *.q) ParaView can read files in NASA's PLOT3D format.
SpyPlot CTH files: (*.spcth)
HDF5 image data files (*.h5) (image) data.
DEM files *.dem) ParaView can read Digital Elevation Model files.
VRML files (*.vrml) ParaView can read only the geometry from a Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML 2.0) file.
PLY Polygonal files (*.ply) ParaView can read the Stanford University PLY polygonal file format. ParaView can only read ply files that have "vertex" elements with the properties "x", "y", and "z" and the "face" elements with "vertex_indices" defined. It cannot read or display any other information, such as color vertex (RGB) information.
Protein Data Bank files (*.pdb)
XMol Molecule files (*.xyz) ParaView can get this confused with the PLOT3D extension.
Stereo Lithography files (*.stl)
Gaussian Cube files (*.cube)
Raw (binary) files (*.raw)
AVS files
Meta Image files (*.mhd, *.mha)
Facet files (*.facet)
PNG files (*.png)
SAF files
POP files (*.pop) POP Ocean files

Transient Data

ParaView only has rudimentary support for Transient Data (Time-varying Data). Each data set is loaded as a separate entity with no information leading to previous or future time steps.

For some visualizations, like isosurfaces or volume rendering, this is sufficient. The ability to load the first time step and build your visualization, then hit "Play" and watch it apply the same pipeline and parameters to later time steps, is sufficient.

For more complex algorithms like Line Integral Convolution or Flow Lines, the ability to perform computation on one time step and feed it as an input to a later time step is crucial. This functionality is currently lacking in ParaView and in VTK.

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