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SolarTool: Fundamentals

An introduction to The Solar Tool

To work through this tutorial, it is preferable that you load an example file.

1. Select the Open item from the File menu.

When the File Open dialog opens, navigate to the Examples folder in the SolarTool installation directory (by default this is C:\Program Files\Square One\) and choose the file titled Example_ExtShades.sun then click the Open button.

This opens an example file comprising of a wall, window and sunshade. Upon opening the file you will be presented with a view of the Sun Path diagram for the model. This view is not currently set to display shadows, so you will need to know how to turn them on.

2. On the left hand side of the screen, locate and click the Sun Path rollout to open the Sun Path settings.

Under the Sun Path rollout you will see the Shadowing section. Select each of the radio buttons in turn to see the different information that is displayed.

Fully Shaded - Represents the times and dates when the window is in 100% shade only.

Percentage Shade – Creates a greyscale diagram displaying the proportion of shade at various times. This is indicated by steps of 10% (from 0 to 100) shown at the top right corner of the Sun Path canvas.

Centre Point – Dark grey sections show when the centre point of the window is in shade; lighter grey indicates a fully shaded window.

None – No shadows are cast

Choose the Fully Shaded option to continue with the next section of the tutorial.

3. Locate and click the 3D Model rollout which can be found below the Sun Path rollout (or hit the F9 key).

A new window will open containing a 3D model of the scene represented in the Sun Path diagram you were previously looking at. This 3D model is directly linked to the Sun Path diagram, so any changes that are made in one window will also be seen in the other. Because of this it is recommended that you arrange the two Solar Tool application windows next to each other on your desktop, so that you can see these changes in real time.

Important Note: OpenGL Display Issues...

If the 3D Model canvas is not displayed (or the Solar Tool crashes) at this stage, then it is likely that your computer hardware does not support the implementation of OpenGL used in the Solar Tool. Just as it is impossible for video hardware manufacturers to test all software applications, it is impossible for Square One to test our programs with all video cards on every possible setup.

Therefore we rely on users who are having difficulties to let us know so that an attempt at resolving the issue can be made. If this has happened to you, please contact us outlining what exactly you where doing when the issue occurred and providing a detailed description of your computer hardware, with as much information on your video card as possible.

4. To manipulate the view of the 3D model click and hold the Right Mouse button anywhere within the 3D Model canvas.

While continuing to hold down the mouse button, move the mouse anywhere in the canvas. This controls the angle of view for the model, interactively rotating left, right, up and down. The command will end when the right button is released.

(ECOTECT users may note that 3D navigation in the Solar Tool works in a very similar way).

5. To interactively zoom in and out of the 3D Model view, click and drag the Right Mouse button once again, and at the same time hold down the Shift key on the keyboard.

It is also possible to zoom by using the Zoom In

and Zoom Out buttons on the left side of the screen under the Window Model rollout, or if you are using a wheel mouse, the wheel will also allow you to zoom in and out.

6. To pan the model view, hold the Control key whilst click and dragging the Right Mouse button.

7. To change the perspective projection for the model, hold the Shift and Control keys whilst click and dragging the Right Mousebutton.

8. To fit the entire model into the window click the Zoom to Fit button =

This button also resets the view to the default perspective settings.

Useful Note:

While pressing the Right Mouse button in the 3D Model window, all the navigation command options explored above are displayed at the bottom of the window.

Re-position the two windows (3D Shading Model and the main application window) on the desktop so that they can both be seen like in the image below.

In the main application window click and drag the Left Mouse button over the Sun Path diagram (preferably in the area marked with the sun's date and hour lines). Notice the changes that take place in the 3D Shading Model as you move the cursor.

The position of the sun in the 3D Model window will change relative to the position of the cursor in the Sun Path diagram. The position of the cursor represents a given time and date, thereby changing the sun angle and shading in the 3D Model window as the cursor moves. Once the mouse button is released, the sun angle and shadow projections are set until further changes are made.

The exact time and date to which the sun projection refers are displayed in the Location rollout at the top left hand side of the main application window, and also in the bottom right of the Sun Path canvas.

Setting the time and date

If you have just started this tutorial, open the file "Example_ExtShades.sun" and set the Shadowing to 'Fully Shaded' as in the previous tutorial. You will also need to open the 3D Model window. There are three ways in which you can change the time and date in the Solar Tool. The first is by using the Location rollout, which allows the keyboard entry of time and date data. This can be found on the top-left side of the main application window.

Secondly, the time and date can be changed interactively using the Sun Path diagram. Finally, the time and date can be changed within the 3D Model window.

1. In the Location rollout under Time click the Up and Down arrow buttons to change the time of day.

You can also type a specific time into the Time input box or, once it is in focus, you can use the Page Up / Page Down keys to adjust the time.

Notice that as you change the time, the sun position on the Sun Path diagram and the 3D Model adjusts to correspond with the time input.

Set and leave the time at 14:15hrs (2.15pm).

Adjusting the date can be done in the same way as the time.

This time try double-clicking in the Date input box (so the date is highlighted as shown) and typing a number between 1 and 31 using the keyboard. Make sure you press the Enter key to set the new date.

The sun position on the Sun Path diagram moves to correspond with the text input, as in the previous step. However, in this case you are of course changing the day of the month, rather than the time of day.


By entering a number greater than the last day for the current month (that is, 31 for the month of September) the Solar Tool will adjust the date only to the maximum date that can occur (30th of September).

Set and leave the Date on the 6th.

Next click the Month pull-down list just below the time and date.

This opens a pull-down list with all the calendar months, allowing you to choose a specific month for your shadow analysis.

You can also alter the months one at a time by using the Up and Down arrow keys once the Month pull-down list is in focus (Tab key is useful for this). For the month only, the Page Up / Page Down keys adjust the month between the beginning and end of the calendar year.

Set the month to May.

Now you have finished setting the Solar Tool to calculate the sun shadows cast at 2:15pm on the 6th of May during any given year. The Sun Path diagram represents this information visually, as does the 3D Model.

Useful Note:

When using keyboard shortcuts such as Page Up / Page Down etc. if you hold the Shift key down at the same time, the adjustment will be reduced to very small increments, whilst holding the Control key will increase the increment size. These increments can be adjusted in the Settings dialog box.

Check the Daylight Savings check box under the month in the Location rollout.

When this box is checked, one hour will be subtracted from on the Sun Path diagram, while the Time input field remains the same. In this way daylight savings time [summer time] can be incorporated into your model. To turn Daylight

Savings off, simply uncheck the box.

Click and drag the Left Mouse button at any point on the Sun Path diagram.

As you move your mouse, the sun position will follow your cursor to the nearest possible time and date increment.

Notice that as you do this all the associated date and time parameters are also updated; the Location rollout, the legend text in the Sun Path canvas, the 3D Shading Model, and of course the sun position within the Sun Path diagram.

While moving the sun with the cursor (as in Step 5) press and hold the Shift key.

Holding the Shift key constrains the movement of the sun to the current hour of the day, whilst the cursor movement changes only the day of the year.

Again while moving the sun with the cursor (as in Step 5) press and hold the Ctrl key.

Holding the Ctrl key constrains the movement of the sun to the current day of the year, whilst the cursor movement changes only the hour of the day.

In the 3D Model window, click the Display Sun Path icon from the Display Options rollout.

This options displays the sun path for the current date, within the context of the 3D model.

Position the cursor over the sun (a small hand icon will appear), then left click and drag the mouse.

You should notice that dragging the cursor changes the position of the sun. While in 3D view, the movement of the sun is constrained in order to represent the Sun Path on a given day with shadows updated in real time.

As the sun changes position in the 3D Model, the time and date settings also update in all the relevant areas (as mentioned previously).

Whilst continuing to drag the sun with the cursor (as in Step 9) press and hold the Shift key down.

This constrains the movement of the sun to the current hour of the day, but allows you to interactively change the day of the year (represented by the red “figure 8” line). As in Step 9, the Date settings will update in the Sun Path diagram window as your cursor changes position in the 3D Model window.

Useful Note:

This red line (or “figure 8”) shown in the 3D Shading Model is known as the analemma. The analemma is essentially caused by two characteristics of the earth’s orbit within the solar system; firstly, the earth is tilted on its axis 23.5° in relation to the plane of its orbit around the sun, and secondly, the earth orbits the sun in an elliptical path (not a circular path).

It is simply the sum of these two effects that causes the analemma.

Once the Shift key is released, dragging the sun will be limited once again to the hour of the day.

Setting the location

In order for you to create an accurate shadowing analysis, Solar Tool allows you to specify any location on earth. The program is able to make accurate shadow calculations for your model based upon Latitude, Longitude and Time-zone. These variables are set using the Global Position section of the Location rollout.

The Global Position can be set by directly inputting the Latitude, Longitude and Time-zone into their respective text input boxes.

This can be done by clicking inside each text box and manually entering the value. Make sure you hit the Enter key to apply the changes. Once the new location has been set, the sun-path diagram will update.

Important Note:

Make sure that you have chosen an appropriate time-zone for the new latitude and longitude. If you do not the Solar Tool may get confused by the data and not be able to convert them into a valid sun path diagram, as in the image below.

If you are unsure as to the correct Latitude and Longitude, click on the Map button

This opens a new window which contains an interactive map of the world.

When the mouse cursor is moved within the window, the Latitude (LAT), Longitude (LNG) and Time Zone (TZ) are updated to correspond to the position of the cursor (you can see this happen in the Status Bar of the World Map window, bottom left corner).

When the Left Mouse button is clicked and dragged over any point on the map, the location will then be updated on the Sun Path diagram as well as in the Global Position section.

Useful Note:

Clicking and dragging the mouse over the world map whilst viewing the Sun Path diagram, is a useful way of demonstrating the effects of latitude on the diagram as the Sun Path is recalculated in real time.

To specify a location with more accuracy, press the Find button

A new window will open, containing the Location Tool.

Important Note:

If the Location Tool does not open you will be prompted to find the Location Tool’s executable file (LocationTool.exe). The default directory for this is C:\Program Files\Square One\. If you cannot find the file then you may need to download it from the Square One website at

To find the longitude and latitude of a specific place, (after ensuring the correct country data is loaded) type the name of the city or town into the text field and hit Enter or press the Find button. A list of matching locations will then appear in the window and will also be marked on the map with a small red cross. Simply double click on a location via the map or the list to update the location data in the Solar Tool.


If you can't find the location you are after or if you don't have the correct country data loaded, you will need to load this information either from your Square One CD-ROM, or by downloading it from our website at

Changing the orientation of the window

Not every object that you work with will be oriented due North. The Solar Tool allows you to orient objects in any direction relative to the north-point.

Open the 3D MODEL window

To change the orientation using an exact value, enter the degree offset into the Orientation text input box as the top of the Window Model rollout.

By clicking in the Orientation text input box and pressing the Page Up / Page Down keys, the orientation of the wall can be rotated in increments of 5.0°. Page Up moves the wall in the a clockwise direction, while the Page Down rotates it in an anti-clockwise direction.

To vary this increment, try holding down the Ctrl (1.0° increments) or the Shift (0. 1° increments) keys at the same time.


When entering the orientation values, that the angle is given relative to North, and rotation is specified in a clockwise direction.

By clicking in the Orientation text field and pressing the Page Up / Page Down keys, the orientation of the wall can be rotated in increments of five degrees. Page Up moves the wall in the a clockwise direction, while the Page Down rotates it in an anti-clockwise direction.

It is also possible to interactively change the orientation of the window via the 3D Model.

Left click the cursor on a blank section of the window’s wall. You will notice that red nodes appear at the centre of each edge of the wall, as well as a central node just out from the base of the wall. This base node is the Rear Wall Orientation node.

Next, move your cursor over this base node, and you will notice that the cursor turns into a hand.

Once the cursor has changed into a hand, click and drag the Left Mouse button. This will rotate the wall around its central point, thereby changing its orientation. Changing the wall's position in this window will automatically update the Orientation text input box as well.

Useful Note:

As you move the cursor over a node the Status Bar text is updated and a Hint displays indicating what the node relates to (eg. Rear Wall Orientation, Window Sill Height etc.).

SolarTool: Tutorials


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