Software at MIT

Name: Open Inventor and VRML
Category: Graphical Modeling Technologies

Open Inventor is a collection of software developed by Silicon Graphics to support easier use of the high-quality, high-performance 3D graphics (OpenGL) on their workstations that otherwise would require substantial programming experience. The Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) was mostly derived from Open Inventor; VRML 1.0 was a small Open Inventor subset created for WWW viewing of 3D scenes from an arbitrary user perspective; VRML 2.0 adds many of the missing animation and manipulation features that VRML 1.0 didn't include. For the present this collection of web pages focuses on Open Inventor without introducing VRML-specific differences. See also SGI's Inventor page.

There are (at least) three ways to make use of Open Inventor:

  1. by viewing Open Inventor files created by somebody else;
  2. by developing C++ programs that use Open Inventor libraries;
  3. by creating your own script-like scene descriptions in the Open Inventor ".iv" file format.

Open Inventor at MIT


Linux and Sun versions are available on Athena in the inventor locker; the current Linux/Sun version is; this locker also contains many man 3 UNIX man pages for the extensive set of functions available in the Inventor programming library.


We try to offer support to faculty members and TAs who want to use this software within the context of teaching a specific class. Students in those classes need to contact their instructors and TAs for assistance.


The primary documentation source for Open Inventor is in the form of man pages and in the introductory book Inventor Mentor, which is sold by Addison-Wesley.

Online Tidbits

The ivlib locker contains materials to support educational use of Open Inventor within MIT's Athena Computing Environment. In particular, there is a collection of files discussing the Open Inventor file format. This material is dated and has not been updated for a long time, but may still be relevant in many if not all respects.

Open Inventor Outside of MIT


Check out Open Inventor and related publications at SGI.

Problems or Questions?

Help with Open Inventor
If you are affiliated with MIT, contact Athena Consulting (on Athena, type "olc"). Otherwise, see the other resources above or contact SGI for help. A Google search on appropriate key words is likely to turn up a lot of useful information.

Sending bug reports
Athena users should report problems via the "sendbug" command.

Software at MIT
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