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Table of Contents


Tecplot 360 allows you to interactively explore, visualize, and analyze your CFD data, and then communicate your results. With Tecplot 360, you can produce high-quality plots for reports, papers, presentations, videos, or web sites.

The user documentation for Tecplot 360 includes these resources:

Getting Started Manual (this document)

Highlights how to work with key features through a tutorial revolving around data files similar to those you might use.

User’s Manual

Complete documentation of all Tecplot 360 features.

Scripting Guide

Information on working with Tecplot 360 macros and a full syntax reference.

Quick Reference Guide

A handy reference for all the little details of using Tecplot 360, such as text placeholders, keyboard shortcuts, and much more.

Data Format Guide

Tecplot data formats and how to write them.

Installation Guide

How to install Tecplot 360 on your machine.

Release Notes

Information on the latest Tecplot 360 features along with platform-specific notes.

This manual includes four tutorials to help you get started with Tecplot 360. For in-depth information on any of the topics covered in the Getting Started Manual, please refer to the User’s Manual which is included in your Tecplot 360 installation directory or on our website at:

Before You Start the Tutorials

Before beginning a tutorial from this guide, we suggest you read through Chapters 1 and 2 of the User’s Manual to introduce yourself to the Tecplot 360 user interface and familiarize yourself with the product’s basic concepts of operation. It may be helpful to have Tecplot 360 open while reading these chapters so you can experiment a little.

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Covers the Welcome Screen, supported input devices, the Tecplot 360 workspace, the menu bar and global toolbar, context menus and toolbars, and sidebars. Reading this chapter will orient you to the main user interface controls of Tecplot 360, making it easier to find what you’re looking for when you are working on the tutorial.

Chapter 2 - Using the Workspace

Covers data hierarchy, coordinate systems, frames, workspace management, view modification, and the edit menu. You will get practice with many of these concepts in the pages that follow. You may want to review Chapter 2 again after completing the tutorial.

Tutorials In This Guide

This Getting Started Manual is divided into tutorials, each of which contains a series of exercises covering various aspects of the topic at hand. The tutorials are designed so you can do them in any order you like, but within a tutorial, it is best to go through the exercises in order if possible (though we do try to provide guidance on how to pick up in midstream).

The tutorials are:

External Flow

Using the Onera M6 wing model, covers loading the data, producing a basic plot, slicing, streamtraces, isosurfaces, probing, and comparing simulated and experimental data (including normalizing the data).

Understanding Volume Surfaces

Uses the DuctFlow data set as an example of how Tecplot 360 renders volume surfaces using Surfaces to Plot.

Transient Data

Uses a wind turbine data set with 127 time steps to understand how transient (time-based) data is structured and how to produce animated contour plots, extract data over time for analysis, and calculate and visualize additional variables using the Tecplot 360 analysis tools.

Finite Element Analysis

Uses a transient FEA dataset of a connecting rod created with LS-DYNA to explore multiple ways to visualize the maximum Von Mises Stress of the rotating rod.

All of the tutorials in this guide have datasets located in the Getting Started Bundle. A few datasets are located in the example folder in the installation directory, OneraM6Wing and DuctFlow.plt as well as the Getting Started Bundle.

Dive in and master the view!

Part 1: General Application

External Flow

The Onera M6 wing is a standard design for basic studies of 3D flows at high Reynolds numbers from low to transonic speeds (that is, local supersonic flow, shocks, and turbulent boundary layer separation). The wing was tested by NASA in a wind tunnel at four different Mach numbers and various angles of attack. This is now a classic CFD validation case for external flows because it has a simple geometry, complex flows, and because it includes experimental data against which a CFD solution can be validated. For more about the Onera M6 wing, see

This tutorial uses the Onera M6 data set as your entry into Tecplot 360, introducing basic operations at first (loading data and manipulating the view) and progressing to more intermediate and then advanced operations. We chose this data set because you may already be familiar with it (and if you’re not, it’s straightforward to understand).

The Onera M6 data set is in the OneraM6wing folder inside the Getting Started Bundle.

This tutorial is divided into three segments. We have provided a layout file for the end of each segment, so you can check your work. There is also a macro included to generate an enhanced version of one of the plots in the third segment, and a layout showing its results. The segments are:

Number and Level Title and Description

1 - Beginner

Loading and Manipulating Data - Load the Onera M6 simulation data set into Tecplot 360 and create a contour plot, along the way discovering how to rotate a 3D plot, view and color a mesh, set up contour groups and color maps, and display a legend.

2 - Intermediate

Exploring a CFD Solution - Further explore and understand the Onera M6 simulation data set by adding slices, streamtraces, and iso-surfaces, and by probing data.

3 - Intermediate

Comparing a CFD Simulation with Experimental Data - Create a coefficient of pressure (Cp) plot comparing simulated data with experimental data, including normalizing the dimensions of the simulation data set.

A video version of this tutorial is available on the Web at The videos may have minor differences from the printed version of the tutorial in this manual, but they end up in the same places.

Loading and Manipulating Data

Step 1: Launch Tecplot 360 and Load the Data Set

Start Tecplot 360 from the Start menu (Windows), by typing tec360 in a terminal window (Linux), or by double-clicking the application icon in the Applications folder (Mac). The Tecplot 360 Welcome Screen appears, as shown here. (We will show the Windows version of Tecplot 360 in this document, but the product looks substantially the same on other platforms.)

welcome screen

The Welcome Screen appears each time you launch Tecplot 360 and gives you easy access to layouts you have recently worked with, along with quick links to documentation and other resources to help you get the most out of the product.

To begin loading the Onera M6 data, click Load Data at the top of the Welcome Screen. (You may also choose Load Data from the File drop-down menu in the menu bar, or click the folder icon, second from the left, in the toolbar. These alternate methods are convenient when the Welcome Screen isn’t visible.)

The Load Data dialog appears.

load data onera

Navigate to your Tecplot 360 installation folder, then the examples folder, then the OneraM6wing folder. Then double-click the OneraM6_SU2_RANS.plt file to open it in Tecplot 360. (If you can’t see this file, choose All Files in the menu at the bottom of the dialog.) The data file is opened and a 3D plot of the Onera M6 wing appears in the Tecplot 360 workspace, as shown here.

onera loaded
Step 2: Rotate the Wing

To rotate the view of the wing, hold down the Control key on the keyboard (Command on Mac), then hold down the right mouse button in the Tecplot 360 workspace and move the mouse to rotate the wing.

You’ll notice that the range of rotation is not very great, making it hard to make significant changes to the view of the wing. This is because the rotation origin (the point around which rotation is performed) is not set anywhere near the wing. To change this, simply place the mouse pointer in the approximate center of the wing on the screen, then press the lowercase letter O (for origin) on the keyboard.

Then hold down the Control key (Command on Mac) and drag with the right mouse button again. You’ll see it is now much easier to rotate the wing, since it rotates around its center.

Step 3: View Information About the Data Set

To see information about the Onera M6 data set, choose Data Set Info from the Data drop-down menu. The Data Set Information dialog, shown here, appears.

data set information

This dialog provides a wealth of information about the data set. The two lists at the top of the dialog show you the names of the zones and the variables in the data set.

The zones in this data set are:


the air around the wing


the surface of the wing itself

You may wish to explore the other information in the dialog, which is divided into three pages. Click the Help button for more information about the information displayed on any page of the dialog. When you’re finished, close the Data Set Information dialog.

Step 4: Disable Bounding Box for Fluid Volume Zone

As you rotated the wing in step 2, you may have noticed a dashed orange line swoosh by in the plot. We have caught a glimpse of it here.

dashed orange line

This is the bounding box of the FluidVolume zone, which represents the air around the wing. This zone does not have any style (that is, visual appearance) so it would normally be invisible. Tecplot 360 adds the dashed orange line so that you know it’s there and can see its dimension.

fit everything

Choose Fit Everything from the View menu to see the full extent of the volume zone (see above). The wing is a tiny part of the data set! Choose View>Last to return to the previous view.

The bounding box does not add anything to the plot we’re making, so let’s turn it off. Choose Show Bounding Boxes for Enabled Volume Zones with No Style from the Options menu. The dashed orange line disappears.

Step 5: View the Mesh Using the Context Toolbar

To view the mesh for the WingSurface zone, right-click on the wing in the Tecplot 360 workspace. A context toolbar appears, as shown here.

context toolbar

From left to right on this toolbar are buttons that allow you to turn on and off the mesh, contours, vectors, shade, edge, and translucency. Click the first button to display the mesh for the WingSurface zone, as shown here.

context toolbar mesh
Step 6: Change the Mesh Color
plot sidebar

The top portion of the Plot sidebar lets you turn the layers of your plot on and off. The Zone Style button in this sidebar opens the Zone Style dialog, shown here.

zone style mesh

The Mesh Color column (right most green column) displays the color of the mesh for each zone, including WingSurface. Right-click the black color swatch to display the Color Chooser.

color chooser

The Color Chooser lets you choose a single solid color, or, using the 1-8 buttons at the bottom of the dialog, you may choose to have the mesh colored using a contour, such as a gradient based on the value of some variable. (These numbers actually refer to Tecplot 360’s eight contour groups, which associate variables and color maps. We will look at contours in more depth shortly.)

For now, let’s choose a blue color for the mesh.

zone style mesh wing

Close the Zone Style dialog, so that the wing surface is visible again.

Scenic Detour: Context Menu and Toolbar

Try right-clicking the wing. A context menu and toolbar appears, allowing you to make many of the same changes you can make in the Zone Style dialog—without needing to pull up the dialog. Here we are using the drop-down menu to the right of the mesh icon (the first icon on the toolbar) to choose the mesh color.

mesh context menu

If you are changing the styles of many zones at once, it still makes sense to pull up the Zone Style dialog. For many other situations, the context menu and toolbar are faster.

We will use this context menu again in later steps.

Step 7: Set Up Contour Groups and Color Maps

The Onera M6 data contains a number of variables we might be interested in visualizing. Let’s set up color maps so that we can see them as contours on the surface of the wing. First activate the Contour layer in the Plot sidebar, then click the contour details button next to the Contour checkbox to open the Contour & Multi-Coloring Details dialog, seen here.

plot sidebar contour
contour details density

At the top of the dialog is a drop-down menu for choosing a variable. Next to this are eight numbered buttons, which specify the contour group you are editing. Each contour group has its own settings for this dialog. The contour group provides a way to associate a variable with a color map and other settings. The color map specifies how the zone will be colored according to the value of the specified variable.

For our tutorial, we will set up two contour groups. The first will display density with the Large Rainbow color map. The second will display the pressure coefficient using the Magma color map.

First, move the dialog so you can see most of the plot and the dialog at the same time.

  1. Make sure contour group 1 is set at the top of the Contour & Multi-Coloring Details dialog.

  2. Make sure the Density variable is chosen in the drop-down menu at the top of the dialog.

  3. From the drop-down menu under the color map preview, choose Large Rainbow.

  4. Click Continuous for the Color Map Distribution Method.

The dialog should appear as shown above. You should have noticed the plot changing as you made each change in the dialog, since the wing surface is already using contour group 1 by default.

Next, we’ll set up contour group 2 for the Pressure_Coefficient variable.

  1. Click 2 at the top of the Contour & Multi-Coloring Details dialog to choose contour group 2.

  2. Choose the Pressure_Coefficient variable in the drop-down menu at the top of the dialog.

  3. From the drop-down menu under the color map preview, choose Magma.

  4. Click Continuous for the Color Map Distribution Method.

  5. We also need to change the levels for the color map. Click the Set Levels button, then, in the Enter Contour Levels dialog, change the Minimum level to -1 and the number of levels to 21, as shown here.

    enter contour levels
  6. Click OK to close the Enter Contour Levels dialog.

The Contour & Multi-Coloring Details dialog should now appear as shown here.

contour details group2
Step 8: Change Contour Group on Plot

Now that we’ve set up our contour groups, close the Contour & Multi-Coloring Details dialog. Ensure the Contour layer is checked on the Plot sidebar.

Now, we can change the contour variable displayed on the wing by right-clicking the wing, clicking the drop-down menu next to the contour icon in the context menu, and choosing contour group 2 C2: Pressure Coefficient.

contour group menu

The plot so far is shown below.