Emacs POV-Ray Mode

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page contains some tips on using the POV-Ray with the Emacs text editor. (If you are not familiar with them, see Intro to POV-Ray and Emacs Tutorial.)

POV-Ray Mode for Emacs

To have syntax coloring, get this pov-mode: https://github.com/emacsmirror/pov-mode , maintained by Marco Pessotto.

This mode features customizable syntax coloring, keyword completion, keyword documentation lookup, template insertions, integrated rendering and image viewing commands.

Useful Commands

Editing POV-Ray File

To complete a keyword, type Escape Tab (pov-complete-word).

To look up documentation of the keyword the cursor is on, type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c Ctrl+h (pov-keyword-help).

To open the “include” file the cursor is on, type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c i (pov-open-include-file).


To render the current scene file, use the menu [Render], or type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c r.

The pov-mode provides several shortcuts for rendering at different qualities. Here's a table:

KeysCommand NameMeaning
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c rpov-tool-bar-command-renderdefault quality
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c 1pov-menu-render-testtest quality
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c 2pov-menu-render-lowlow quality
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c 3pov-menu-render-midmidium quality
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c 4pov-menu-render-highhigh quality
Ctrl+c Ctrl+c 5pov-menu-render-highesthighest quality

Viewing Rendered File

To view the rendered image corresponding to the current scene file, type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c v (pov-menu-internal-viewer) or use the menu [View].

To view the rendered image in a external image viewer (such as Gimp), type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c e (pov-menu-external-viewer). You can customize pov-mode to setup what application you want to use as the external viewer (see Customization section below).

To see the rendering stats, type Ctrl+c Ctrl+c l (pov-show-render-output).

Customize povray-mode

The pov-mode supports emacs's graphical customization interface. To enter customization, type Alt+x customize-group, then give pov. Then, a graphical user interface with buttons will show up that lets you change default values. Press TAB to the field you want to change, type the new value, then click the button “Set for Current Session” or “Save for Future Sessions”. Then, you can close the buffer (or click “Finish” to close the buffer). If you save for furture session, emacs will automatically insert code to your emacs init file (usually at ~/.emacs).

Here's a example of setting the command for “High quality render”.

Custome Template Insertion

pov-mode supports insertion of template files thru the menu.

You can download the over 200 templates files (inc files, and templates for color, lighting, shape, transformation …etc) by Christoph Hormann, at: [ http://www.imagico.de/imenu/povray-imenu-3.6.tar.gz ] or povray-imenu-3.6.zip

To install the templates, unzip and untar the file, then place the folder “InsertMenu” inside pov-mode's folder, then restart emacs. Then, you will see a menu “Insert” after opening a POV-Ray file.

pov-mode insert menu
The “Insert” menu in pov-mode.

Misc Tips

Define Your Own Shortcut

You can define a function key for any of the pov-mode's commands or menu. For example, if you want F8 to be menu [Render ▸ Test quality] and F9 to be menu [Render ▸ Medium quality], put the following in your emacs init file.

(defun set-my-pov-mode-hotkeys  ()
  "Sets some convenient keyboard shortcuts for pov-mode."
  (define-key pov-mode-map (kbd "<f8>") 'pov-menu-render-test)
  (define-key pov-mode-map (kbd "<f9>") 'pov-menu-render-mid)

(add-hook 'pov-mode-hook 'set-my-pov-mode-hotkeys)

For detail on setting up keyboard shortcuts with other modifier keys, see How To Define Your Own Emacs Keyboard Shortcuts.

To find out the command name for a menu item, type Ctrl+h b, then pull the menu with the mouse.