A typical CityEngine project consists of a variety of files: scenes, rules, and any other data related to the project. Keeping assets, rules, and scenes in predefined locations, or workspaces, helps you and your collaborators.


When you start CityEngine for the first time, a CityEngine default workspace is created for you automatically in your home directory. The workspace is basically a folder in your file system where all your projects are stored. This allows you to use resources such as 3D models or rule files across multiple projects.

  • You can create as many workspaces as you like, but you can open only one workspace at a time.
  • Each newly created workspace gets its own copy of ESRI.lib. It contains assets such as vegetation, street furniture, or building rules that you can use in your projects.
  • You have access to the current workspace and its projects through the Navigator.
  • It is a good practice to add and delete assets, and import and export projects in your workspace using the Navigator. Additionally, you can update assets with other tools.
  • If a file added with the file system doesn't show up in the Navigator, you can refresh the workspace manually by pressing F5 or by clicking File > Refresh Workspace.
  • Some users work with one workspace only; others have separate workspaces for each of their clients. A good rule of thumb is to keep projects in the same workspace in case you plan to share assets between them.

To get a step-by-step introduction on how to manage projects in CityEngine, see Tutorial 1: Essential skills .

Switch to an existing workspace

To switch to an existing workspace, do the following:

  1. Click File > Switch Workspace.
  2. If the workspace is not listed, go to Other and browse to the workspace in your file system.

Switching to another workspace automatically restarts CityEngine.

Create a workspace

To create a workspace, do the following:

  1. Click File > Switch Workspace > Other in the main menu.
  2. Set the path and the folder name for the workspace.

Under Copy Settings, you can select the following settings:

  • Workspace Layout—Inherit opened views, their sizes, and selected perspectives from the current workspace.
  • Working Sets—Inherit user-defined working sets from the current workspace.

Specify workspace on command line at startup

The -data argument can be added on the command line to specify the startup workspace directory for CityEngine. Its value can point to a new or existing workspace. Here is an example, assuming CityEngine.exe is on the PATH:

CityEngine -data C:\Users\MyUser\AppData\Local\Temp\MyCeWorkspace

This creates a new MyCeWorkspace directory in the Temp directory. The new workspace is automatically populated with the ESRI.lib project. Set the CITYENGINE_LIB_MINIMAL environment variable to 1 to reduce the disk space consumed by ESRI.lib.

Work with assets

To import assets into a project, drag them from your system file browser to the desired folder in the Navigator. You will be prompted to link (create a reference the source only) or copy it into the workspace.

To edit an asset, right-click the asset in the Navigator and select Default Editor or Other. Alternatively, you can select Show in File Manager to access the file over the file browser of your operating system.

Alternatively, you can assign your preferred application to a file type by selecting Open With > Other from the Navigator context menu. Once the assignment has been made, you can open files of that type in the preferred application by right-clicking a file and selecting Open in the Navigator context menu. Choose External programs and select the preferred program from the list.