What is Linking and Apending?

Gustav Nilsson
A free video tutorial from Gustav Nilsson
Computer Engineering Student
4.4 instructor rating • 1 course • 1,827 students

Lecture description

In this introduction you will learn what linking and appending is and the difference between them.

Learn more from the full course

Mastering Drivers in Blender 3D

Learn powerful tools to make your objects dynamic and automatic without having to write code

06:29:23 of on-demand video • Updated June 2016

  • Create advanced rigging for your objects, characters, etc.
  • Set up complex relationships between different objects in your scenes
  • Control multiple objects at once with the same settings and controls
  • Create floating panels to make the controls easy to access and use
  • Increase the precision of your work by starting to look at everything in Blender as values
  • Make those values change automatically both by using curves and math
  • Create different versions of your objects and how to import them into other files and projects with a click
  • Understand how properties in Blender work and how they can be accessed
  • Have an in-depth knowledge of how Blender's driver system works
  • Use armatures to add skeletons to your objects you can control
  • Use modifiers and shape keys to manipulate the shape of your objects
English Linking and appending are two ways you can import objects from another file into your scene. By doing so, you can create an object in one file, and then use it many different projects. Let’s first take a look at a very simple example. Here we have a new scene. For this video, my default scene will be empty just so I don’t have to delete the default objects to clear up the space over and over again. Now I will create something we can try to import into another file. To make it go fast, I will just add a Suzanne, and give it a simple material. Now when we have our finished object, save the file, and name it something so you will remember what it holds, like Suzanne. From now on I will refer to this as the original file, since it holds the original object, and the empty file where we try the importing, I will refer to as the import file. This will always be displayed in the corner so you won’t get lost when I jump between the two. Now, let’s try to import this Suzanne into another file. Open a new blender file. We are now in the import file as you can see in the corner. We have two different options when importing objects, linking and appending. Let’s try appending first. Select append in the menu, and pick the file we just created. Inside the blend-file we can see a lot of different folders. This is all the different types of data that can be imported. We want to import an object, so select object, and then Suzanne. Now we have a Suzanne in the center of the scene. When we append an object, it is copied to the file, so it is just like if she was created here in the first place. We can do whatever we want with it, like change the shape, or materials. This is a completely new copy of Suzanne, so the file we imported it from is not needed at all anymore. We could even delete it if we wanted to. Now let’s try linking instead. Open a new file, and select Link in the menu. It remembers the last folder we picked, so just select Suzanne again. A Suzanne appears in the center of the scene again, but this time, it has a blue edge, indicating that it has been linked. If we try to change it, we can’t do anything at all. We can’t move it, enter edit mode to change the shape, or change the material. This is because this Suzanne is linked from the other file. What we see here is the exact same monkey as in the original file, so if we want to change the monkey, we have to go there. However, having to go back to the original fil just to place the object in the scene seems very cumbersome and limiting, so thankfully it is not necessary. We can use what is called proxies to be able to change linked objects, without having to change the original file. You can see proxies as a step in between, allowing us to create a difference compared to the file we reference. With Suzanne selected, make it a proxy. The blue edge disappears, and the object gets renamed Suzanne_proxy in the outliner. It looks like any other object here in the outliner, but if we expand it, we can see that it holds a linked suzanne, since there is an arrow next to it. This icon tells you that something is linked. Now when we have a proxy, I can move the object around, or make it really big. The monkey is still grabbed from the other file, but the proxy allows us to adjust it. However, the proxy is pretty limited, so we still have to change the original if we want to change something like the material or the shape. So, let’s try changing the original to see how it works. Jump back to the Suzanne file, and change her a bit. I will just give her a really big mouth. When you are done, save the file again. If we go back to the import file, she still looks the same. This is because the object is only loaded the first time the file is opened. If we want this Suzanne to get updated to the new version, we have to reload the file. To be able to reload a file, we have to save it first. I will name it import. Then open the same file again by simply clicking revert. This discards any unsaved changes, so make sure you have just saved. And now the Suzanne has been updated. So, when should you append, and when should you link? Both have different advantages and are useful in different cases. The big advantage of appending is that you can modify the object any way you want. It becomes a completely new object, and the file you imported from doesn’t matter anymore. You can change the shape, material or anything you like, just as if the object has been in the file all along. The big advantage of linking is that you only need to change the object in one file, and it will automatically be updated in every file that uses that object. Imagine if you have a character you’re using in different scenes, and you realize it would look better with brown hair. If you appended, you would have to make that change in every single file that uses the character, but if you link, you only have to change it once, in the original file. Another big advantage is that you save hard drive space. When you append, the object is copied to the new file, so if I append a character, I get two characters saved on the harddrive, taking double the amount of space. If I link instead, I could have the character in thousands of different files and it would barely take any more space. Now you know the basics of what linking and appending is and their advantages and disadvantages. So now I thought we would go through all the objects we created during the course of this dvd, and see how we can change them so they become easy to either link or append to another file. Let’s start with the ladder.