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Export to .blend Add-on

May 25th 2021

If you look on Right-Click Select (the feature request site for Blender), you'll notice that one of the frequently-requested features is the ability to save or otherwise export just part of your active .blend file to a separate file. In fact, as of this writing, there are 7 different requests for this feature with a combined total of 176 up-votes. Considering the fact that the current top request has around 500 up-votes, this is clearly a feature that a lot of people are interested in.

And they should be interested! This is a feature that's very helpful for managing data and assets in larger projects. Let's say you're working on a scene and you've added a prop to it... but then you realize that prop is going to be necessary in a bunch of different scenes. It'd be really nice to push the prop to its own .blend file so you can link it from your other scenes. That kind of thing can happen all the time in larger projects.

So to support the artists and studios that would have their lives made easier with this ability, Orange Turbine has created the Export to .blend add-on.

Of course, it's not just about exporting whatever you have selected in the 3D Viewport. Typically when you're doing this kind of thing, it's for a reason. Oftentimes, it's because you intend on using that thing you exported in other scenes or projects, in addition to the one you're currently working on. To that end, we've included a few really handy features in the add-on:

  • Export objects, collections, or nodes
  • Export from the Outliner
  • Optionally create collections or group nodes of your exported selection
  • Optionally "backlink" exported assets, replacing your current selection with a linked library asset of what you just exported

Installation

Installing the add-on is done the same way you install most Blender add-ons:

  1. Download the v1.0 release of Export to .blend.
  2. Start Blender and navigate to Edit ➡ Preferences.
  3. From Preferences, go to the Add-ons section.
  4. Click the Install button in the upper right and find the Export to .blend ZIP file you downloaded.
  5. Ta-da! You've installed the add-on. Double-check to make sure it's enabled.

Now you can actually use the thing.

Exporting Selected Objects

This is the most basic of workflows. You select a bunch of objects in your scene and then in standard Blender practice, navigate to File ➡ Export ➡ Blender (.blend). From there, you can name your output file and your selected objects will be saved there. Yay!

Although that's the default flow, if you look on the side panel in the File Browser when exporting, there are a handful of pretty useful options.

  • export_options.pngExport Selected - As you might expect, enable this to export just the selected objects in your scene. In most cases, you'll want this enabled. Otherwise, you may as well use Blender's built-in Save As feature.
  • Export as Collection - Enable this option and the add-on will bundle your selected objects into a collection prior to exporting. This is a helpful choice if you intend on appending or linking what you export into another project file. The add-on also gives you the ability to give that collection a custom name.
  • Backlink - Enable this option and the add-on will replace the objects you're exporting with links to those objects in your exported file. If you enable the Export as Collection option, your backlink will be an instance of your newly exported collection. (Note: Do be careful with this option. It does remove objects from your scene, so it's worth testing before using in production.)

In future versions of Blender, when the Asset Manager is enabled, you will also have the ability to mark your exported objects as assets so you can quickly and easily populate your asset library.

Exporting from the Outliner

If you're the sort of person who works with Blender's Outliner a lot, you'll be happy to know that the Export to .blend add-on gives you the ability to export objects and collections directly from the Outliner.

Exporting Objects from the Outliner

The workflow for exporting objects from the Outliner is fairly straight-forward. You just select the objects you want to export and choose Export to .blend from the context menu (typically right-click).

rt_from_outliner.png

From here, the process and options are just like exporting from the File menu.

Exporting Collections

One of the other really useful things you can do from the Outliner is directly export a collection (currently just one collection at a time). The workflow is the same as described above. Right-click any collection in Blender's Outliner and choose Export to .blend from the context menu.

Of course, since you're already exporting a collection, the options in the File Browser are more limited. Currently, only the Backlink option (described above) is available when exporting a collection.

Exporting Nodes

Not only does the Export to .blend add-on support objects and collections, it also gives you the ability to export nodes as well. This feature is accessible from any Node Editor in Blender (Shader Editor, Texture Editor, Geometry Node Editor), with the exception of the Compositor. Due to a bug in Blender, exporting Compositor nodes is not currently supported. In any of the other Node Editors, though, all you need to do to export is navigate to Node ➡ Export to .blend. The File Browser gives you a set of options much like the ones for exporting objects and collections

  • rt_options-nodes.pngExport Selected - This option, enabled by default, means that you're only exporting the selected nodes. Otherwise, you're actually exporting your whole node tree.
  • Export as Node Group - Like to the Export as Collection option for objects, enable this option to create a node group out of your selected nodes when exporting. You also have the option to give your node group a more interesting name than "export_group".
  • Backlink - As with objects and collections, you can enable this option for nodes and your selected nodes will be replaced with a linked instance of your exported group.

Feedback

Development of the Export to .blend add-on is on GitHub. Please use that repository for bug reports, feature requests, and pull requests.

Now go have some fun!

Author

Jason van Gumster