VISITview common Questions and Answers

updated: 4/8/2010

Q.1: When I start up the session, there are no controls visible.

A: Your screen size may be too small.  Check with the instructor to find out what the requirements are, and then adjust your screen size accordingly.

A: your instructor may have elected to tear-off the controls; in this case, right-click with the mouse in the screen area or press ALT+M to bring the controls back.

Notes to lesson creators:

Q.2: When the controls are "torn off", I cannot enter any keyboard commands (like ALT+Z to zoom).

A: Make sure that the current directory is in your PATH. That is, the value ".\" (or "./" in Unix) must be in the PATH...preferably first.

Q.3: I have a UNIX platform, so I cannot use the .BAT files.

A: Before you can run VISITview lessons on your Unix machine, you must first install the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) or the Java Development Kit (JDK), version 1.3 or later. Most of these can be found from Sun's Java site by clicking here ... also, see this page)

Most lessons are made available as self-extracting ZIP archives, with a .EXE extension. Make a new directory and put the archive file in it; then, use the Unix unzip program to extract the contents into the directory.

Make the file executable (chmod +x and then run it to view the lesson locally.

If you want to use this to participate in teletraining, you will need to edit the appropriate .bat file(s) (for example, visit.bat) and:

  1. Remove the explicit path to the java command (that is, replace ".\jre2\bin\java" with just "java").
  2. Change the "-cp .\" to read "-cp ./"
  3. Save the file and make it executable.

Q.4: We have a proxy server which doesn't allow us to find the VISITview server.

A: Try to make an entry in your workstations hosts file. Find and edit the file by adding the server IP address and hostname. For now, the SSEC server is:
If you need the IP addresses of other VISITview servers, please contact your instructor.

Q.4b: We have a firewall, and when we try to run a lesson, a message about Cannot connect to server pops up on the screen

A: You need to ask your network or system administrator to enable Port #1631 through the firewall. This port has been registered with IANA for the VISITview protocol (

Q.5: When I save them as GIF files, my PowerPoint slides come out different sizes and the graphics have broken lines.

A: If you have PaintShop, use it's "capture area" mode to do a screen capture, and then save that as a GIF or JPEG for use in VISITview.

A: You can resize your saved GIF or JPEG files using the File->Page settings and resizing your pages to a height of "#lines/96" and a width of "#pixels/96", in inches.

Q.5a: When I save PowerPoint2000 slides as GIF images, the VISITview software cannot display them. I get error messages about a "color table" problem.

A: Office2000 does not use a Global Color Table in the GIF files. As of this writing (7/2000), the Java libraries do not know how to decode these. Either use JPEG for saving your images, or "convert" them to more standard GIF images using something like ImageMagick.

Q.5b: On some pages, when I move the Big Red Pointer around, the old ones are "left over" on the display!

A: The page frame was saved as a GIF image with a "transparent background" turned on. When you use GIF images, it is very important not to use any "transparent" level when saving the files.

Q.6: When I click on the ShowText (ShowURL) button, nothing happens.

A: If you're running on Windows, you must have at least installed Internet Explorer (even if you're using Netscape). You must also associate the file types .htm and .html with which ever browser you use.

Open up a DOS Command Prompt window, and enter this command:

rundll32 url.dll,FileProtocolHandler
If you get a "command not found" response, then you need to locate the directory containing the rundll32.exe program and be sure it is in your PATH.

If you're running on Unix, you must use Netscape and the program must be in your PATH.

Q.7: The visitlocal command does not work on my Windows-95 machine.

A: There are a few possibilities here. First, try increasing the FILES parameter in your config.sys file to a value of 80.

A: If you received a message like Out of Environment Space, then we suggest: a) Open the config.sys file for editing. b) Find the 'shell=' command and make it look something like this:

shell=c:\ /p /e:1024
(actually, just add the "/e:1024" to whatever you have; if you have no 'shell=' directive, then add it to your config.sys file).

Q.8: How can I make good-looking animations from AWIPS displays?

A: Check out the information on this page

Q.9: Can I use frames of different sizes on a page?

A: Yes, but...the first frame size is used to determine the "display extents" for all frames of the page (this is because 'double buffering' is used for animations, thus the buffer size is created using the size of the first frame). This means that if subsequent frames are larger than the first frame, they will be cropped. If subsequent frames are smaller, they will be displayed, but parts of the previous frame will also appear if it is larger than the one displayed. Tip: make all the frames for a page the same size, even if you have to resize them when you create them.

Q.10a: When I try to download the '' file, my machine gets to 99% completed and then just sits there...

Q.10b: When I un-zip a complete ("pre-loaded") lesson, my machine gets part way through the bin/ directory and seems to 'lock up'.

Q.10c: When I'm creating a lesson, my machine chokes up when I try to make a .EXE file.

A: There seems to be a problem with the McAffee anti-virus scanning software, which causes it to lock up some systems if it is active while you are dowloading or un-zipping a lesson file. You should disable the anti-virus software, download and un-zip the file, and then re-enable the anti-virus software. Don Rinderknecht at WDTB offers this: "To disable the VirusShield, double click on the blue and red shield in your system tray (it has a red V on it). Then click the "Disable" button. After the VISITview item is done (unzipping or making exe) enable the VirusShield by clicking on the "Enable" button in the VirusShield dialog box."

Q.11: How can I repackage my lesson for distribution if I've "manually" made changes to the viewmaster.html and viewstudent.html files?

A: Running from a Windows-based machine, to replace the viewmaster.html and viewstudent.html files in a lesson:

  1. cd to the directory where you've "expanded" (un-zipped) the lesson and modified the HTML
  2. be sure the lesson's ZIP file is in the same directory
  3. run this command from the command line:
         visitpack_path\infozip\zip viewmaster.html viewstudent.html
    where visitpack_path points to the directory where the visitpack software is located, and is the name of your lesson file.
Once you've done this, you can create a .EXE file simply by running the Lesson Builder and selecting the menu item: "File -> Make EXE". It will prompt you to identify the zip file you want to make an EXE for. It will use the same "root" name as the ZIP file.

Q.12: I got a lesson as a ZIP file, but PKUNZIP won't unpack it

A: We do not test with PK's zip and unzip. You should either use WinZIP, or you can download and install a copy of InfoZIP from here

Important note: when using WinZIP to unpack a lesson file, be sure that the Use Folder Names box is checked in the Extract dialog window. Without this, the lesson files will not be placed into the correct subdirectories in you target directory.

Q.13: I'm trying to mkrepack my audio recorded lesson, but I keep getting an error:

dir entry =jre2/
or WinZip and InfoZIP both say this is an invalid archive. What's wrong?

A: The most likely problem is that you were adding audio to an old lesson file that was constructed using the pre-April, 2002 files. You must be sure that the Java files bundled with your lesson are appropriate for the version of the Lesson Builder you are attempting to modify the lesson with. Follow these steps:

  1. In the directory containing your lesson files (including the audio and annotation you just recorded), remove any extraneous ZIP or EXE files.
  2. Remove the bin/ and lib/ sub-directories from your lesson_directory
  3. From a DOS command prompt Window, type the following:
  4. Start the Lesson Builder
  5. Open the file
  6. Save the lesson as ""
  7. Quit the Lesson Builder
  8. Move the "" and "" files out of the lesson_directory
  9. Unzip the contents of "" on top of the files in your lesson_directory
  10. Use the mkrepack batch file in the visitpack directory to repackage your lesson.

Q.14: When I run a lesson I get the following error message in the DOS (console) window:

Assertion failed: offset < fFilesize, file
 ../../../src/share/native/sun/awt/font/fontmanager/fontobjects/fontObject.cpp, line 256
 abnormal program termination

A: This is a bug in the Java runtime environment for Windows caused by an invalid or corrupt font file in the system fonts directory (c:\winnt\fonts or c:\windows\fonts). The only remedy at this point is to remove the offending file(s). In the system fonts directory:

  1. Check to be sure that all the font "files" are really the font file, and not a "link" to the actual file. If any links exist, locate the target (actual file), remove the link, and then copy the actual file into the directory.
  2. Using 'explorer', click on each and every file in the directory. Valid files will bring up the font editor, invalid ones will not. Move the invalid ones to a different directory.

Q.15: Sometimes when I try to download a lesson file that is really big, it a) takes a very long time and/or b) gets interrupted and I have to start all over. Is there an alternative?

A: Normally lessons are available from "ftp" servers. If you are using your web browser's ftp client to download the file, you might try an alternative. Two Windows clients we have tested with success are:

  1. WS_FTP LE which also comes in a "pro" edition, and
  2. filezilla which does partial transfers quite well.

Q.16: When I try to play a lesson on my Windows 7 computer, the animations show up blank...???

A: For older lessons, the version of the Java runtime packaged along with the lesson (1.3.1) does not play well when any of the so-called "Aero" modes of the desktop are used in Windows 7. We suggest temporarily changing to a non-Aero theme in order to play the lesson. (We are also updating lesson files to move to a newer Java runtime.)


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