Online Quick Start Guide

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Activate your account

Open your activation email* and click ACTIVATE YOUR ACCOUNT. This will take you to the OpticStudio Online account activation page, which includes a link to either the Online Trial Services Agreement or the Online Subscription Services Agreement in the footer. Read this agreement before continuing. Activating your online account acknowledges that you have read and agree to the terms of the trial or subscription services agreement.

Enter your first and last name in the activation page, and create a case sensitive password. Click START and your OpticStudio Online account will be activated. You’ll be brought to your account’s Launchpad, which displays the installed applications and links to pages of the Zemax website.


*OpticStudio Online is powered by Frame, so your email invitation will be sent from Frame. 

Start a session

To start OpticStudio, click on OpticStudio Instance 1.

The system will look for a cloud machine to use. This could take a few minutes:

The first time OpticStudio opens on your account, you’ll see the following notification:

This is because OpticStudio needs to copy the default files (catalogs, sample files, etc.) to your personal storage, called the P-drive. Note that Zemax does not have access to this drive, or any files that you store on your P-drive. These OpticStudio files will only need to be copied over the first time you run OpticStudio, or when a new version with updated default files is released.

Once the files are copied to your P-drive, OpticStudio will open, and you’ll see the Startup Defaults screen:

If you know that you’ll be designing imaging systems, like cameras and telescopes, then we recommend that you choose Imaging/Afocal Systems. If you’ll be designing illumination systems, like headlamps or backlighting, then we recommend that you choose Illumination Systems.

Click OK, and you can begin working in OpticStudio.

Navigate your session

Once you're in your session, you’ll see a status bar at the bottom of the window. You can hover over the icons and/or click them for more info (or check out the Frame interactive session guide here).

In addition to clicking on the icons in the status bar, you can also double-click on a blank area of the status bar to toggle between a full-sized window view and a small window view. This lets you access the Launchpad while OpticStudio is open, so you can open a second instance of OpticStudio, or any other application in the Launchpad. To return to the full-sized window, click anywhere in the small window.

Look at the bottom right of the status bar for additional options. If you want to upload an existing optical system to the Online edition, select the cloud-shaped Upload button in the picture below. There is also a clipboard button to copy and paste text from your computer into the online session. Information both these features are covered in the OpticStudio Online End User Manual

Staying connected

Once you have your session open, there is a 30-minute user inactivity timer. This starts when your OpticStudio session does not detect any mouse or keyboard movement. For example, if you step away from your desk for 30 minutes, your session will automatically be disconnected, but not powered off.


Disconnecting is like detaching the monitor from your PC. All active applications will keep running after you disconnect. This allows you to pause your session, and resume where you left off. You can even disconnect from one device and resume your session from another device.
To disconnect from your session, select the Gear icon in the lower left corner, and then select Disconnect:



You can resume your session by clicking on any of the application icons in the Launchpad.

Idle time

When you disconnect, if OpticStudio is not running any calculations, your session will remain active in the background for the duration of the “idle time”. By default, the idle time is 10 minutes. If you disconnect, you will see the idle time remaining to the left of the status indicator:

After the 10 minutes of idle time, there are two possible scenarios:

  1. If OpticStudio is running a calculation (i.e. updating an analysis or running an optimization), then your session will stay active and the idle timer will restart. This process will continue until OpticStudio finishes calculating, or until you reach the maximum session time. (See the next section for the maximum session time).
  2. If OpticStudio is not running any calculations, then your session will power off. OpticStudio will automatically save your files just before your session powers off, and these files will be stored in a folder called Autosave (P:\Zemax\Autosave). This folder was created when you copied the default files to your personal storage drive.

Maximum session time

When you’ve reached the maximum session time limit, whether this is after the idle time or not, your session will power off. The maximum session time is 16 hours*. If you need this to be extended, please let us know at
To be safe, always save your work before disconnecting, and note the time elapsed at the bottom of your session.

*In the 2-week trial version, the maximum session time is limited to 6 hours.

Save files and end your session

When you’re finished working, you should save your files, and power off your session. Files will only be retained between sessions if they are saved to your personal storage drive (P-drive), or downloaded from your session using the Download Now folder. Copying or moving files to the Download Now folder will download the file to your browser's local download location (typically this is C:\Users\username\Downloads).

To move OpticStudio files to your Personal Storage (P:) or the Download Now folder, open Frame Explorer. Drag your files to these folders, or use the copy/paste buttons in the toolbar:

Once your work is saved, click the gear icon in the lower left corner of your session, and select Power off.
Powering off will immediately close running applications and terminate your instance. If you want to keep your session active and pick up where you left off later, use the disconnect feature instead.

You should always save your work to your storage drive before powering off. Do not save files to the local drive of your session (e.g., C: drive), because those files will not be retained between sessions. You must save everything to your storage drive, or download the files from your session.

Then, go to the menu at the top right corner of the Launchpad and click on "Sign out”.

Learn more

Once you’ve completed this Quick Start Guide, check out the full OpticStudio Online End User Manual as well as the OpticStudio Online FAQ for more detailed information about using OpticStudio Online. The OpticStudio Online References contains links to all support information, pricing, and other related information for the Online Edition. 

Next, you can follow the Getting Started Using OpticStudio guide below to learn more about the OpticStudio user interface.


Getting Started Using OpticStudio

If you’re new to OpticStudio, the best place to start is with the tutorials in the Getting Started Using OpticStudio guide. To open this guide, go to the Help tab, and select Getting Started Using OpticStudio:


In the navigation panel on the left, expand the Tutorials section, and you’ll see nine different step-by-step tutorials:


These tutorials include several examples of how to use OpticStudio. We strongly recommend that new OpticStudio users take the time to work through them. Once you’ve completed the tutorials, here are some other resources with more information about OpticStudio:

  • The OpticStudio Knowledgebase. This is an indispensable resource for OpticStudio users, and contains hundreds of articles including topic-specific tutorials, answers to frequently-asked questions, and examples. It is structured into categories, and has a powerful search engine to help you find articles of interest easily.
  • The Help Files are accessed by clicking the Help “?” buttons in the user interface.  Each Help icon is linked to a section of the Help Files with a description of that analysis or tool.
  • The OpticStudio sample files. These sample files demonstrate how to set up different types of optical systems and can be accessed through the File tab > Open. Browse to P:\Zemax\Samples.
  • OpticStudio training courses will help you expand your optical and illumination design capabilities whether you are a new or well-established optics professional. Training courses are conducted by our exceptional team of Optical Engineers, with years of experience designing real-world optical systems.

In addition, your OpticStudio Online subscription comes with technical support. OpticStudio has a global technical support team of optical engineers, available 24 hours per day, Monday-Friday. If you have a question about OpticStudio, you can email technical support, or schedule a call on our website.

OpticStudio Online End User Manual

Please see the OpticStudio Online End User Manual for more information on sharing your session, printing from online, changing your password, and more.