Working with groups

Groups in Natron are a complete sub-nodegraph into which the user can manage nodes exactly like in the main nodegraph, but everything in that sub-group will be referenced as 1 node in the hierarchy above, e.g:


A group can be created like any other node in Natron and by default embeds already 2 nodes: The Output node and one Input node.

The Output node is used to reference what would be the output of the internal graph of the group. In Natron, a node has necessarily a single output, hence if you add several Output nodes to a group, only the first Output node will be taken into account.

Note that you can also add Output nodes to the top-level graph of Natron (the main Node Graph). They are useful if you need to export your project as a group.

When used in the top-level graph, there can be multiple Output nodes, which can then be used when launching Natron from the command-line to render the script, e.g:

NatronRenderer -o1 /FastDisk/Pictures/sequence###.exr -o2 /FastDisk/Pictures/test###.exr 1-100 /Users/Me/MyNatronScripts/

Where each argument o1, o2 expand respectively the nodes Output1 and Output2.


You should never attempt to change the script name of output nodes, otherwise Natron has no way to match the given command line arguments to the output nodes. In fact Natron will completely ignore your request if you explicitly try to set the script name of an Output node.

The Input node is not necessarily unique and represents 1 input arrow of the group node. You can also specify in the settings panel of the Input node whether this input should be considered as a mask or whether it should be optional.


Note that the OpenFX standard specifies that Mask inputs must be optionals so when checking the mask parameter, this will automatically check the optional parameter.

You can freely rename an Input node, effectively changing the label attached to the arrow on the group node.


Parameters expressions and groups

A common task is to add parameters to the group node itself which directly interact to nodes parameters used internally by this group.

You can add a new parameter to the group node by clicking the “Settings and presets” button and clicking “Manage user parameters...”:


A dialog will popup on which you can manage all the parameters that you added. By default a page is added automatically that will contain user parameters.


To create a new parameter, click the add button, this brings up a new dialog:


In this dialog you can configure all the properties of the parameter exactly like you would do using the Python API.

Once created, the new parameter can be found in the “User” page of the settings panel:


We can then set for instance an expression on the internal blur size parameter to copy the value of the blur size parameter we just added to the group node:


The expression is now visible in a green-ish color on the parameter in the settings panel and the node on the node-graph has a green “E” indicator.


Exporting a group

Once your group is setup correctly, you can export it as a Python script that Natron will generate automatically. We call them PyPlugs.

To do so, click the Export as Python plug-in button in the “Node” page of the settings panel of the Group node.


Exporting a group as a plug-in, means that it will create a Python script that will be able to re-create the group entirely and that will be loaded on startup like any other plug-in. That means that the group will also appear in the left toolbar of Natron and can potentially have an icon too.


The Label is the name of the plug-in as it will appear in the user interface. It should not contain spaces or non Python friendly characters as it is going to be used as variable names in several places.

The Grouping is the tool-button under which the plug-in should appear. It accepts sub-menus notation like this: “Inria/StereoGroups”

The Icon relative path is the filepath to an image which should be used as icon for the plug-in. Note that it is a relative path to the location of the python script.

The directory is the location where the script should be written to. For the plug-in to be loaded by Natron, it should be in its search-paths hence if you select a directory that is not yet in the search-paths, it will prompt you to add it.


A re-launch of Natron is required to re-scan the plug-ins and build the tool menus

Once restarted, the plug-in should now appear in the user interface


and even in the tab menu of the node-graph:



The plug-in ID of the group will be exactly the same as the Label you picked when exporting it, hence when creating a node using the group from a Python script, you would do so:


If several plug-ins have the same pluginID, Natron will then sort plug-ins by version.

The version of a plug-in by default when exporting it via Natron is 1.


If 2 plug-ins happen to have the same pluginID and version, Natron will then load the first one found in the search paths.

To change the pluginID and version of your group plug-in, you must implement the 2 following functions in the python script of the group:

# This function should return an int specifying the version of the plug-in
# If not implemented, Natron will use 1 by default
def getVersion():
        return VERSION

# This function should return a string specifying the ID of the plug-in, for example
# "fr.inria.groups.customBlur"
# If not implemented, Natron will use the label as a pluginID
def getPluginID():
        return UNIQUE_ID

Exporting a project as group

Similarly, Natron allows you to export the top-level node-graph as a Python group plug-in. From the “File” menu, select “Export project as group”.


To be exportable, your project should at least contain 1 output node.


While this functionality is made for convenience, you should be cautious, as exporting a project containing Readers will probably not work very well in another project or computer because of file-paths no longer pointing to a valid location.


If you were to write a group plug-in and then want to have your expressions persist when your group will be instantiated, it is important to prefix the name of the nodes you reference in your expression by the thisGroup. prefix. Without it, Natron thinks you’re referencing a top-level node, i.e: a node which belongs to the main node-graph, however, since you’re using a group, all your nodes are no longer top-level and the expression will fail.

Moving nodes between groups

You can create a group from the selection in Natron by holding CTRL+SHIFT+G. This will effectively move all nodes selected into a new sub-group

You can also copy/cut/paste in-between groups and projects.

Creating a group by hand

You can also write a group plug-in by hand using the Python API of Natron.

To work as a plug-in, your script should implemented the following functions:

# This function is mandatory and should return the label of the plug-in as
# visible on the user interface
def getLabel():
        return LABEL

# This function should return an int specifying the version of the plug-in
# If not implemented, Natron will use 1 by default
def getVersion():
        return VERSION

# This function should return a string specifying the ID of the plug-in, for example
# "fr.inria.groups.customBlur"
# If not implemented, Natron will use the label as a pluginID
def getPluginID():
        return UNIQUE_ID

# This function should return a string specifying the relative file path of an image
# file relative to the location of this Python script.
# This function is optional.
def getIconPath():
        return ICON_PATH

# This function is mandatory and should return the plug-in grouping, e.g:
# "Other/Groups"
def getGrouping():
        return GROUPING

# This function is optional and should return a string describing the plug-in to the user.
# This is the text that will show up when the user press the "?" button on the settings panel.
def getDescription():
        return DESCRIPTION

# This function is mandatory and should re-create all the nodes and parameters state
# of the group.
# The group parameter is a group node that has been created by Natron and that  will host all
# the internal nodes created by this function.
# The app parameter is for convenience to have access in a generic way to the app object,
# no matter in which project instance your script is invoked in.
def createInstance(app, group):

The Python group plug-ins generated automatically by Natron are a good start to figure out how to write scripts yourself.


Python group plug-ins should avoid using any functionality provided by the NatronGui module because it would then break their compatibility when working in command-line background mode. The reason behind this is that the Python module NatronGui is not imported in command-line mode because internally it relies on the QtGui library, which may not be present on some render-farms. Attempts to load PyPlugs relaying on the NatronGui module would then fail and the rendering would abort.


Note that PyPlugs are imported by Natron which means that the script will not have access to any external variable declared by Natron except the variables passed to the createInstance function or the attributes of the modules imported.

Adding hand-written code (callbacks, etc...)

It is common to add hand-written code to a PyPlug. When making changes to the PyPlug from the GUI of Natron, exporting it again will overwrite any change made to the python script of the PyPlug. In order to help development, all hand-written code can be written in a separate script with the same name of the original Python script but ending with, e.g:

This extension script can contain for example the definition of all callbacks used in the PyPlug. When calling the createInstance(app,group) function, the PyPlug will call right at the end of the function the createInstanceExt(app,group) function. You can define it in your extension script if you want to apply extra steps to the creation of the group. For example you might want to actually set the callbacks on the group:

#This is in

def paramChangedCallback(thisParam, thisNode, thisGroup, app, userEdited):
print thisParam.getScriptName()

def createInstanceExt(app,group):
        #Note that the callback belongs to the PyPlug to so we use it as prefix


Note that callbacks don’t have to be registered with the extension module prefix but just with the PyPlug’s name prefix since the “from ... import *” statement is made to import the extensions script.

Starting Natron with a script in command line

Natron can be started with a Python script as argument.

When used in background mode (i.e: using NatronRenderer or Natron with the option -b) Natron will do the following steps:

  • Source the script
  • If found, run a function with the following signature createInstance(app,group)
  • Start rendering the specified writer nodes (with the -w option) and/or the Output nodes (with the -o option)

This allows to pass a group plug-in to Natron and render it easily if needed. Also, it can take arbitrary scripts which are not necessarily group plug-ins.

When Natron is launched in GUI mode but with a Python script in argument, it will do the following steps:

  • Source the script
  • If found, run a function with the following signature createInstance(app,group)


Toolsets in Natron are a predefined set of actions that will be applied to the node-graph. They work exactly like PyPlugs except that no actual group node will be created, only the content of the createInstance(app,group) function will be executed.

This useful to create pre-defined graphs, for example like the Split and Join plug-in in the Views menu.

To be recognized as a toolset, your PyPlug must implement the following function:

def getIsToolset():
return True

Also the group parameter passed to the createInstance(app,group) function will be None because no group node is actually involved.