Basic Usage Guide

This is a basic usage guide for the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of NEST Desktop.


If you want to see a quick start guide for in NEST Desktop, we have prepared a video showing the steps how to Construct networks and Explore activity.

Once you start NEST Desktop, you can see the start page containing an image of a laptop with the NEST logo on its screen. At the bottom it shows a short description of NEST Desktop (left) and some useful links and the current version (right).



You can reload the page if NEST Desktop has somehow crashed.

First steps

The video shows the first steps to construct a network and explore its activity.

Construct networks

If you want to construct a network, you will have to open the network editor. The network editor shows the network graph composed of nodes (shapes) and connections (lines).


Create nodes


In order to create a new node, you can click with the right mouse button in the network editor and a pie panel with three letters appears to select an element type. A node is divided into three element types: stimulus (S), recording (R) device and neuron (N). Then it creates a node of the selected element type.

Connect nodes


Forming a network of nodes is defined by making connections between and within nodes. In order to connect nodes, you can click on a connector of a node, then move the mouse towards anther node and finally click on a target node. It creates a connection between source and target nodes.


By pressing the hotkey ALT and clicking a node at the same time, you enable the connecting mode or continue connecting other nodes.

Select model and parameters


You are able to select the model of a node in the network controller. Then it shows a list of parameters which you might want to work on. Finally, you are able to change the values of visible parameters.

Simulate networks


You can click on the SIMULATE button to start the simulation of your network. In the code editor you can inspect the generated script code.

Explore activity


The network activity is composed of neuronal properties (positions and ids of neurons) and recorded events from recording devices. Events can be subdivided in two groups: spike events and analog signals. Spike events contain times and ids of the senders emitting events to the recording devices which can be considered as collectors (spike recorder). Analog signals contain continuous quantities from the recording devices aka samplers (voltmeter or multimeter) which query their targets at given time intervals. Network activity can be explored in Activity chart graph (chart-line or chart-scatter-plot) Activity animation graph (axis-arrow), or Activity statistics (stats).