Interface Guide

NetLogo 5.3.1 User Manual   

This section of the manual explains the function of each element in NetLogo's user interface.

In NetLogo, you have the choice of viewing models found in the Models Library, adding to existing models, or creating your own models. The NetLogo interface was designed to meet all these needs.

The interface can be divided into two main parts: NetLogo menus, and the main NetLogo window. The main window is divided into tabs.


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The functions available from the menus in the menubar are listed in the following chart.

Chart: NetLogo menus




Starts a new model.



Opens any NetLogo model on your computer.


Recent Files

Re-opens any previously model opened with "File -> Open"


Models Library

A collection of demonstration models.



Save the current model.


Save As

Save the current model using a different name.


Save As Applet

Saves a web page, in HTML format, that has your model embedded in it as a Java "applet". (Use of this feature is no longer recommended; Details here.)


Upload to Modeling Commons

Uploads the model to Modeling Commons. See Modeling Commons



Sends the contents of the currently showing tab to your printer.


Export World

Saves all variables, the current state of all turtles and patches, the drawing , the plots, the output area and the random state information to a file.


Export Plot

Saves the data in a plot to a file.


Export All Plots

Saves the data in all the plots to a file.


Export View

Save a picture of the current view (2D or 3D) to a file (in PNG format).


Export Interface

Save a picture of the current Interface tab. ( in PNG format )


Export Output

Save the contents of the output area or the output section of the command center to a file.


Import World

Load a file that was saved by Export World.


Import Patch Colors

Load an image into the patches; see the import-pcolors command.

Import Patch Colors RGB

Load an image into the patches using RGB colors; see the import-pcolors-rgb command.


Import Drawing

Load an image into the drawing, see the import-drawing command.


Import HubNet Client Interface

Load the interface from another model into the HubNet Client Editor.



Exits NetLogo. (On a Mac, this item is on the NetLogo menu instead.)




Undo last text editing action you performed.



Redo last undo action you performed.



Cuts out or removes the selected text and temporarily saves it to the clipboard.



Copies the selected text.



Places the clipboard text where cursor is currently located.



Deletes selected text.


Select All

Select all the text in the active window.



Finds a word or sequence of characters within the Info or Code tabs.


Find Next

Find the next occurrence of the word or sequence you last used Find with.


Shift Left /
Shift Right

Used in the Code tab to change the indentation level of code.


Comment /

Used in the Code tab to add or remove semicolons from code (semicolons are used in NetLogo code to indicate comments).


Snap to Grid

When enabled new widgets stay on a 5 pixel grid so it is easier to line them up. (Note: this feature is disabled when zoomed in or out.)




Stops all running code, including buttons and the command center. (Warning: since the code is interrupted in the middle of whatever it was doing, you may get unexpected results if you try to continue running the model without first pressing "setup" to start the model run over.)


Globals Monitor

Displays the values of all global variables.


Turtle Monitor

Displays the values of all of the variables in a particular turtle. You can can also edit the values of the turtle's variables and issue commands to the turtle. (You can also open a turtle monitor via the View; see the View section below.)


Patch Monitor

Displays the values of all of the variables in a particular patch. You can can also edit the values of the patch's variables and issue commands to the patch. (You can also open a patch monitor via the View; see the View section below.)


Link Monitor

Displays the values of all of the variables in a particular link. You can can also edit the values of the link's variables and issue commands to the link. (You can also open a link monitor via the View; see the View section below.)


Close All Agent Monitors

Closes all open agent monitor windows.


Close Dead Agent Monitors

Closes all open agent monitor windows targeting dead agents.


Hide/Show Command Center

Makes the command center visible or invisible. (Note that the command center can also be shown or hidden, or resized, with the mouse.)


3D View

Opens the 3D view. See the Views section for more information.


Color Swatches

Opens the Color Swatches. See the Color Section of the Programming Guide for details.


Turtle Shapes Editor

Draw turtle shapes. See the Shapes Editor Guide for more information.

Link Shapes Editor

Draw link shapes. See the Shapes Editor Guide for more information.



Runs the model over and over with different settings. See the BehaviorSpace Guide for more information.


System Dynamics Modeler

Opens the System Dynamics Modeler. See the System Dynamics Modeler Guide for more details.


HubNet Client Editor

Opens the HubNet Client Editor. See the HubNet Authoring Guide for more details.


HubNet Control Center

Disabled if no HubNet activity is open. See the HubNet Guide for more information.




Increase the overall screen size of the model. Useful on large monitors or when using a projector in front of a group.


Normal Size

Reset the screen size of the model to the normal size.



Decrease the overall screen size of the model.


This menu offers keyboard shortcuts for each of the tabs. (On Macs, it's Command 1 through Command 3. On Windows, it's Control 1 through Control 3.)



About NetLogo

Information on the current NetLogo version you are running. (On Macs, this menu item is on the NetLogo menu instead.)


Look Up In Dictionary

Opens a browser with the dictionary entry for the selected command or reporter. (You may also use the F1 key for this.)


NetLogo User Manual

Opens this manual in a web browser.


NetLogo Dictionary

Opens the NetLogo Dictionary in a web browser.


NetLogo Users Group

Opens the NetLogo Users Group site in a web browser.



Opens the NetLogo donation page in a web browser.


At the top of NetLogo's main window are three tabs labeled "Interface", "Info" and "Code" . Only one tab at a time can be visible, but you can switch between them by clicking on the tabs at the top of the window.

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Right below the row of tabs is a toolbar containing a row of controls. The controls available vary from tab to tab.

Interface Tab

The Interface tab is where you watch your model run. It also has tools you can use to inspect and alter what's going on inside the model.

When you first open NetLogo, the Interface tab is empty except for the view, where the turtles and patches appear, and the Command Center, which allows you to issue NetLogo commands.

Working with interface elements

The toolbar on the Interface tab contains buttons that let you edit, delete, and create items in the Interface tab and a menu that lets you select different interface items (such as buttons and sliders).

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The buttons in the toolbar are described below.

Adding: To add an interface element, select the element from the drop down menu. Note that the Add button stays down. Then click on the white area below the toolbar. (If the menu is already showing the right type, you can just press the Add button instead of using the menu again.)

Selecting: To select an interface element, drag a rectangle around it with your mouse. A gray border with black handles will appear around the element to show it is selected.

Selecting multiple items: You can select multiple interface elements at the same time by including them in the rectangle you drag. If multiple elements are selected, one of them is the "key" item, which means that if you use the "Edit" or "Delete" buttons on the Interface Toolbar, only the key item is affected. The key item's border is darker gray.

Unselecting: To unselect all interface elements, click the mouse on the white background of the Interface tab. To unselect an individual element, right-click the element and choose "Unselect" from the popup menu.

Editing: To change the characteristics of an interface element, select the element, then press the "Edit" button on the Interface toolbar. You may also double click the element once it is selected. A third way to edit an element is to right-click it and choose "Edit" from the popup menu. If you use this last method, it is not necessary to select the element first.

Moving: Select the interface element, then drag it with your mouse to its new location. If you hold down the shift key while dragging, the element will move only straight up and down or straight left and right.

Resizing: Select the interface element, then drag the black "handles" in the selection border.

Deleting: Select the element or elements you want to delete, then press the "Delete" button on the Interface toolbar. You may also delete an element by right-clicking it and choosing "Delete" from the popup menu. If you use this latter method, it is not necessary to select the element first.

To learn more about the different kinds of interface elements, refer to the chart below.

Chart: Interface Toolbar

Icon & Name Description
Button A button is either once or forever. When you click on a once button, it executes its instructions once. The forever button executes the instructions over and over, until you click on the button again to stop the action. If you have assigned an action key to the button, pressing the corresponding keyboard key will act just like a button press when the button is in focus. Buttons with action keys have a letter in the upper right corner of the button to show what the action key is. If the keyboard focus is in another interface element such as the Command Center, pressing the action key won't trigger the button. The letter in the upper right hand corner of the button will be dimmed in this situation. To enable action keys, click in the white background of the Interface tab.
Slider Sliders are global variables, which are accessible by all agents. They are used in models as a quick way to change a variable without having to recode the procedure every time. Instead, the user moves the slider to a value and observes what happens in the model.
Switch Switches are a visual representation for a true/false global variable. You may set the variable to either on (true) or off (false) by flipping the switch.
Chooser Choosers let you choose a value for a global variable from a list of choices, presented in a drop down menu. The choices may be strings, numbers, booleans, or lists.
Input Box Input Boxes are global variables that contain strings or numbers. The model author chooses what types of values you can enter. Input boxes can be set to check the syntax of a string for commands or reporters. Number input boxes read any type of constant number reporter which allows a more open way to express numbers than a slider. Color input boxes offer a NetLogo color chooser.
Monitor Monitors display the value of any reporter. The reporter could be a variable, a complex reporter, or a call to a reporter procedure. Monitors automatically update several times per second.
Plot Plots show data the model is generating.
Output The output area is a scrolling area of text which can be used to create a log of activity in the model. A model may only have one output area.
Note Notes lets you add informative text labels to the Interface tab. The contents of notes do not change as the model runs.

The other controls in the Interface toolbar allow you to control the view updates and various other model properties.

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"Continuous" updates means that NetLogo updates (that is, redraws) the view many times a second, regardless of what is going on in the model. "Tick-based" updates means that the view only updates when the tick counter advances. (For a fuller discussion of view updates, see the Programming Guide.)

The 2D and 3D views

The large black square in the Interface tab is the 2D view. It's a visual representation of the NetLogo world of turtles and patches. Initially it's all black because the patches are black and there are no turtles yet. You can open the 3D View, an alternate visual representation of the world, by clicking on the "3D" button in the View Control Strip.

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The three sets of black arrows in the upper left let you change the size of the world. When the origin is centered the world will grow in increments of two, adding one to the maximum and subtracting one from the minimum. If one of the edges is set to 0 the world will grow by one in the other direction to keep the origin along the edge. If the origin is at a custom location the black arrows will be disabled.

There are a number of settings associated with a view, accessed through the "Settings..." button.

Notice that the control strip in the 3D View combines the ticks counter from the 2D view control strip and the controls from the right portion of the interface toolbar.

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Here are the settings for the View (accessible by editing the View, or by pressing the "Settings..." button in the Interface Toolbar):

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Notice that the settings are broken up into three groups. There are world, view, and ticks counter settings. World settings affect the properties of the world that the turtles live in (changing them may require resetting the world). View and tick counter settings only affect the appearance, changing them will not affect the outcome of the model.

The world settings allow you to define the boundaries and topology of the world. At the top of the left side of the world panel you can choose a location for the origin of the world either "Center", "Corner", "Edge", or "Custom". By default the world has a center configuration where (0,0) is at the center of the world and you define the number of patches from the center to the right and left boundaries and the number of patches from the center to the top and bottom boundaries. For example: if you set Max-Pxcor = 10, then Min-Pxcor will automatically be set to -10, thus there are 10 patches to the left of the origin and 10 patches to the right of patch 0 0, for a total of 21 patches in each row.

A Corner configuration allows you to define the location of the origin as one of the corners of the world, upper left, upper right, lower left, or lower right. Then you define the far boundary in the x and y directions. For example if you choose to put the origin in the lower left corner of the world you define the right and top (positive) boundaries.

Edge mode allows you to place the origin along one of the edges (x or y) then define the far boundary in that direction and both boundaries in the other. For example if you select edge mode along the bottom of the world, you must also define the top boundary, as well as the left and the right.

Finally, Custom mode allows you to place the origin at any location in the world, though patch 0 0 must still exist in the world.

As you change the settings you will notice that the changes you make are reflected in the preview on the right side of the panel which shows the origin and the boundaries. The width and height of the world are displayed below the preview.

Also below the preview there are two checkboxes, the world wrap settings. These allow you to control the topology of the world. Notice when you click the check boxes the preview indicates which directions allow wrapping, and the name of the topology is displayed next to the world dimensions. See the Topology section of the Programming Guide for more information.

The view settings allow you to customize the look of the view without changing the world. Changing view settings will never force a world reset. To change the size of the 2D View adjust the "Patch Size" setting, measured in pixels. This does not change the number of patches, only how large the patches appear in the 2D View. (Note that the patch size does not affect the 3D View, as you can simply make the 3D View larger by making the window larger.)

The font size setting lets you control the size of turtle, patch, and link labels.

The frame rate controls how often the view gets updated. This can have a dramatic effect on the default speed at which a model runs. For more details, see the view updates section of the Programming Guide.

The "Smooth edges" checkbox controls the use of anti-aliasing in the 3D view only and only appears when editing from the 3D view. Unchecking it makes lines appear more jagged but may speed up rendering.

Tick counter settings control the appearance of the tick counter which is visible (or not) in the view control strip.

Turtle, patch and link monitors are easily available through the View, just right-click on the turtle or patch you want to inspect, and choose "inspect turtle ..." or "inspect patch ..." from the popup menu. You can also watch, follow or ride a turtle by selecting the appropriate item in the turtle sub-menu. (Turtle, patch and link monitors can also be opened from the Tools menu or by using the inspect command.)

Some NetLogo models let you interact with the turtles and patches with your mouse by clicking and dragging in the View.

Manipulating the 3D View

At the bottom of the window there are buttons to move the observer, or change the perspective from which you are looking at the world.

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A blue cross appears at the current focus point as you adjust these settings. The little blue triangle will always point along the y-axis in the positive direction, so you can orient yourself in case you get lost.

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To look at the world from a different angle, press the "rotate" button, then click and drag the mouse. The observer will continue to face the same point as before (where the blue cross is) but its position in the relation to the xy-plane will change.

To move closer or farther away from the world or the agent you are watching, following or riding, press the "zoom" button and drag up and down. Note when you are in follow or ride mode zooming will switch you between ride and follow, since ride is just a special case of follow where the distance at which you are following is 0.

To change the position of the observer without changing the direction it is facing select the "move" button and drag the mouse inside the 3D View while holding down the mouse button.

To allow the mouse position and state to be passed to the model select the "interact" button and it will function just as the mouse does in the 2D view.

To return the observer and focus point to their default positions press the "Reset Perspective" button (or use the reset-perspective command).

Fullscreen Mode

To enter fullscreen mode, press the "Full Screen" button, to exit fullscreen mode, press the Esc key.

Note: Fullscreen mode doesn't work on every computer. It depends on your graphics card. See the System Requirements for details.

3D Shapes

Some shapes are automatically mapped to true 3D counterparts in the 3D view. For example, the 2D circle shape becomes a sphere in the 3D view.

Shape name 3D shape
default 3D turtle shape
circle sphere
dot small sphere
square cube
triangle cone
line 3D line
cylinder 3D cylinder
line-half 3D line-half
car 3D car

All other shapes are based on their 2D forms. If a shape is a rotatable shape, it is assumed to be a top view and it is extruded as if through a cookie cutter and oriented parallel to the xy-plane, as in Ants.

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Or, if a shape is non-rotatable, it is assumed to be a side view, and it is drawn always facing the observer, as in Wolf Sheep Predation.

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Command Center

The Command Center allows you to issue commands directly, without adding them to the model's procedures. This is useful for inspecting and manipulating agents on the fly.

(Tutorial #2: Commands is an introduction to using commands in the Command Center.)

Let's take a look at the design of the Command Center.

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The smaller box, below the large box, is where you type a command. After typing it press the Return or Enter key to run it.

To the left of where you type is a popup menu that initially says "observer>". You can choose either observer, turtles, or patches, to specify which agents run the command you type.

Tip: a quicker way to change agent types is to use the Tab key.


If you enter a reporter into the Command Center, the show command will be inserted before it automatically.

Accessing previous commands

After you type a command, it appears in the large scrolling box above the command line. You can use Copy on the Edit menu in this area to copy commands and then paste them elsewhere, such as the Code tab.

You can also access previous commands using the history popup, which is the small downward pointing triangle to the right of where you type commands. Click on the triangle and a menu of previously typed commands appears, so you can pick one to use again.

Tip: a quicker way to access previous commands is with the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard.


To clear the large scrolling area containing previous commands and output, click "clear" in the top right corner.

To clear the history popup menu, choose "Clear History" on that menu.


You can hide and show the command center using the Hide Command Center and Show Command Center items on the Tools menu.

To resize the command center, drag the bar that separates it from the model interface. Or, click one of the little arrows on the right end of the bar to make the command center either very big or hidden altogether.

To switch between a vertical command center and a horizontal one, click the button with the double-headed arrow, just to the left of "Clear".


When the mouse pointer is over the white area of a plot, the x and y coordinates of the mouse location appear. (Note that the mouse location might not correspond exactly to any actual data points in the plot. If you need to know the exact coordinates of plotted points, use the Export Plot menu item and inspect the resulting file in another program.)

When you create a plot, as with all widgets, the edit dialog automatically appears.

Plot Editor

Many of the fields are fairly self-explanatory, such as the name of the plot, labels for the x and y axes, ranges for the axes, and the "Show legend?" checkbox.

If Auto Scale? is checked the x and y changes will automatically readjust as points are added to the plot if they are outside the current range.

Under "Plot setup commands" and "Plot update commands" you can enter commands that will automatically be run at appropriate times. Click the little triangle to open the text box for the commands. Plot commands are explained in more detail in the Plotting section of the Programming Guide.

Plot Pens

In the plot pens section of the dialog, you can create and customize your plot's pens. Each table row represents a pen. By default there is one pen named "default". (You may wish to change it to a name that has meaning in your model.)

To edit the color of a pen click the colored rectangle to the left of the pen's name. This will bring up a dialog that allows you to set the color to one of the NetLogo base hues or a custom color using the color swatches.

To edit the pen's name, double click the name.

In the "Pen Update Commands" column you can enter commands that will be run when reset-ticks, tick, or update-plots commands are run. This is explained in more detail in the Plotting section of the Programming Guide.

The last column has two buttons. Clicking the pencil icon will bring up an edit dialog with additional pen settings. The trash can button deletes the pen.

Plot Pen Advanced Settings

Clicking a pen's edit button will open this dialog:

Plot Editor

For more detailed information on how each of these features works you can see the Plotting Section of the Programming Guide.


A slider has an associated global variable. Moving the slider changes the variable's value.

When you place a slider in the Interface tab the edit dialog automatically opens, as with all widgets. Most of the fields will be familiar. However, it is important to notice the minimum, maximum and increment fields will take any reporter, not just constants. So, for example, you could make the minimum min-pxcor and the maximum max-pxcor and the slider bounds will automatically adjust when you change the size of the world.

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Agent Monitors

Agent monitors display both the values of all the variables for a particular agent and a mini-view that shows the agent and a small area around it.

You can open agent monitors through the Tools menu or the inspect command.

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You can zoom in or out using the slider beneath the view and you can watch the agent in the main view using the watch-me button.

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Below the slider the current value of each agent variable is displayed. You can enter a new value. It will be as if, for example, the code set pcolor ... had run.

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Below the agent variable area there is a mini-command center. Rather than running code as the observer, or talking to all of the turtles, patches, or links, the code entered in this command center is run only by this agent.

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You can close an agent monitor by clicking the box in the upper left corner, or by pressing the Esc key. If you hold down shift while you click the box all open agent monitors will close or you can close all the agent monitors using the "Close All Monitors" option in the Tools Menu.

Code tab

The Code tab is where the code for the model is stored. Commands you only want to use immediately go in the Command Center; commands you want to save and use later, over and over again, are found in the Code tab.

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To determine if the code has any errors, you may press the "Check" button. If there are any syntax errors, the Code tab will turn red, the code that contains the error will be highlighted, and an error message will appear.

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Switching tabs also causes the code to be checked, so if you just switch tabs, pressing the Check button first isn't necessary.

To find a fragment of code in the procedures, click on the "Find" button in the Code toolbar and the Find dialog will appear.

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You may enter a word or phrase to find, and optionally also a new word or phrase to replace it with. The "Ignore case" checkbox controls whether the capitalization must be the same to indicate a match.

If the "Wrap around" checkbox is checked, the entire Code tab will be checked for the phrase, starting at the cursor position. When it reaches the end it will return to the top, otherwise only the area from the cursor position to the end of the Code tab will be searched. The "Next" and "Previous" buttons will move down and up to find another occurrence of the search phrase.

"Replace" changes the currently selected phrase with the replace phrase and "Replace & Find" changes the selected phrase and moves to the next occurrence. "Replace All" will change all instances of the find phrase in the search area with the replace phrase.

To find a particular procedure definition in your code, use the "Procedures" popup menu in the Code tab. The menu lists all procedures in alphabetical order.

The "Shift Left", "Shift Right", "Comment", and "Uncomment" items on the Edit menu are used in the Code tab to change the indentation level of your code or add and remove semicolons, which mark comments, from sections of code.

For more information about writing procedures, read Tutorial #3: Procedures and the Programming Guide.

Includes Menu

Caution: The includes facility is new and experimental.

When you add the __includes keyword to a model a menu to the right of the procedures menu appears. This is the includes menu which lists all the NetLogo source files (.nls) included in this file.

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You can choose a file name from the menu to open a tab for that file, or you can open a new or existing file using New Source File and Open Source File, respectively.

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Once you've opened new tabs they become accessible from the Tabs menu, and you can use the keyboard to move from tab to tab (Command + number on Mac, Control + number on other operating systems).

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Automatic indentation

When the Indent Automatically checkbox is selected, NetLogo will automatically attempt to align your code in a logically structured format. For example, when you open a set of square brackets "[" (perhaps after an if statement), NetLogo will automatically add spaces so that the following lines of code are two spaces further indented than the bracket. When you close the square brackets the closing bracket will be lined up with the matching open bracket.

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NetLogo will try to indent the code as you type, but you can also press the tab key anywhere on any line to ask NetLogo to indent the line immediately. Or, you can select a whole region of code and press the tab key to re-indent all of it.

International Usage

Character sets

NetLogo always saves and loads models in the UTF-8 character encoding, which includes a wide range of international characters.

If you are in a locale other than U.S. English, let us know if you have any trouble using your local character set.

The Transition Guide has advice on converting models containing international characters from earlier NetLogo versions.


Most of NetLogo's GUI, and some of its error messages, are now "internationalized". This means that it is now possible to display NetLogo in different languages.

We say "possible" here because the current release of NetLogo only supports English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.

The work on internationalization is not complete. We are asking for help from the user community in helping us localize items such as the menus and error messages.

Default language

By default, NetLogo uses the same language your operating system is set to, if available. (If unavailable, you get English.)

You can record a preference for a different language by typing __change-language (that's two underscore characters at the start) into the Command Center. A dialog will open allowing you to choose from the supported languages. Once a new language is chosen you will have to restart NetLogo.

Support for translators

We hope NetLogo will become available in many different languages. If you would like to translate NetLogo to your language, see this wiki page for instructions.