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Blender's UI is... eh... going to be better than ever!

Posted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 1:43 pm
by ton
To add my humble two cents;

The Blender UI communicates badly yes, and has enough issues to work further on. However, there's really a lot of innovative and good design concepts behind it, validated and refined in a day-to-day situation with artists. Most people who get past the learning curve then find it intuitive, pleasant, and very fast to use.

Blender uses a lot of concepts similar to one of the world's leading UI designer Jef Raskin (although I didn't know of him until 5 years ago). The old geek has died 3 years ago, but his son Aza has taken over his work with great results. He's now lead UI design at Mozilla and heads up an own startup too. Check on this stuff for example; ... -overlays/ ... tionality/

I've just found these pages today, and he's fully aligned with our ideas. More over, the ideas we've defined in past week's workshop you can find above as well.

To be clear; it's not that "Blender has been based on Raskin's ideas", but that these concepts are quite obvious from a UI designer perspective, more people have developed similar concepts and use it with a lot of success. Modo is a good example of this; although they claim they never looked at Blender, their core concepts are similar, and were realized in a great way, in many areas better than Blender did.

Check the basic UI paradigms for Blender: ... IParadigms

Many of these concepts go back to the beginning of Blender, 15 years ago. It's still cutting edge, and although people can disagree or prefer to rather follow other conventions, it's definitely not coming from "software developers who are bad in UIs by definition".

Note that I - as the original creator of Blender - have a background in industrial design, and worked for many years as graphics & 3D designer. I've only learned coding to be able to improve and design tools to use ourselves.
Software architecture or other abstract engineering stuff I find typically very difficult to grasp, unless it's usable and benefits creating content!

Even now, I still prefer working with creatives, which goes much easier for me than managing developers. Keeping this focus on our users and the best artists is why we realized Elephants Dream, Big Buck Bunny and YoFrankie. And with more challenging movie projects coming soon! :)


Posted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:30 pm
by snifi
Would it be possible to develop a User Interface Toolkit based on Blenders base components? I mean to use the same OpenGL-calls Blender uses to implement some other programs, like speech-synthesis development environment? Or just a simple paint program? What does it take to get the knowledge needed to understand how blender components work together?

Posted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:38 pm
by ton
Snifi: that's not a spec for our interface work. All of the UI is designed to tightly work together with Blender internals, to get the most out of it.

Once we're done you can use it the other way around though, configure Blender to be optimized for your ideas on workflow. It's then still Blender though, so its more suitable for projects like level editors, special rigging UIs, or trimmed down versions only revealing specific parts of the functionality.

Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 10:52 am
by ruslanm
That looks really cool, thanks for the links.
Maybe, dummy question, but anyway: will it be possible to make a custom menu with a python plugin which is a first class like Node Editor, File Browser, etc.?

Posted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 12:48 am
by Azrael
Ton: You are a wonderful person and I thank you for all the years you've put into blender.

I was educated in Max and Maya but haven't touched it in a year. No need any more--I even put ZBrush to the wayside and work more with the sculpt tool (I'd love it to be able to handle a lot more polygons)

Blender was the first Open Source application I got into--it opened my eyes to the quality that exists out here and since discovering it ver 2.36. Now I use Ubuntu Linux and don't use windows anymore.

Your application was a gateway to the world of OSS. Blender made it possible to switch--to look outwards.

It has been wonderful to follow it's development and reap the benefits with each release.

I thank you again for the journey you're bringing us.

Posted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:43 am
by zingbat
I'm using Blender for a long time and sort of got used to its interface. But now that i have switched to a MacBook i can see some of the pain of using it on anything besides a PC, with a normal keyboard. The next gui improvements that were shown will address most of these problems.

Just to understand a bit of my pain on using Blender on a Mac these are the issues i have.

1- Scripts are placed inside Blender-2.48a/ . Problem is MacOSX doesn't show folders that start with a dot and that complicates things a lot for Mac users unless they are familiar with Linux and the console. I used TinkerTool to show invisible folders inside the Finder.

2- Blender users expect to click on the .app file and run it. The problem is the console doesn't show up and error messages always go to the console. Solution is to start blender from the Content/MacOS dir which brings up a console (since it's recognized as a shell command). Again this may be very confusing for some Mac users not familiar with unix stuff.

The biggest problem is the keyboard and since i have a laptop it doesn't come with a numpad. Even more aggravating is Apple insisting on making keyboards without the usual home,end,pgup, pgdn,ins,del keys. It doesn't make any sense since those keys are very useful for a ton of different apps.

3- Solved the issue of the numpad keys by oing to the System&OpenGL preferences and activate the option to emulate numpad with the normal number keys. On my MacBook pgup/dn is fn-up/dn (very annoying because it's easy to make a mistake), del is fn-backspace, home is fn-left and end is fn-right. There is no ins key for what i know (which is not a problem).

The function keys are associated to MacOS applications by default so they need to be changed to clicking with fn-fkey (in the keyboard preferences) or this will interfere with Blender operation.

The mouse was a problem on a Mac years ago, but my Apple mouse has much more functions than any other mouse which makes me very happy, with both horiz and vert scroll in one button. It's only necessary to disable any OS functions associated to mouse buttons on the Mac preferences window. Still Alt-Lmb or Ctrl-Alt-Lmb become an alternative to the middle mouse button in the time when mouses only had two or one button.

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:32 pm
by joeri if fantastic.

I like the part where it proves/calculated that "x doubles removed -> ok" has 0% efficiency. ... itatively/

Posted: Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:56 pm
by joeri
Not that they are untrue, but there are some things to make mac life easier.
zingbat wrote:1- Scripts are placed inside Blender-2.48a/ . Problem is MacOSX doesn't show folders that start with a dot and that complicates things a lot for Mac users unless they are familiar with Linux and the console. I used TinkerTool to show invisible folders inside the Finder.
1. Use TextWrangler. Its free and has an "open hidden" option.
It can open hidden files and even unlock unwritable files.

2. Shift Clover G will take you anywhere you want. Even /Applications/Blender-2.48a/ .
[I find it debateble if thats the right spot. Apple apps tent to be easy movable. I mean, drag The blender icon on a USB stick and drop it of at a friends house and you'll have a 100% working (with your scripts) blender.
I'd say the "ease" award goes to mac osx here. ( without wanting to start a os war guys! )]

I'm sure blender could adapt loads to osx hickups, but lets call them that, okay?

Posted: Thu Mar 19, 2009 12:18 am
by sausages
Ton, i look forward to the new improved interface, not because the old one is bad, but because you guys are making it even better. It's pretty exciting really, and the efforts are greatly appreciated.
Joeri, although the verts removed dialogue seems useless, it is handy to get feedback that something actually happened, and the fact that you just have to move the mouse and it disappears makes it pretty unobtrusive.
zingbat, for like 10 bucks you can get a usb numpad for the macbook. Also configuring command as control and disabling the OSX f-key screen modifiers makes things much better.

Posted: Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:07 pm
by joeri
Most zingbats complaints are laptop related and not windows related.

"it is handy to get feedback" might be true if you doubt that your software is working. But putting a "everything is okay" right in your face is just plane wrong. Not to mention 0% effective. ( not 0% informative ).

It would get 50% effective if it did have an [okay] [undo] option.

For now its just... well.. nothing. It removed 5 verteces, so what? where there 6 to start with? or 7 and are there still two almost on the same spot? I dont know, its not telling me.
It removed 5 verteces, lol... I'm sure you would complain if blender pops up "I moved 89 pixels" when you moved your mouse.... 89 pixels? Up? Left? Dioganel? hahaha.... silly msg box.

If you look at how many verteces you got selected ( in the header ) and after you did the "remove doubles" look there again.... See my point?

Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:55 am
by rtownsend
A long time ago (anyone remember Apollo and Vax workstations) I developed applications on a CAD/CAM system. The user interface was eventually broken into 'expert' and 'casual' user interfaces. The experts used a tablet with a pen. The casual interface was a cascading menu system that graphically presented all options to the user, but was in general slower to use. It occupied the upper left corner of the graphics screen.

Two different groups of people were then happy.

I like the way Blender operates, and also like (love, really) how you've created platform neutral user interface tools that work so well. Having developed a lot of code, I can really appreciate this.