Odd interface

The interface, modeling, 3d editing tools, import/export, feature requests, etc

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ajuss
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Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 7:13 am

Post by ajuss »

hi,
just wanted to say that i like the blender's interface, almost love it!
started to experience few weeks back (2.34), first it looked messy,
but now it feels much better than Mayas inteface. Blender's interface is more intuitive and i can work at lower resolution - no problem. no floating windows is GOOD thing.
what i miss is custom shortcuts and to configure my mouse to work like in maya.

dcuny
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Post by dcuny »

Blender's interface has certainly come a long ways since earlier versions. But there is still room for improvement.

One issue - not entirely related to the UI overhaul - is the initial confusion of how Blender's UI interface works. That is, consider the case of someone who has some general knowlege (or interest) in 3D graphics and some experience with user interfaces. Without consulting the manual, they are likely to have difficulty with the user interface. Even after consulting the manual, they are likely to have problems with the user interface.

There are a lot of familiar items in the user interface: dropdown menus, tiled windows, pushbuttons. These work "as expected", and don't present the user with any particular difficulty.

Attempting to select something in the scene is likely to cause problems, because Blender has the mouse buttons set differently than a user might expect. One way around this would be for new versions of Blender to prompt the user through a quick popup dialog, giving them the option for "Classic" Blender mouse settings, or more "Traditional UI" settings.

Another point of confusion is the Context Popup Menu. The newbie user will expect it to pop up when they left click with the mouse. Because Blender uses the alternate mouse button to position the 3D cursor, there's not really a way to map this to the user's expected behavior. So the eager new Blender user is stuck at this point.

Heh. I just got stuck when I selected View | Maximize Window, and then tried to find the View | Minimize Window. It turned out to be named View | Tile Window... So it's fairly easy to get confused in a new user interface.

Personally, I think the best solution for newbies is to include some sort of built in help. It might already be there - there's a Help | Getting Started option, but clicking it gets me the error message:
Error: Python script error: check console
Not terribly useful, especially since I haven't got a console open. (I've probably just got an older version of Blender without a couple of files).

In any event, even if it's possible to make the Blender more "standard" - something that's got the long-time users up in arms already - there will still be pitfalls to trap the unwary. You can only put off consulting the manual for so long...

Anyway, a couple of comments about Matt's new UI:
  • The UI looks very cool (and subtle), but it's not standard, so it's still confusing.
  • The action button doesn't look like a pushbutton. It looks flat (like the rest of the UI). It looks sort of like a Mac classic pushbutton, but not very much.
  • Toggle buttons don't look like toggle buttons. The unchecked checkbox looks like a window icon or something exactly unlike an unchecked checkbox.
  • The controls on the top and bottom of groups are rounded, while those in the middle aren't. Again, it looks cool, but it doesn't really serve any particular purpose. In fact, it's sort of counterproductive. There's already whitespace delimiting the top and bottom of the group. The controls shouldn't look different just because they are in different locations.
  • In general, few of the controls look like they are controls. The thermometer slider is one of the worst offenders... There's no thumb or controls to grab.
None of there are really fatal to the design - they just break common UI rules.

But that's just my opinion. What I'm really looking forward to is the changes to the animation code. :D

joeri
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Re: Odd interface

Post by joeri »

Karma wrote: Why the, umm, weird interface?
It's one of the oldest interfaces around. Not the new design, thats new, but the interface was developed on sgi when pc's where still "green text on black screen".
Thoose days there was the amiga with a good paint/animation program: PaintShop deluxe. Lot's of hotkeys in blender are still related to that.

So in that perspective it has a normal intuitive interface, it's just that all the rest is wonky :)
(ctrl-c, ctrl-v ? what's that all about? V as in paste? Sure intuitive my ass ;)

wavk
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Post by wavk »

Making the interface like windows would slow you down to a crawl! The main reason windows looks the way it does is because nitwits need to understand it. And even then it fails miserably. No please, don't stick to conventional stuff, innovate!

malefico
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Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2002 6:51 am

Post by malefico »

Oh pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaseeeee

Cut the crap with the GUI.... developers already wasted a lot of time to make it easier for noobs.... we need them to work on REAL problems ! :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:

dcuny
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Joined: Mon Jan 27, 2003 11:22 pm

Post by dcuny »

Hrm... :?

Blender's UI will always be a point of contention, especially with new users. It's never going to look like a "normal" GUI application, because it's just not appropriate. It's a very specialized application, and many "normal" UI rules don't make sense. Still, there's always room for improvement.

Work on the UI isn't "wasted" time, and it's not just to "make it easier for noobs".

Changes to the Blender UI make it better for everyone. It hasn't "dumbed down" the interface, it's made it more usable. Things like tabbed panels allow you a place to put those new features you want into the already crowded panels. It also lays the groundwork for other improvements.

Blender is an open source application, and people can choose to work on whatever they want. If broken wants to work on the UI, it won't stop someone else from working on other things, like bug fixes and new features.

Work on both isn't mutually exclusive. And just because something gets discussed, or even implemented, that doesn't mean that it's going to make it into the final Blender release.

So please, why not keep things civil, instead of insulting people with comments like "noobs", "nitwits", "crap", and so on?

Blendorphin
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Post by Blendorphin »

dcuny wrote:Anyway, a couple of comments about Matt's new UI:
  • The UI looks very cool (and subtle), but it's not standard, so it's still confusing.
  • The action button doesn't look like a pushbutton. It looks flat (like the rest of the UI). It looks sort of like a Mac classic pushbutton, but not very much.
  • Toggle buttons don't look like toggle buttons. The unchecked checkbox looks like a window icon or something exactly unlike an unchecked checkbox.
  • The controls on the top and bottom of groups are rounded, while those in the middle aren't. Again, it looks cool, but it doesn't really serve any particular purpose. In fact, it's sort of counterproductive. There's already whitespace delimiting the top and bottom of the group. The controls shouldn't look different just because they are in different locations.
  • In general, few of the controls look like they are controls. The thermometer slider is one of the worst offenders... There's no thumb or controls to grab.
None of there are really fatal to the design - they just break common UI rules.

But that's just my opinion. What I'm really looking forward to is the changes to the animation code. :D
First of all, this isn't "Matt's New UI" it's MAtt's new button styles. and, if you read the wiki, there are 5 people (including myself) working on the buttons refactoring :)

About the controls being rounded on the top, square in the middle, rounded on the bottom: have you EVER used the rounded theme? ;) It's called button alignment. This way we can create defined groups of toggles (like checklists) and further group buttons visually that belong together. This is good in terms of UI, it creates visual grouping that helps people understand function better as well as recognize certain layouts.

And about the sliders; the reason they are designed to be like thermometers (if you bothered to read the text at all) is because you DONT have to drag the handle to move the slider; you can drag anywhere on the slider, which is NOT communicated by the current UI.

Please read the text accompanying the pictures. :roll: They have very logical reasonings and justifications.

theeth
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Post by theeth »

dcuny wrote:Heh. I just got stuck when I selected View | Maximize Window, and then tried to find the View | Minimize Window. It turned out to be named View | Tile Window... So it's fairly easy to get confused in a new user interface.
"Tile Window" is a concept that's been used and reused for quite some time now (pretty much any multi window program has that). In any case, "Minimize Window" would have been illogical here since it does't minimize (hide) the current window but tile it back with the others.

Martin
Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.
- John Lennon

dcuny
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Post by dcuny »

First of all, this isn't "Matt's New UI" it's MAtt's new button styles. and, if you read the wiki, there are 5 people (including myself) working on the buttons refactoring :D
My mistake, sorry! I do try follow these threads (when I can), and I'm aware that these things are often the result of lots of people's input.
About the controls being rounded on the top, square in the middle, rounded on the bottom: have you EVER used the rounded theme? ;) It's called button alignment.
Yes, I have used the theme. It's obvious why the controls look different. It helps visually set off the groups of controls from each other. And (as you said) it looks quite nice, too. :D

But I'm arguing that the controls shouldn't look different just because they are at the top, bottom or middle of a group. Since Blender doesn't have real estate to waste on a frame control, you've incorporated them into the controls. So the control looks different, depending on where it is located.

I'll admit that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it's still an action button/slider/whatever. But it does break a basic UI rule. It also make the control appear to be a bit harder to hit with the mouse, if by only a few pixels. (I should also admit I'm not a big fan of the OS X buttons - I like the rectangular buttons, since they seem to be easier to hit.)

Since there's already whitespace around groups, there isn't really a compelling need to make the controls rounded. They are already visually distinct without the added cue.
And about the sliders; the reason they are designed to be like
thermometers (if you bothered to read the text at all) is because you DONT
have to drag the handle to move the slider; you can drag anywhere on the
slider, which is NOT communicated by the current UI.
Urm... actually, I did read the text. I'm just disagreeing with you that removing the thumb is an improvement. My point was that by removing the thumb, you've removed the visual cue that the control can be manipulated.

If you use a slider on a non-Blender UI, you'll find that they behave exactly the same as your thermometer slider. That is, if you click on the slider outside of the thumb, it'll cause the thumb to jump to the current mouse position. So I sort of assumed that it's common knowledge that's the way sliders work, since that's the way they work in Windows, Linux, and the Mac. I've always been suprised that Blender's sliders don't work that way.

(OK, always isn't really honest. I can't recall how earlier versions of Blender actually behaved).

Another downside is that an entirely filled slider looks similar to an empty slider - I seem to recall this being an issue with the initial Java Metal scrollbar design, which is why they added a 3D groove to it (despite the fact that the rest of the UI had a flat look).
Please read the text accompanying the pictures. :roll: They have very
logical reasonings and justifications.
Yes, I did read the text that accompanied the pictures. And for the most part, I agree with you. I just happen to be disagreeing here, perhaps pendantically. If we disagree, that's fine. It wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong, and it won't be the last.
In any case, "Minimize Window" would have been illogical here since it does't minimize (hide) the current window but tile it back with the others.
Your point is well taken. I (incorrectly) associated "Tile Windows" with tiling child windows within a larger MDI windows. But in the pre-overlapping windows world, that was exactly the term used.

Perhaps "Restore Windows" would have been less confusing.

In any event, I primarily wanted to make a point that any new user interface takes a while to get used to, no matter how many other environments you've used.

emack
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Post by emack »

The ability to remap the mouse buttons has been added. Adding the ability to customize hotkeys, and to enable users to exchange text files with Maya/Max/whatever settings, would probably remove a significant number of the complaints. I think this is being worked on, but don't know when it is expected to be included. The hotkey definitions were apparently spread throughout the code, and required a fair amount of work to bring them into one place. Does anyone have more info on this?

I suspect that if the default mouse/camera behavior, mouse button selection, and basic transform/select vertex/edge/poly keys were set to Maya defaults, the initial experience would be quite a bit more to new users' liking.

Thanks,

Eliot

matt_e
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Post by matt_e »

Hi again, aren't these threads fun? *ahem*

Yes, there is work being done on this, let's not try to get alarmist, attack each other, or be too defensive, hmm? Sharing of opinions in a civil manner should always be encouraged. I apologise to Jason et al. and anyone who has been interested in this, for being lazy and not doing much on this, myself, in a while. I've said it before, the only problem with travelling is that getting in the habit of being out and about all the time and having a life reminds me that it's a lot more enjoyable and interesting than sitting inside working on things in front of a screen. It takes a surprising amount of time and effort to find motivation and knuckle down again.

dcuny, let me respond to your critiques about the buttons (thanks for writing, it's good) with some of the rationale/justification that's not really written in that wiki page.

One of the most important considerations behind any design is target audience. It affects the scope and limitations, means of communication, all the little design decisions and tradeoffs along the way.

If we were designing the UI controls for an operating system, your critiques would be pertinent. The target audience is so vast that you need more of a one-size-fits-all approach to cover everyone's needs, obviousness and standardisation are really important.

The situation's a bit different with Blender. Firstly, we can assume that the average Blender user is quite familiar with computers and GUIs in general, and has a reasonably technically oriented mind. It may be nice to think that we can aim for traditional artists or other creatives without much technical knowledge, but that's just not going to be possible with Blender as we know it. While you might be able to try to present it that way through the UI, Blender's workflow and operation at it's core relies on a certain level of technical understanding, and there are so many idiosyncrasies, inconsistencies, and ways of working that do require more kinds of technical/abstract/symbolic thought, that people without at least a minimal base level of that kind of familiarity are going to be lost in Blender anyway. In other words, we're not aiming for people who have never used a computer before.

Now, the decisions made such as non-standardisation, subtlety, and less bumpy button-like appearance, alignment groups of buttons with rounded edges have negative points, yes, but they also have a lot of positive points. One of my aims is to create something that's very subtle and smooth, for two main reasons. One, to minimise visual noise/clutter and distraction from what one's working on (which is something visual). Since when one's using Blender, one's mostly concerned with how things look (rather than how things read in a word processor, or the significance of various data in a spreadsheet, or whatever) it makes sense to allow maximum concentration on that visual subject. Two, I'm also trying to make the button text labels more different from the controls themselves, for easier skim-reading. The more 1 pixel sharp black lines that are in the controls' visual appearance, the more work has to be done when reading, to separate those lines from the 1 pixel sharp black lines in the typeface of the label, so the eye knows what to read and what to ignore when scanning for a particular button label. Now maybe this seems overblown and pedantic, but these sorts of things really do impact on the ease (and speed) of reading. Anyone who's had to spend 2 hours kerning a chunk of text to make it read 'just right', will know what I mean...

Likewise, apart from looking nice, that's also a small part of this in the buttons alignment/grouping - removing the clutter when lots of controls are stacked together, by condensing the amount of lines required. The curved corners, well, I understand what you're saying (and I'll get to that), but it also helps to create a nice unified look and feel, so they don't stand out more for being square.

The sliders, well you can read that in the wiki. There was a thread back here a bit before about the current sliders being annoying, since people found it hard to hit the 'handle' quickly, not knowing that they could just click-and-drag anywhere in the slider itself. This is nice ergonomically - a bigger target is quicker to hit (fitt's law). So the choice is between limiting and 'standardising' Blender's sliders, or designing a better representation with all the other visualisation goodness that comes with the thermometer style.

So they are some of the positive points. Now the real question is, is this an acceptable tradeoff, considering the target audience, taking the positive points of this kind of non-standardisation vs the negative points of non-standardisation. Reading through the list of your critiques, with reference to who these controls are actually for, in all these cases, I decided yes, the gains for people who use Blender productively, rather than just learning it, make it worth it (well maybe except the non-checked checkbox, might fiddle with that some more). The sorts of problems you've mentioned are valid, but very very minor. If a potential Blender user is confused and can't work out that the slider has no handle (by education or experimentation), then I shudder to think how confusing the rest of Blender will be.
Last edited by matt_e on Thu Dec 02, 2004 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Bellorum
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Post by Bellorum »

getting in the habit of being out and about all the time and having a life reminds me that it's a lot more enjoyable and interesting is a lot of fun than sitting inside working on things in front of a screen.
That's an evil lie! :wink:
There's no such thing as democracy. There's only the tyranny of one, and the tyranny of many.

dcuny
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Post by dcuny »

Thanks for the reply, it answers all the questions. :D

Looking at my post, I see I wrote about rounded corrners:
but it doesn't really serve any particular purpose...
Ooops... I can see how that set Blendorphin off. Sorry about that - it's not what I meant to write (and my next sentance contradicts it). I should have caught it in the edit.

Yes, threads are fun. :)

Blendorphin
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Post by Blendorphin »

Thanks Matt for that, and sorry dcuny for getting all angry :P i was sortof in a bad mood that day anyways....

anyways, glad to hear this is all sorted out. Also glad to hear that people do have a good amount of interest in blender's UI! This is good, and keep it up. We need lots of feedback :)

joeri
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Post by joeri »

malefico wrote:Oh pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaseeeee

Cut the crap with the GUI.... developers already wasted a lot of time to make it easier for noobs.... we need them to work on REAL problems ! :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:
The foundation can only work on the parts it has experts in.

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