Blender should adopt industry user interface standards

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

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joetainment
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Blender should adopt industry user interface standards

Post by joetainment » Fri May 26, 2006 6:29 pm

On the wiki, I wrote some information about how Blender could become easier to use by adopting common industry standards, both terminology and functionality.


http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/ ... dsProposal

I've duplicated it here also, but the formatting is easier to read on the wiki. Where is says [edit] below, its just cut and pasted from the wiki.
_______________________



Blender should adopt industry user interface standards:


Blender is currently quite non-standard, as far as user interfaces go, and there are many ways in which it could be improved. In particular, there are many interface elements, methods, and terminology that are fairly standardized across other 3D packages, but which aren't reflected well in Blender. This page provides ideas for improvements.

Ideally, a set of Blender UI guidelines should be created at some point, or if a set exists, it should be modified to reflect industry standards more closely. This will have the following benefits.

-Users will learn to use Blender, because interface elements will look and behave the way they are used to.

-Novice and advanced users will be able work more quickly, because the interface will be intuitve. Even features that users have no experience with will be more self explanatory.

-By having strong user interface guidelines, new UI components can be designed by referencing guidelines, resulting in more consistent design for new interfaces.

-The UI will have an look that is self consistent, and similar to the rest of the 3D application community.

-Users of other 3D software, especially high end software, and major studio professionals, will take Blender more seriously, because its interface will reflect the fact that it has been designed in accordance with common industry workflows and standards.


What follows are several suggestions for improvements, and the begining of a proposal to make Blender more user friendly, and more similar to other standardized ways of working.

Obviously, Blender does some things better than other packages, and nothing here is meant to imply that Blender should become a carbon copy of anything else. However, we should search for useful standards, and professional ways of working, and when we discover useful trends, we should make Blender fit with those trends.


Other software consulted for these proposals includes: -3dsmax -Maya -Softimage 3.9 -XSI -Wings 3D -K3D -Modo




Contents [hide]
1 Proposed changes
1.1 Change Default Settings to reflect standards
1.2 Relocate the preferences
1.3 Selection as the default tool
1.4 Hard and Soft Edges
1.5 Terminology Changes
1.6 Hotkey and Interaction Changes



[edit]Proposed changes



[edit]Change Default Settings to reflect standards
Change defaults to reflect industry standards, and user interface standards in general:

Every other 3D app uses Blenders "turntable" viewport navigation as the default setting. Blender's View Rotation > Turntable should be active by default.

The default mouse button for selection should be changed to being LMB. The fact that it hasn't already been changed is a sign that consistency for older users is being prioritized over good, consistent, intuitve, interface design.

Almost every program, 3d or not, uses the LMB to select things.

Forcing a brand new user, who doesn't even know where to find the preferences, to use RMB to select things is a bad plan. Experienced users who like using RMB to select will know where to go to change the preferences.

In general, a change in philosophy is needed for the Blender User Interface. In order to fix it, from feeling "weird" compared to other software, the defaults should be changed, so that Blender, out of the box, feels normal to someone who has never used it. This is more important than. If you want to maintain setting for old Blender users, have some sort of preference to set everything to the old method, perhaps even an option included in the installer. In default, you don't want the old bizarre way of doing things to remain the default just because people are used to it. Inconsistent user interface design should be considered a bug. Just because people are used to a bug, that doesn't make it any less of a bug.

I think more than anything else, this frame of thinking has to be adopted for Blender to make more sense to ordinary people, and especially users of other industry standard software.




[edit]Relocate the preferences
Put the preferences somewhere sensible where a beginner can find them:

The preferences in Blender are in the strangest place I can imagine... above the menu bar.

They should be relocated, maybe under file (or edit) > preferences, or even a preferences section in the buttons window. If it is important to maintain a "panel" for the preferences, I suggest having an option in the menu that switches to a screen layout which shows the preferences, and in addition, an obvious button to get back to the previous screen layout.

Right now its nearly impossible for someone who has never used blender before to guess where the preferences are. Most people aren't familiar with paneled applications, and even in many paneled applications, preferences are not shown in such a panel.

This is made even more serious by the fact that preferences in Blender need a lot of changing for the software to become usable/intuitive for beginners or users familiar with other 3D apps.

The preferences in its current form is a major barrier to adoption.




[edit]Selection as the default tool
Selection should be the default tool.

One major source of frustration in Blender is the bizarre method of selecting things. The "b" hotkey needs to be pressed to draw a selection marquee. And to draw lots of marquees, the user has to keep pushing "b". This is very frustrating.

Mostly, this stems from the fact that select is not the default tool.

If no other tool is being used. The selection tool should be active, it should be possible to click to select an object, and drag to draw a selection marquee.


As a good example of how standardized this is, it even works in firefox (selecting text). It works in open office, it works in GIMP. It should work in Blender.

As another example, other software also follows this pattern. In most 3D programs, when no other tool is active, the selection tool is active. See the following applications:

-Maya -XSI -3dsmax -Wings3D -K3D




[edit]Hard and Soft Edges
This might be more of a feature request than an interface thing, but it is a place where Blender diviates from standardized methods of working.

Hard and Soft edges - most programs use hard or soft properties per edge to determine object smoothing. Blenders set Smooth and Set Solid buttons seems to affect the whole object. I think this is a very important part of functionality missing from Blender. Its one of the most fundamental aspects of modeling, and something people just assume is present in evey 3d package. (3dsmax uses perface smoothing groups instead, an inferior method, but giving the same kind of control.) Perhaps this exists in Blender somewhere with a name I don't understand? Just thought I'd mention it anyway.







[edit]Terminology Changes
Below, the Blender word comes first, suggested change and explaination follow.

Edit mode - Component mode. "Edit" itself isn't very meaningful, since in Blender were's always editing things. Universally, verticies, edges and faces are known as components of objects. Some people also call them subobjects, but I think component is clearer and more standardized. Also, its useful as a noun because I can say, "scale that objects components to be larger" but it sounds stupid to say, "scale that objects edits to be larger". Component is an easy way to refer to verts, edges, and faces collectively.

"Rem Double". - Weld verticies. Every other package calls this function "Weld Verticies" or "Merge Verticies". Either name would be fine. Now, I did notice that "Merge" was present in the actual menu, which is good, but it hasn't been fixed in the button window. Remove doubles should probably be renamed "Merge verticies by distance", "Merge by threshold" or something similar.

lamp - should definitely be renamed to light light types - the regular type should get a name such as "omni" or "point" In most software, standard light types are usually omni/point, spot, directional/infinite and hemilight/skylight.


Relative Vert Keys - two possible terminologies... Morph animaton, morph targets, etc, or Blend Shapes, Blend shape target etc... Morphing or Shape animation are the common words used to discuss these types of effects.

IPO - this has to be one of the worst names in Blender. I don't even know what it stands for. Animation Curve, or Function Curve are both fairly standard names. I prefer animation curve.




Location - should be position (or translation, but in general, I reccoment position because its a bit more user friendly. Most other software packages use position or translation, not location. Even Blender itself is inconsistent in this regard, since many python commands exist like getPosition(). In general, when something has a name, the interface should attempt to always call it the same thing.

Size - Scale. This needs to be changed badly.... because scale is so much more correct in describing what this does. Every other pakages uses the word scale.

Center - Some software uses the word center... but it can be inconsistent and unclear, since it can refer to either the physical center, or a user specified pivot. I would personnally suggest changing this to "pivot" which has a very clear meaning in most software, being the user defined pivot point, and not just the geometric center of an object. Also, the Centre, Centre New and Centre Cursor button shoud be relabled and made more clear. "Pivot to Object Center". Also, there is a pivot menu already in Blender, two buttons to the right of the "object mode" button. To be more specific, we might want to specify between object pivot point, and important property of an object, and the tools pivot point, which is generally a temporary thing used for editing.

LSCM mapping - Pelt Mapping or Unfold mapping. I prefer pelt mapping, popularized by 3dsmax and quickly becoming a word industry people use a lot. I like the fact that Blender mentions the actual scientific name, but it isn't very friendly. I would suggest mentioning the LSCM name in the tooltip or something.




[edit]Hotkey and Interaction Changes
A lot of the hotkeys in Blender seem to be very poorly thought out. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that no individual has ever sat down, and truly, "designed" the hotkeys to work well.

When new features get created, the hotkeys typically get "tacked on", probably because you don't want to break compatibility with existing hotkeys.

At some point in the future, a major hotkey overhaul should occur, probably at the same time that the UI overhaul you mentioned will occur.

Also, if flexible hotkeys are allowed, then you can still keep an option to use the old hotkeys instead, also, anyone that doesn't like the hotkey layout can use the other ones.

For certain things, certain hotkey standards have started to emerge. Whever possible, standardized hotkeys should be used.

q,w,e, and r are the most important standard hotkeys.

They should be q - select tool w - move tool manipulator e - rotate tool manipulator r - scale tool manipulator

Other software that has adopted these hotkeys: Maya 3dsmax XSI - not the default setting, but XSI has an easy option that allows users to choose this mode. K3D

The idea behind the qwer hotkeys is that they are all together under one hand, and perform the most frequently used operations, second only to viewport navigation, (which ideally, should require no keyboard use). Also, with fingers on qwer keys, the shift, ctrl and alt keys are readily accessible, as well as tab, spacebar, esc and the function keys f1-f4. The qwer hotkeys are very well thought out and exist for good reason.

If you think about the Blender hotkeys, q, w, e and r, they don't do anything important.

"q" for example is quit. As a general user interface rule, an unmodified hotkey should never be used to quit an application. Its too easy to accidentally hit. If you accidentally follow a "q" press with an enter press, or even a mouse click, you are screwed, and will loose a bunch of work if you haven't just saved! Q should obviously be changed.

"w" is Boolean. How commonly used is a boolean? Not very. One of the first things you learn in most modeling programs is too avoid using Booleans whenever possible, because of the generally messy geometry produced, and the Subdivision surface unfriendly geometry they create. Boolean isn't important enough to justify an unmodified hotkey.

"e" doesn't appear to do anything by default in object mode, and is extrude in edit/component mode. Extrude is definitely less important than rotate, so the extrude hotkey could be moved elsewhere.

Thus, since all these keys could be easily changed, adopting the standard qwer layout should be easy.

Even more importantly, standardized hotkeys, like ctrl-c and ctrl-v should always be used, instead of strange combinations like alt-c and alt-v.

Marianne
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Post by Marianne » Sat May 27, 2006 5:07 pm

some of your propositions are good... others are like 'we must try to imitate other apps' - that's not always good... blender is really efficient for users used to blender, if you continue saying things like that (like it often happens on this forum it seems!) you'll be bashed by these users LOL

which mouse button does something doesn't bother me, etc.

however relocating the preferences is a MUST! a newcomer can't expect to do 3D without reading the docs, but he CAN expect to find preferences without reading docs

also something you didn't point out that annoys me A LOT is that buttons, tabs, checkboxes, radio buttons all look the same, and when you see a component you often can't tell which one it is without clicking on it (or maybe they're different colors? anyway that's not intuitive at all; components are consistent in pretty much all GUI packages now)

elander
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Post by elander » Sat May 27, 2006 10:36 pm

Blender interface is superior to Maya and 3dstudio for experienced users.

aoe2bug
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Post by aoe2bug » Sun May 28, 2006 3:56 am

indeed. while blender's interface may be in need of some improvement, I am not convinced that any of your proposals are worth the change.

although the hot-keys are perhaps in need of an update, your proposal about basing the central functions around the qwe keys seems pointless (its not like those keys are central). you're right about q needing to be less easy to quit, but it was my understanding that that had been fixed. (atleast, ive never noticed it) when you say that extrude is "definitely" less important than rotate... well. sure. you think that. and r is right next to e anyway. who thinks e for rotate is intuitive? you're always going to be dancing around the keyboard anyway, with all of blenders features :)

the name change of edit mode to component mode is... well.. why would you do that? you're editing the mesh! there is no need to add this "component" verbology to blender, you're not going to "componentize" anything in "component mode", and if anything "component mode" sounds more like EXACTLY the same thing as "object mode".

the idea of moving the preferences i also disagree with. there is no need for a beginning user to need to find the preferences, learn how to use the program the way it was intended, then when you know what you're doing you can make better decisions about how to customize it. and once you know where it is it is incredibly easy to change a setting.

i have no disagreement with changing the default navigation (to turntable). it would even be great if you could hold down another modifier key while dragging (the middle mouse button, ofcourse) to constrain the z axis. (so it stays pointed up, where it belongs)

the idea, in general, of changing blender so its not "weird", or so its "normal", well again... thats no reason to change something. infact the only good reason to change anything in the ui is to make it more intuitive, etc. now if the "popular" way does that, then great, but i see no area discussed here that /needs/ changing. lastly, thank you for taking the time and devotion to try and improve blender. im sorry i just dont agree with most of your proposal. :roll:

LetterRip
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Post by LetterRip » Sun May 28, 2006 5:19 am

Ton is planning an event/tool api refactor - so it is a good time to reconsider defaults (layout, mouse keybindings, usage of some functionality, terminology, etc.).

I think standardizing terminology is by far the most important. Also I think offering the possibility of using common mouse and keybindings (ie how the mouse is bound for selection, QWERTY being bound to the common transforms, etc.) will be a great help to users from other software. As long as the existing layout can be imitated exactly (or close to) then there shouldn't be any issues. If you love the Blender current layout - great use that, if you want Maya, 3DS Max, XSI, Modo, or Silo bindings then use those.

I think that current users tend to overestimate how efficient that Blender is compared to other 3D software. The biggest difference is that i see Blender as encouraging users to learn keyboard shortcuts more than other software does.

LetterRip

roofoo
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Post by roofoo » Sun May 28, 2006 5:23 am

joetainment: First of all, don't take what I say personal... :)

With that said--

It gets really tiring hearing people rant about how "unintuitive" Blender's interface is. It's all been discussed a thousand times. See for example, this thread:
http://www.blender.org/forum/viewtopic. ... highlight=

And how exactly is Maya's interface any better? For example, the hotkeys are
Q - Select Tool
W - Move Tool
E - Rotate Tool
R - Scale Tool
T - Manipulator Tool
Y - Last Used Tool

How is that intuitive? Come on! Press "E" to rotate? and "R" to scale? At least Blender uses letters which are easier to remember, like "G" to grab, "R" to rotate, and "S" to scale, etc.

This is such a pointless debate anyway, different people prefer different interfaces, it does not make one or the other the correct one. I can't stand Mac OS, but there are lots of people who do. But I don't try to get Apple to change their interface to be more like Windows just because I don't like it. I simply choose not to use it.... Likewise, nobody's forcing you to use Blender.... Lots of other people like the interface the way it is, so why should we have to change it just for you?

f22.raptor
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Post by f22.raptor » Sun May 28, 2006 5:53 am

Yep, i've always found blender to be redicoulously fast. with the new versions, i've had to re-arrange things so i can get to them easier, but its still fast.

If you keep working on it, you'll eventually get super fast, and efficient at it, and end up defending it like me, and a lot of others :D

Of course, there are always a few things to be improved upon, but being a free 3rd part program, i dont think you could ask for a lot more. Only gripe i could have about the new version is probably a bug :P

LetterRip
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Post by LetterRip » Sun May 28, 2006 6:13 am

roofoo,
And how exactly is Maya's interface any better?
the improvement is that the travel distance for fingers is far less. You can leave your fingers over the set of nearby keys which can be quite a bit more efficient.

f22.raptor,
If you keep working on it, you'll eventually get super fast, and efficient at it, and end up defending it like me, and a lot of others
Joe has used Blender enough to make a complex game in it. He is also a trainer for 3DS Max and other software and written a manual covering the basics of 3D. He is speaking from extensive experience. I'm curious how much experience you have with other 3D software to make a determination of Blenders strengths or weaknesses.

LetterRip

LetterRip
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Post by LetterRip » Sun May 28, 2006 8:19 am

aoe2bug,
there is no need for a beginning user to need to find the preferences
The language is changed via the preferences, which is rather important, espcially for new users who don't have english as a first language.

LetterRip

aligorith
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Post by aligorith » Sun May 28, 2006 9:02 am

joetainment: are you the guy who was behind the K-3D NGUI? If so, I can see the reasons why you've proposed some of these changes. And having tried a recent version of K-3D, I can say that it is slower/less efficient to use.
In fact, some of your proposed changes are what exist currently in K-3D.

I do agree that Blender does have a few odd defaults, the most noticable has already been mentioned. I don't think anyone actually uses the other mode at all (unless they don't know how to disable it).

Aligorith

Mohij
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Post by Mohij » Sun May 28, 2006 3:25 pm

I did an a bit similar thread on blenderartists.org: Idea to make the buttons window better (?)
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. Proverbs 17,28

sheepzilla
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Post by sheepzilla » Sun May 28, 2006 3:58 pm

But the blender interface is awesome!

Besides - its a lot easier for the human mind to adapt and learn to hold down the middle mouse wheel than it is to bother designing a whole new coordinated scheme, and things that have grown up over time are normally better than those designed new. :)

aoe2bug
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Post by aoe2bug » Sun May 28, 2006 4:59 pm

LetterRip wrote:aoe2bug,
there is no need for a beginning user to need to find the preferences
The language is changed via the preferences, which is rather important, espcially for new users who don't have english as a first language.

LetterRip
whoops. :oops: perhaps if the preferences could be left where they are, but create a menu option that would "pull down" that window for you. (and then an "exit/save preferences" button added to the (right end of) the buttons bar (not sure what to call this).

but then still not sure how this would help non-english users. maybe the initial startup of blender would show an expanded view of the prefs window and guided users through it (with language being the first option) and then when this was saved blender would create the default .B.blend file. (and if this file already existed than this initial stage would be bypassed)


edit: looks like this isnt even a new idea:
http://www.shadeless.dk/ui/Preferences.htm
Last edited by aoe2bug on Sat Jun 03, 2006 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Creedo
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Post by Creedo » Mon May 29, 2006 12:37 am

LSCM mapping - Pelt Mapping or Unfold mapping. I prefer pelt mapping, popularized by 3dsmax and quickly becoming a word industry people use a lot. I like the fact that Blender mentions the actual scientific name, but it isn't very friendly. I would suggest mentioning the LSCM name in the tooltip or something.
Excuse me, but if you know anything about UV mapping, those are 3 very different routines.
If you want to generalize the name "LSCM", I would call it "Unwrap". It is neither
Pelt nor Unfold. Pelt uses a spring system, Unfold uses paper unfolding, LSCM uses
a least squares numerical solver method. And 3dsmax doesn't do LSCM.

joeri
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Post by joeri » Mon May 29, 2006 11:12 am

Again, there is a mixup between easy-to-use and easy-to-learn.

And it's not so easy to say Maya is faster or Blender is faster.
for eample: Blender has no NURBS/Curves tools so it never can be faster with that.

Less functionality makes it easier to assign keyboard keys. As the functionality grows the issue of "not enough keys" needs to be adressed.
Same goes for "not enough screenspace to display all buttons".
Ofcourse, pro's have no problems connecting two widescreen displays (see orange photo gallery) to solve this, but thats an area that might be solved with better gui.


LetterRip: "The language is changed via the preferences, which is rather important,"
Strange example for maya being better, as maya comes in only one language.

As for blender to become more uniform with other 3d apps.... Why?
Don't people like Go-life better then Dreamweaver (or vice versa) because of gui and workflow differences? Isn't it the best way to figure out the best gui possible and construct blender according to that (rather then assuming others already have the best gui)?

I'm all for prototypes and mockups before messing up the real blender code that some people use for a living and need the bug fixes and function updates in new versions.

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