What is wrong, and what should stay?

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

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Post by sofort99 »

I guess I am one of the "others" from elysiun! :P Sorry, my company sent me to Dallas TX. for school the same day the sources were released, so I am a little behind in my "GUI advocacy" along with about everything else, but I have to argue with "blenders greatness lies in it's interface". :D

:idea: Please notice at no point in this presentation did I say "get rid of the hot keys". :idea:

Blenders greatness was that it was free, and it had good animation tools. Its interface is something that you have to learn how to work around. If I took a hammer and drove a nail in your head, eventually you would get used to it, but that doesn't mean everyone should have one.(" No... really, once you get used to it, it's pretty handy! And it helps keep your hat on in the wind!") :twisted:

Some of this is just cut and paste from elysiun because I can't figure out how to explain it better that I had there , and I want to get this idea over into this forum....so onto Blenders "perfect" ui ( ton, I really do know the diff :o , so in this post at least, I am useing ui and gui as the user interactive widgets, and not includeing the 3d windows and tools :wink: )

Blender has a GREAT GUI CONCEPT but it is far from being perfectly implemented.

:idea: Please notice at no point in this presentation did I say "get rid of the hot keys". :idea:

When you start C4D, the interface has about 89 buttons and menus, all clearly marked, big enough to be easy to read/see, and fairly easy to navigate.

When you start NOW3D, the interface has about 41 buttons and menus, all clearly marked, big enough to be easy to read/see, and fairly easy to navigate. To be fair though, they are still trying to impliment modeling tools.

When you start Wings3D, the interface has about 21 buttons and menus, all clearly marked, big enough to be easy to read/see, and fairly easy to navigate.

So if you gave NOW3D every tool available in Wings3D you would have about 62 things you could interact with, all clearly marked, big enough to be easy to read/see, and fairly easy to navigate.

Of course you must realize that these are the default setting, and they can be changed to suit you.

When you start Blender, you have about 114 buttons and menus, if you consolidate some so you only count things like all the layer buttons as one button. Some are hard to read, some don't have tips, and some give you no clue at all. By default, you start in the mode that you set your render settings (what you need last ) and when you select the edit button, if you have it set to open with no objects so you don't have to delete everything first, the button window opens empty, instead of at least with a button ( an additional button to the 74 that are already just there in the edit window won't hurt anything IMO ) to create a new object. The edit button is in the middle instead of on the far left, where reading left to right it would be the first function you would (usually) use, but the render settings function is on the far right, makeing it the last function you would use (usually correct).

So you see, what I would like to do, at least for the "friendly version", would consolidate function groups, actually make the work flow a little more intuitive and logical, and get rid of some of the "bulk and hard to use".

:idea: Please notice at no point in this presentation did I say "get rid of the hot keys". :idea:

Menus and icons:

If I ran a graphics company, and all I cared about was production time, and time is money, I would have no trouble at all with an inhouse training program to teach my artists for 3-4 weeks how to use some archane hot key system that optimises speed. And if you don't believe my time scale, look around the internet for graphic art classes and read where instructers say they would like to use blender (free, good animation) but can't teach 3d ART and the blender interface in the same semester so they use some other program (C4D, MAYA, etc) where they CAN!

:idea: Please notice at no point in this presentation did I say "get rid of the hot keys". :idea:

There is no reason at all to intentionally place this kind of burdon upon casual users and hobbiests. Doing this intentionally excludes these people. The only reason I can think of for this kind of thinking is if you were a professional graphic artist and you were afraid that easy to use cgi programs was the challenge to your job instead of artistic ability. I just can't see how a system that uses menus and icons in a logical way, and makes the program easier to use, in addition to the current system, hurts either the program or the users. Of course, I also don't buy into forceing the people useing the program into useing it the way I want them to either. So I completely discount the idea of don't make it easy to force them to use the hot keys. I don't care how someone wants to use it. I only care about whether or not they can make it translate their ideas into art. :shock:

:idea: Please notice at no point in this presentation did I say "get rid of the hot keys". :idea:

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Post by dreamerv3 »

Hey, I don't want to get rid of the hotkeys either, I'm just arguing for ***choice*** plain and simple, for the freedom to change what doesn't work for you. And while it probably works after fighting tooth and nail with the UI for the current userbase, now there is the opportunity to introduce masses of people to 3D, a thing which sooner or later is gonna happen.

Who's gonna be the one to get there first? (By who I mean which 3D app/paradigm.)

I don't know about all of you but I never appreciate some self righteous pro (I'm not referring to anyone here so just relax.) step up and say "Blank is how you MUST do this, only this way and with no other method."

Excuse me but I NEVER listen to that mode of instruction, cause ya know what the world isn't a linear place, Art is not a linear process, and no program should ever dictate to a user how to work.

I hear the "one hand on the keyboard one on the mouse" camp booing about my point of view and I don't understand why, I mean I use hot keys all the time, but I NEVER ALWAYS keep one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse, I sporadically use that mode of working for intermittent taks like cut and paste and other things, but to require it as a religion within a 3D program is in my humble opinion, a constraint.

I certainly am not trying to trample on ANYBODY's vision of interface design, however it seems to me that the policy of "Survival of the fittest" is the best way to test any theory and technology including interface ideas. Make it and then get people to use it, if they can't easily fly with it, then it needs revision.

In an production pipeline I would assume employees could be forced into worked a certain way, or develop habits over time, but this doesn't mean that anyone who wants to get into 3D must read technical documents to tinker.

I don't want to stifle anybody's process here, if people want to use hotkeys predominently then let them configure the UI for that and save it as a setting, maybe upload it as a skin so all the other like minded people can use it too, but on the other hand the same system should allow the housewife sitting at home to easily learn a program and then if she wants to reconfigure the ui to her liking. Such a syetm would need a table of tool references, like a numerical lookup table which doesnt change so you could unbind a widget from a tool and then bind the widget to another tool, the references must be constant so that the program knoews whats going on internally. People with different skins could say" pop open the tool search, and type in "589" in the numerical reference field. THen sir hot-keys-alot could help, miss-visual in a chat room there consistency problem solved. This could only make blender stronger since a single 3D program could have multiple different ways to work.
I see max users reconfiguring thier GUI's all the time. Thats a strength.

I think this isn't about the blender ui at all, but rather a political movement to force suers to work a certain way. As was revealed at the end of the 17 page gui argument on elysiun.

Shouldn't art be protected from politics, because its the last great refuge...

Make peace, not war.

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Post by CuteAlien »

I'm trying to use Blender now since three days with no prior experience with 3D-modellers. Just working through some online-tutorials i'm getting along quite good so far. It looked a little bit confusing at first... maybe it would be less so, if the gui would use some groupboxes. But that's more a problem of design than of usability.

I'm working with blender-creator-2.23 which i downloaded some weeks ago, so i don't know if my main complain about the gui is still valid, or if there's already another version available: I'm not able to resize the blender-app-window in linux (kde) and so i'm not even able to see the taskbar anymore. Probably i'm just to stupid... still it's my biggest interface problem so far.

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Post by FNG »

I've been using Blender now for about 4 yrs (who else remebers the C-key - i had one of those :) ) Thats not to say i am very good with it , most ppl who have been using it for 4 wks can do what i can :oops:
Anyway, i think that the GUI is confusing and does put off first timers. I also think that those that have learnt it will be annoyed if everything is changed. I also think that there will never be a general concensus on how it looks on an open source project that is so big with such a variety of users. Therefore i like the idea of creating a 'skinning' module, that allows ppl to create there own GUI's (icluding a default one that all the tutorials should be based around otherwise we will all be screwed :? ). This module would simply provide an interface to the main code, but the skins would be stored locally on the users computer.This should allow updates to the code etc through CVS to not effect the skin of the user (kinda like the priciple behind OO programming). Obviously when a new button/menu option was required the skinning module would have to notify the user that there GUI required an addition, but how this would be added would be up to the user. Such a system shouldn't be that hard to implement, but will require some programming changes to the main Blender code to sore indexes to all the functions in Blender. The skinning module would then allow the user to reference these indexes how they wished (menus, hot keys, buttons etc). I'm not saying such a application would be trivial to code, but it shouldn't be that difficult, and would allow each user to choose how they wanted Blender to look, without forcing them away from the main development of the program.

Does this make sense?

Probably not :? Oh well :)

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Post by sofort99 »


Don't worry about the people that already can use blender. The ones that use it really well right now with the "one hand on the mouse, on hand on the keyboard" system would only have to make very minor changes to adapt to the new system we are wanting. The trouble is, blender is a B#$&% to learn, and they are afraid of haveing to go through that again. I would do everything that I could not to put anyone through that on purpose. And that's not a slam at ton or the NaN team either. from what I understand, they only had so many people to work on it, and they put all their resources into features. And in the end, it was an inhouse project. As long as they new how it worked it was all good. everything else was gravey!

dreamerv3: I would never have said YOU wanted rid of the hot keys. I never addressed you directly at elysiun becouse I didn't think that was the correct place or time to start this, but I believe you, overextrude and I are very close to being on the same page both timewise and to end result.

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Post by dreamerv3 »

You're absolutely right.

I'm all for Hotkeys, But I'm also for every other form of UI interaction (maybe not ALL of the possible forms but all the proven and intuitive forms anyway).

Perhaps some 3D noobs with NO 3D app experience come here and say blender is easy to learn, perhaps that is because they've never laid hands on 3D studio or Truespace or Wings 3D or Nendo. Perhaps sode 3D noobs come here and think blender is the apocalypse of user interfaces. Not me, I'm a survivor... :P

Me and many others are coming from the other way, from commerical apps to blender, and let me tell you, it hasn't been a friendly ride. I mean no offense to Ton in fact I think his idea is intriuging I simply relish the freedom to explore it on my own, and not be forced to learn it.

I find the concept of one hand on the keyboard one on the mouse a great concept... For playing Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and Counter Strike, but for a 3D DCC app not so much, even though I like to do certain functions via the hotkeys, I like to work most of the time with visual elements, its just the way I think. I think in pictures. Then I turn around and use Linuxs' command line like an addict, and explore blender code.

Its a contradiction I know, but when I do art, its always in pictures. I have a photography background so perhaps I got turned on to visual thinking from all those design classes.

I like to explore, when I go to the supermarket I don't look for a map and directory right away, I browse I really like to browse a supermarket I like.

Maybe you like the directory and I say "Thats fine", but don't build a maze in the supermarket for directory users only.

Every other app out there has choice. Hell my browser (mozilla) can load over a dozen skins, its like getting a whole new program everytime you change the skin!

Skins let UI's becomes all things to all people.

I realize that the current codebase is steeped in C code, and that there will be a migration to C++ perhaps for Blender 3, and I would support an architectural rewrite, although I think most of the functions and algorithms could be salvaged in conecpt form.

With an OO and modularized blender, then we'd be onto something. People could write plugins for anything they wanted. Imagine 3D Studio with all the plugin vendors' plug ins included in the package.

Can you Imagine the power of such a program? It would be like Gimp and It's army of plugins.

To sum up, yes I love Blender, I sent it my donation and I'm hoping to do some work towards translating the comments in dutch to english, that is if it hasn't been undertaken yet (Probably not).

Personally I can't see what all the hubbub is about. (Well I sort of do, but it was a rhetorical statement.)

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meh, my opinion

Post by z3r0_d »

Before I begin I have had experience with Zmodeler (got annoying quick, blender is better), and I have had about 12 minutes playing with maya (needless to say I didn't learn much. Blender proficiency came between the two.

I think this thread should be quoted in the next generation of the book "User interface design for programmers" (good book, see if your library is good and has it)*

Furthermore, to an extent I am a programmer, turned 3d artist. I am trying to get my thoughts into the virtual realm, and of the above mentioned programs Blender is by far the easiest.

I guess I shall list my annoyances with blender first, then the good parts
  • * surface-management (dealing with quads and such, to make smooth meshes)
    * lack of wire and solid mode combined (can be simulated though... sometimes)
    * an option to have the selected faces change color (be highlighted)
    * clearer highlight of selected objects in shaded mode
    * ... and a way to make certain vertices/faces/objects not editable until I say so (like hiding but doesn't go away: disable) would be nice
    * often cryptic tooltips for the unfamiliar (Blender 2.0 guide refrence time!)
and the good
  • * I don't have to move my mouse too far for common functions (translate, rotate, scale, box select..., hotkeys shall live)
    * Blender is FAST (not managing my surfaces as I have complained about above will significantly slow it down, especially if I don't have that option, IE: in a simulation of 3d clay)
    * Even more buttons (for the common functions) would make blender terrifying.
    * Blender also doesn't have excessive pop-up menus, or wizards that insult my inteligence (horrary, I doubt other programs do either)
Things to think about:
  • * is blender supposed to be accessable (and useful) to a person who has not done any 3d modeling/animation/rendering
    * what will the trying to help the former do for the rest of us (that know about keyframes, and subdivision surfaces, and paths)
I believe that something should be made LEARNABLE, not [M$ clippy] simple by many buttons. Blender is learnable, but not on it's own (tutorials and dedication required). That is it's major fault.

For the current user (and the newbie), there are a number of improvements that could be made to increase usability (violet and yellow dots start to disappear when the gray they are surrounded by is more interesting)

... and I prefer to keep my mouse miles low.

maybe the happy medium would be a bar on the left ('bout 5 cm wide) that shows icons (and text) in buttons applicable to the current mode [make face] with a tooltip containing the keyboard shortcut.

... and beter documentation will always be a plus.
[unfotunately since this is an open-source project I will probably have to do it myself]

and if there is one thing that will scare someone, it is a lot of buttons.

* I don't mean to disparage your library, but I like mine a lot

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Post by Haunt_House »

I also favour minimal changes. The interface is good. If you ship it with good tutorials (and I mean impossible for the firsttime user to overlook) and don't leave the user alone with it, it is more than just okay. Good Documentation is needed. An 'expected' interface is not the only solution.


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Post by Jan_Jordan »

I think that not the interface is what makes blender stick out but that it is realy quite complete for a freeware product.
I realy like fast UIs with lots of Hotkeys, i learned a lot of my 3D skill on Softimage and hotkeys where a must then. But even with hotkeys some tasks are quite slow in blender. Take mesh editing for example. I realy like to do humans and monsters with sub division surfaces. This usualy requires endless tweaking of a mesh with som 10000 vertices. Hours of select a few points, move a few points, select a few points, move a few points. This is realy bad to do in blender: b-key, box select, g-key, move, b-key,....
At work i currently use 3D Studio Max. This realy got better in the last years, mainly by borrowing features from Maya. The same task is done here much more easily. You dont need the b-key at all and the g-key ist not neccesary because of the 3d gizmo. So mesh editing is done here in half the time. I also miss some convenience functions for mesh editing in blender but this is a different story...
I also miss Shift/Ctrl modifications for the selection, but in this case i might just not know how to do it.

Such things realy need an improvement.

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Post by leinad13 »

I have to say that i have 'tried' other 3D products in the past to see if there is anything easier to use than Blender. I tried Lightwave and found at the start that all of its buttons put me off because it looked too hard. This is the kind of thing we need to avoid in Blender, now blender is open is almost certain that lots of new functions and interface objects will be created. If we let these take over the user interface then begginers are almost certainly going to be put off.

On the subject of hot keys, i think that they are what kept me in Blender, i didnt have to go looking through menus everytime i wanted to do something to my mesh. But it would be very useful if a list of all the functions available with hots keys, and a complete list of explainations of the functions was available in Blender or at least shipped with it in some way.


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Post by dumbo »

My thoughts (I have very little experience with 3 modelling, tried blender a few times, but just found wings3d/K3d et al. far easier).

- The 3d view is familar, but the cursor is not.
- There is no 'right click' concept (well, there is - but not a context menu).
- Buttons aren't always buttons.
- Modes, which are usually defined as radio buttons (with optional graphics) are now combinable, with no clear way of telling what is what.
- Adding a texture to an object is unbelievably hard.
- There is nothing that I have seen similar to 'auto-uv' (a very useful feature).
- Exporting is a right pain-in-the-ass. (as-is importing).
- Scripting is equally painful, and the scripts that I have seen make me feel that scripting probably isn't worth it.
- There's no undo feature!!11!! Arrrggghhh!
- The scene hierarchy, which struck a chord with me, I also found very complex, and probably useless (hard to tell really).


This isn't very much of a criticism, since I am hardly a great modeller, but I certainly do not 'hit it off' with the interface.
- consistent, intuitive, usable. For me, blender gets 0/0/0. (I use/evaluate a lot of software packages and I have to say that, for me, blender has the steepest learning curve/most unintelligible interface that I have seen).

Good things that I have seen in other open-source projects:
- wings3d. For simple modelling, I don't think it can be beaten. The auto-uv plugin is also unique amongst open-source modellers.
- k3d. A very decent 'undo' system, and a buggy but interesting tutorial system.
- another modeller that I cannot remember. You click on the relevant action that you would like button X to perform (e.g. left click on the rotate button, then whenever you left click in the main window, you rotate the camera/item).
- gnome2/gtk2. Move the mouse over a menu item, press a shortcut. The shortcut is then tied to the action of the menu item.
- gimp. The plug-in system works.
- perl CPAN. The system that every project seems to wish they had.

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Post by hanzo »

Ton is a saviour, him and his small team, I think did the best job possible.
So anything I would say and may have said in the past is no reflection of
what I think about Ton and company.

hay Z3r0_d I've tried out many 3d aps and Blender is a great one, but to
hit one Maya, after only 12 mins is a joke. I know Maya quite well.
Jan_Jordan has a great point, the 3d gizmo in Maya/Max is excellent, it
allows you to do so many things so accurately and quick. Hay, the hands
on mouse and keyboard approach works in Maya/Max as well, as a
matter of fact U can make your own.

Really Z3r0_d Maya works differently then what U were used to in
Zmodeler, Maya is simple, dependable, looks good, has a ton of features
and it didn't take me a day to get used to the GUI, the modeling in Maya
is radical and fast. As for Lightwave the buttons are daunting but It's
really simple . Just remember to spend more then 12 minutes on a
program, and get a basics tutorial off the net. I admit I practically did the
same as u Z3r0_d, but I stuck with Maya and it was a dream come true.

I also believe Blender can reach those bounds, but not if we keep fooling
ourselves into thinking that Blender doesn't need to present (most
important) , because a lot of people looking at using Blender are thinking
it's the only game in town. And it is, for someone who doesn't have the
money. So if we want people to use Blender continously and permanently
we have to make it more appealing and easier to operate. Otherwise it
will just be a stepping stone and slow death to Blender, for the big ones
out there.


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Post by dreamerv3 »

I don't get it...

How can you oppose an argument that allows for everyone to work the way they want, which also allows you to work the way you want.

Some people need the fisher price interface, some don't.

My goal is to get as many people into 3D and allow them to create what they want as fast and intuitively as possible.

Maybe we should surround 3D apps with rings of burning coals and push new users barefooted onto them and say "Well if you're serious about 3D there you go!"

I can hear the chanting now...

That hostility around here by some towards skinnability confounds me.

It's like screaming "Give me a straight jacket damn you!" "Lock me up in chains!"
While standing in the middle of a field of daisies....

Please excuse my melodrama, but that metaphor is quite representative.

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Post by z3r0_d »

Clarification: I only used Maya for such a short time mostly because I was about to leave. I was able to find information on moving around the 3d view, and some simple scaling, but I did not have enough time to do more. From what I know of Maya I have no reason to dislike it other than it requires a very powerful system, will not run on windows 9x (95, 98, ME..).

... and having selected faces appear colored in a shaded view would require a change in the way blender renders objects. I think it uses the material settings to determine colors (and lighting...). I don't know if it uses it's own settings in edit mode though.

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Panel based

Post by ank2 »

Personally would like interface to be custimiseable because a find the current interface cluttered and ugly. I open up blender and then I open up wings3D and I like the simplicity of the wings3D interface. Makes things far more productive for the beginner. Of course because of the functuality diferences blender is never going to be as simplistic as wings3d but at least allow users to switch to a different UI configureations. Not everything needs to be custimised just increase whats currently there. How about putting all current interface elements (button bars, menus) in a custimisable panels that can be moved, resized, docked or removed. And allow panel configureations to be saved (keep the current blender interface as the default config). I understand that this will take some time if you choose this type of interface modification and of course its the developrs choice. Good luck on what ever you choose.

No one is saying get rid of the current interface and no one is saying make the interface completely idiot proof. Just let people choose. I really like the idea of separateing the GUI from the backround code. Whos it going to hurt? Very good work in general though. Thanks!!

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