Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lots of toolbars

While doing some research for the toolbar in Blender 2.5 I collected a bucketload of toolbars from various apps to determine what would be useful for Blender.

Along the top are various horizontal toolbars, while the vertical ones are beneath. The challenge is to have something that is clear, compact and fast. Traditional painting apps work well with icons, because the concepts map to real world items quite well. This isn't always the case in 3D though, because the tools are more abstract - there's not really such a thing as a real world extrude tool, at least not something that's be useful as an icon. 

Although what we have in 2.5 is already quite nice, it's interesting to look at different ways of displaying tools in a GUI. It might be nice to eventually have horizontal tools too, for example. 

Until then, this is some food for thought.


  1. Why are you so keen on having a toolbar in Blender? IMHO it just slows down my modelling workflow if I have to move the mouse all the way to the side of the screen and then back again just to perform some basic tasks. Shortcuts are much more convenient, and the new search function takes care of the less used tools.

    I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of the new "t" side bar in Blender 2.5. For "last operator" f6 is much less intrusive and a much more elegant solution.

    Thanks for all your work.

  2. If you want some thoughts:

    I prefer the Photoshop style for icons. In comparison with Gimp i really hate the Gimp icons. Same with Illustrator vs. Inkscape. The simple reason is Gimp/Inkscape icons have too much eyecandy like shading, many colors and gradients, details, complex contrast, to much shape...
    Photoshop icons are simple, sharp and clear with a neutral background. If you work all the day long with Photoshop, there isn't much to hate the icons. Pixelmator would be acceptable with a better background which is way to dark. Changing the background to a lighter gray would be also my first step in blender 2.5.

    When i was at graphic-design school, one of the first things i learned was never use vertical text especially for content displayed via monitor. I don't understand why they used vertical text in Modo. With those ugly icons and the dark background it would be a pain for me to work with it. Another lesson i learned at school was never use to much white text.

    I don't know the last time i used 3DS but that picture of the toolbar looks quite good. It's compareable with the new MS Office UI which i find quite fast to work with because there are no endless menus anymore. All tools and settings you need at first is on the screen. Tools you don't need often or are very specific are named and easy to find.

  3. Extrude Icon - Toothpaste coming out of a tube?

  4. Modo and Silo style look great for Blender
    i think "you" can use shortcuts even with a toolbar!

  5. It seems that nearly all softwares in the picture have icon based UI. Blender 2.5 doesn't have much icon. Is this an advantage or disanvantage? How can we recognise the differences?

  6. @kiioko

    My post was not ment as a rant. I'm simply trying to start a debate about the UI.

    Blender have done quite allright so far witout a toolbar and it is a lot slower than just using shortcuts, so I'm simply looking for good arguments and other peoples opinions.

  7. Personally, I think icons are most useful when first coming to Blender and for features you do not use often. Sure, a keyboard shortcut is faster if you know it, but I defy anyone (including Ton) to list all the keyboard shortcuts for all the operations possible in Blender.

    PhotoShop, for example, has shortcuts for nearly everything as well. Yet the most basic operators are still available on the toolbar for people to use should they wish to access them that way.

    Personally, I find the Painter & PhotoShop toolbars the most appealing. Their icons are simple, clear, and non-intrusive to the GUI as a whole (i.e. no flashing colours/shading).

  8. i think blender's text-based buttons are far superior to any icon-based buttons.

    1000 words (a picture) can have more meanings, and takes longer to process, than a single word :)

    and if you don't know what a tool does, there's a thing called the manual :P

  9. "1000 words (a picture) can have more meanings, and takes longer to process, than a single word"

    And just how many "single word" operators are there in Blender? How many "single words" can fit in the space taken up by, say, PhotoShop's toolbar? And more importantly, where did you get the idea an icon/symbol is harder to understand than words representing the same thing?

    Icons/symbols are used in signs, manuals, and software explicitly because they are EASIER to understand than the text required.

    For example, the Cut/Copy/Paste icons are almost universally understandable, without the requirement of lingual changes. Also, they tend to take up the same amount of room in a UI as just the word "Copy".

  10. modo style it's best for blender,

  11. Nice ideas and mockup willian!
    Your panels and buttons are much less agressive over the global UI than 2.5 default.
    I think the point is if blender UI will let users to do this kind of customization of hiding elements to get that level of simplification.

    If we take a look at the timeline, there is a lot of information and space on it. I think only primary and elemental functions must be show at the fist look, groups of secondary functions could be hidden in menus or buttons.

    Another point is the tool shelf. Large buttons spend a lot of space. If we take a look at willian mockup buttons are replaced by simple text. I look far easier to read and use, spending 1/3 of space.

    And I think that radial menu works better than a tool shelf.
    - Tool shelf: or you click in the button in the tool shelf or use use the hotkey to acess that tool. (you I'll need to know one hotkey per tool)
    - Radial Menu: You can setup one hotkey to acess a group of tool (you I'll need to know just one hotkey per group)

    Tool shelf works well for fist-time users but users with some experience will prefer to use hotkeys so radial menus are an alternative to hide, group, organize tools using a few number of hotkeys