Navigation basics - frustrated beyond belief

I’ve been trying to get into Blender for a long while now, and am on the verge of giving up. I can now do some quite advanced things with it very quickly and easily, but some of the most simple aspects of using 3D software remain utterly beyond my grasp. I should emphasise that I am not a noob when it comes to 3D software: I’ve been doing it for over 20 years, and highly proficient in platforms such as Lightwave, 3D Studio, Form•Z, Sketchup, etc. I’ve taught classes in most of these. My renderings have won awards in the Smithsonian. So the fact that I can’t even figure out how to reliably pan and zoom in Blender is beyond aggravating.

A caveat: I am trying to do this work on a Macbook Pro, without accessories. This means: 1.) I do not have have a numberpad, and 2.) I am using a trackpad, not a 3-button mouse. As such, virtually all of the advice on the internet does not work – and yes, I know about numberpad emulation; it still doesn’t really work. So please don’t tell me to use numberpad-period; that isn’t emulated. And don’t tell me to use alt-home; I don’t have a home key. And don’t tell me to click the middle mouse button; I don’t have a middle mouse button.

What I want to do:

1.) Centre the view on the object I have selected. This should be Shift-C, from everything I’ve read. Unfortunately, that just zooms the view out to include the object I have selected. How do I centre it?

2.) Reliably dolly or zoom in and out of an object, or some point on an object. Much of the time, I can do this by holding down ctrl and scrolling up and down using the two-finger gesture on the trackpad. Then – for no reason I can figure out – this stops working. Can’t dolly or zoom anywhere. Only solution seems to be to abandon the project I’m working on and start a new one. That can’t be right.

3.) Rotate the view so that the Z axis is vertical on the screen. In fact I very rarely, if ever, want the Z axis to be non-vertical. I’ve found no way to accomplish this.

Apologies for the sour tone of this post, but if I can’t figure out how to do these things by the end of today, then I think I’m going to have to walk away from Blender entirely. I know it’s a powerful package – I’ve seen fantastic results from it – but the level of frustration it’s generating is too much…

1.) Centre the view on the object I have selected. This should be Shift-C, from everything I’ve read. Unfortunately, that just zooms the view out to include the object I have selected. How do I centre it?
Change the shortcut to something like - next to the number keys. RMB on the the option from the View / Align View menu and select Change Shortcut. Remember to save your user preferences

2.) Reliably dolly or zoom in and out of an object, or some point on an object. Much of the time, I can do this by holding down ctrl and scrolling up and down using the two-finger gesture on the trackpad. Then – for no reason I can figure out – this stops working. Can’t dolly or zoom anywhere. Only solution seems to be to abandon the project I’m working on and start a new one. That can’t be right.
Use orthographic view or centre view to the object (question 1)

You may not want to use a numpad but use a mouse or pen rather than trackpad

I’m on a PC, but a couple of things, I’ve tripped over the Shift+C thing and the fact that ‘.’ supposedly switches you to 3D cursor as pivot point. In Blender 2.69 I am finding ‘.’ on the numpad means the view is centered round the selected and that I have to manually switch to use the 3D cursor as the pivot point. Shift+C is mapped as view all in my keystrokes.
By the way, on that note, a good way to figure out these things, go to user perferences, INPUT section. On the right, change ‘name’ to key binding’ in the list, click in the box at the right of it and press the key you are interested in. It will list what the various keys do in various modes. Handy to use that. you can always rotate left/right using numpad 4 & 6 and up/down with 2&8.
To get the various actions for the numpad, simply enter the required number, it lists all modes (shift/ctrl/alt).
To get the mouse listings, switch to ‘Name’ and enter say ‘view orbit’ in the text.

By the way, I come from a Lightwave background, but do have the advantage of a 3 button mouse with wheel on a PC, makes things easier.

I’m not trying to be difficult or insensitive, but maybe the hardware you have isn’t well suited to what you want to do. If you’re a hobbyist and aren’t willing to invest the money to upgrade your Macbook, then I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re a professional who needs to work this out, then I’d suggest getting your hardware up to a professional level. There may be workarounds for the keyboard shortcuts, but it may not be worth the trouble.

Like it or not, most 3d software requires a 3-button mouse to work effectively IMO. Mice are cheap and I’m sure you could find one that would work in your Macbook. I’d also suggest investing in either a full keyboard or a separate numpad… I noticed the Apple store has a bluetooth one that looks nice ($49.95 seems a bit steep though).

The reason I’m not using a mouse or an external keyboard is that I am using Blender primarily while on the road, on airplanes, etc. I’m a former 3D professional who now essentially works in management; I still like to dabble in the toolchain to see how the state-of-the-art is evolving, and occasionally do favours for friends, but I’m not committed enough to buy new hardware or carry it around just for this purpose. I was curious whether Blender could support such casual use; the answer is: basically, no, but I’ve finally forced my way through it and am getting decent results.

For posterity’s sake, in case anybody else stumbles across this thread and wants to know how to configure their MacBook, here’s the trick: enable everything that is disabled by default, and vice versa. No, in all seriousness, here’s a preferences setup that works:

1.) Go to Interface Preferences, and enable Cursor Depth, Auto Depth, Zoom to Mouse Position, Rotate Around Selection, and Auto Perspective. Disable Global Pivot if it is enabled.

2.) Go to Input Preferences, and choose Select with Left, Emulate Numpad, Orbit Style: Turntable, and Trackpad Natural

3.) Save your preferences. Now that you’ve munged your config, don’t try reading the documentation: it’ll only confuse you.

4.) Now you can select objects with a normal trackpad click and change views using the number keys. Orbit the object you have selected by using a two-finger swipe. Dolly by placing the cursor over the spot you want to dolly to, holding down CTRL, and doing a 2-finger swipe. Pan by holding down shift and doing a 2-finger swipe.

So, with that working, I can now set about figuring out how to actually get things done with Blender.

As a meta-comment: it shouldn’t have taken the better part of 15 hours to figure this out. Although I realise that Blender’s interface has come a long way recently – I first played with it a bit back in 1999 – it’s still far, far more obtuse than it has to be. It would be possible for Blender to have a significantly shallower learning curve – and make it much more accessible to dabblers like myself – without sacrificing any of the workflow that dedicated power users require. But since Blender is developed by its community – and its community is a self-selecting of power users who have already climbed the learning curve – this seems unlikely to happen. Which is unfortunate, because it means that Blender will probably remain much more of a niche product than it has to be.

How could it be fixed? By focusing on: discoverability, discoverability, discoverability.

First: Blender should take advantage of what are otherwise universal interface conventions, such as the left mouse button being for selection, and the right button being for contextual menus. Violating these conventions is simply creating a barrier to new users for no purpose whatsoever. (But in that case, how do you place the 3D cursor, you ask? Simple: left-click with a modifier key, or middle mouse button if you have a 3-button mouse. That is objectively the correct way to do things; Blender’s default is objectively the wrong way to do things. Object-selection is a action that is shared with every other GUI application on the OS; by taking advantage of users’ extant muscle-memory for object-selection, your software will be much more accessible. Placing a 3D cursor is not a function that is shared with most other software, so it is reasonable to expect the user to develop some new muscle-memory to support it.)

Second: contextual menus. They’re an amazingly useful interface convention, since they solve the problem of figuring out how the *£(@! to do something to whatever you happen to be pointing at. This is the very crux of the discoverability problem, and contextual menus should be used liberally to address it.

Third: keybindings. Yes, they’re absolutely crucial to any power-user’s workflow, and Blender is right to support them as universally as it does. But it’s wrong to build its documentation around hard-coded keybindings, especially when the software now supports reconfigurable keybindings. The reason is that as soon as a user reconfigures their keybindings – which they may have to do from the very beginning, if they’re using hardware like mine – then the documentation suddenly becomes hopelessly confusing. The correct approach is for the documentation to be based around actions – which, if the GUI is properly intuitively discoverable (eg. with contextual menus), will be easily accessible for the noob, and no less accessible to the keyboard-based power user. An example of an application which gets this balance exactly right is Sketchup – which has a very straightforward, conventional, and accessible GUI, and the ability to customise keybindings for virtually any action. (I’m very much a power user in that application; haven’t touched an icon or drop-down menu for years.) Keybindings are something for pros, and pros will figure it out on their own as they need to (especially if the GUI provides keybinding hints at every opportunity, as it should). Whereas documentation is NOT for pros – so it really shouldn’t be based around keybindings, particularly if they can be changed and thereby make the documentation obsolete.

I think those’ll be my last Blender meta-comments. Back to work now.

Good tips, and you make some valid points.

Indeed, one of Andrew Prices main points was just the, the “discoverability” of Blender.
Being on a PC, my journey was not as tiresome as yours, but it was only because I forced myself to continue when common sense told me to switch back to Lightwave, that I got over the initial hurdle.
I am still struggling with a couple of things, but putting the time in, I find each day brings another “Ahh, I see” moment. :slight_smile:

It may seem like a case of teaching grandma to suck eggs, but I heartily recommend the youtube channel

Following the first steps and appetizer tutorials, whilst some of it is a given if you are used to 3D, there are a lot of very useful Blender insights in them. :slight_smile:

Hi ~ I’m a real newbie to Blender (about a week), but am familiar with several other 3D programs. Blender is so dang cool! But today I’ve been going through major frustration: my navigation shortcut keys were no longer working. Yesterday they worked great…
I was quite frustrated, and then I discovered… that with my modifier keys (control, Option, etc.), I’ve been using a two-finger click and swipe out of habit. Once I started being careful to use a single finger click & drag (or more accurately, clicking and holding with my thumb while dragging with my index finger), all again was well with the world and I can go on with my life… whew!
So maybe that helps…?