The interface barrier

Hey guys:

Advanced 3D is a huge part of my profession (I’m pretty nimble in Lightwave, Rhino, CATIA V5, Alias Studio Tools etc), and while blender is obviously very capable, I’m finding the interface to be extremely frustrating.

  1. My number one gripe right now is that I still don’t understand why blender uses its own file browser, and doesn’t offer the system dialog as an alternative! Is there any way I can use the system default file browser instead of the clunky one in Blender? The single biggest reason for hating the blender browser is that folder shortcuts don’t work! There are tons of other reasons. Is there any way to use the sys browser instead?

  2. Why on earth doesn’t Blender ask you if you want to save before opening a new file? Every program in the world does that, and they do it for a reason: people forget to save. It’s not that we’re stupid, we just make mistakes. Computer programs learned this very early on. Yes, when you accidentally delete your work a couple of times you’re less likely to forget in the future, but that’s assuming that the user isn’t so pissed off at the un-friendliness of the interface that they just give up on it and use another tool (like I did).

  3. I’m a 3D CAD power-user, and I know how powerful a three-button mouse is when moving fast. But blender’s use of the three buttons are so strange that it’s completely counter-intuitive. Yes, you can check the little box in the prefs to make the LMB select, but that should be the default. A new user (like me) downloads the software, can’t select anything, gets pissed and deletes the prog. On that subject, why do you have to hit “b” to be able to select by dragging?? Why not just do it like every other program and let you do it just by… dragging? Why do you have to hit “a” to deselect instead of just clicking off canvas? Why do you have to hit “g” to move instead of just dragging?

When I opened Lightwave for the first time, I was up and running in an hour, with no help or tutorials of any kind. I was building complex geometry within a day of tinkering, and building complex layered textures and rendering scenes within days. It just seems like you need a bachelor’s degree in non-standard interface ideology just to comprehend this program, and then a high tolerance for pain to keep operating it!

Blender is a killer app by all accounts except for the interface. The developers should be incredibly proud of their work! But for we mere-mortals, it would be a big headache-saver if there were an interface mode designed to be easier to use. I think the software is perfectly adequate for mainstream professional use (like here, at my job for instance), if only the interface didn’t turn people off to it.

One little anecdote: When I first discovered blender a few months ago, I came into work and said “hey guys, check this out!! This is the most amazing open-source project I’ve ever seen!” One of my friends was like “oh yeah, we looked into that a long time ago… is the interface still crap? We looked into it, but it was too hard to use.”

I think what seems is the big problem not that its unintuitive, its just different, for me learning blender UI was a difficult one, but blender was the 1st 3d prog I messed with, and after getting around the “barrier” it works really fast.

But you do have some great points, especially the file browser and quitting. Though, about mouse dragging/selecting, blender uses mouse gestures when you hold down the mouse and drag. (drag a straight line and freemove the obj, draw a circle, rotate the obj) which I rather like when I try to work fast.

 I would also suggest that you post this in the blendergo thread in the subforum, you do have some great points here and they should be considered.

http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=80147

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again. Blender’s interface is built for working fast, not learning fast. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t things that could use improvement, far from it. And while working fast and learning fast aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, they do have a tendency to work at cross purposes more often than not.

Another thing to note is that Blender is built to run just about anywhere. The reason why it uses its own file browser is because that’s a known entity. No matter what system you work on - be it a PC, Mac, Linux, or even a PocketPC - Blender is still Blender. It’s consistant across platforms. This is a feature, IMHO.

These are things that need to be taken into account when a discussion revolving around Blender’s interface takes place. Context, if you will.

So was I when I started with Blender, don’t forget that when you find something to be frustrating, it doesn’t mean everybody else does.

Now I agree with you on several points, esspecially Blender ignoring anti-forgetful-people protocols, but did you notice that if you hit B a second time you get circle select? And did you notice that you press ®otate, (S)cale and (G)rab?

People that delete applications just because of the first frustrating thing they find without truely exploring it are not very serious about using it in the first place.

Also don’t forget in the event that you do close Blender, it creates a quit.blend file in a tmp directory, which is your saved work at the time of hitting that close button :smiley:

Blender is different, but my honest opinion is that if you are at all serious about what you’re doing, you’ll get used to it.

Mystery

I too picked up blender extremely quickly.

I also agree whole heartedly 100% with all of the points you’ve made.

Funny how experience changes one’s perspective on this subject. Six months ago coming from many years in the Animation Master world, I could have written almost the exact same post. Then I went through the Blender learning process not only by entering the F1 contest, but by also doing several paid projects in Blender which I would have done with AM in the past. ( A 40 sec new school introduction and a short “technology process” animation ) I learn faster when there are deadlines and money involved.:rolleyes:

  1. My number one gripe right now is that I still don’t understand why blender uses its own file browser, and doesn’t offer the system dialog as an alternative! Is there any way I can use the system default file browser instead of the clunky one in Blender? The single biggest reason for hating the blender browser is that folder shortcuts don’t work! There are tons of other reasons. Is there any way to use the sys browser instead?
    Take a look at some of the options that the Blender file manager provides that control things like object/material/scene linking and UI load settings. Add the fact that it works consistently across platforms (I develop both in Windows and Linux) and using the standard Windows file manager seems a lot less important. The people developing Blender are not stupid, there is usually a pretty good reason for things being different. There are many “oh!” moments for those who take the time to discover them.

Yes it needs fine tuning (and such is happening) but I want Blender to stay true to what it is. Today I feel blessed to have access to what is in effect my own in-house development tool. You may feel the same in the near future… give it a try. :slight_smile:

Advanced 3D is a huge part of my profession (I’m pretty nimble in Lightwave, Rhino, CATIA V5, Alias Studio Tools etc), and while blender is obviously very capable, I’m finding the interface to be extremely frustrating.

It is frustrating, at first. But so is driving manual transmission if all you’ve ever done is automatic. There are reasons for the way it is just like there are reasons we still have manual transmission. If all you’ve ever driven is automatic cars, you’d probably say, why in the world did you get a manual transmission when automatic ones exist.

  1. My number one gripe right now is that I still don’t understand why blender uses its own file browser, and doesn’t offer the system dialog as an alternative! Is there any way I can use the system default file browser instead of the clunky one in Blender? The single biggest reason for hating the blender browser is that folder shortcuts don’t work! There are tons of other reasons. Is there any way to use the sys browser instead?

Good point, honestly, I’d never realized this cuz I don’t use shortcuts to folders that often. This is the way we handle things around here: you present an official feature request. Not to use the Windows file browser mind you, but to add support for shortcut folders to the Blender build for windows. You’d be really supprised how much the developers take in to consideration what the user’s request. It’s a wonderful community here.

  1. Why on earth doesn’t Blender ask you if you want to save before opening a new file? Every program in the world does that, and they do it for a reason: people forget to save. It’s not that we’re stupid, we just make mistakes. Computer programs learned this very early on. Yes, when you accidentally delete your work a couple of times you’re less likely to forget in the future, but that’s assuming that the user isn’t so pissed off at the un-friendliness of the interface that they just give up on it and use another tool (like I did).

I’ve often wondered exactly why myself, but as mentioned before, you work IS saved, and if you use blender 3 times a day x 4 secs to say yes/no x 1 year, you wasted 70 minutes:) . Seriously though, it’s democracy, if enough people wanted it, it would take Ton (head developer) 10 minutes to implement it, but few care for it. If you really want it, here’s the beauty: you can add it yourself, it’s open source!

  1. I’m a 3D CAD power-user, and I know how powerful a three-button mouse is when moving fast. But blender’s use of the three buttons are so strange that it’s completely counter-intuitive. Yes, you can check the little box in the prefs to make the LMB select, but that should be the default. A new user (like me) downloads the software, can’t select anything, gets pissed and deletes the prog. On that subject, why do you have to hit “b” to be able to select by dragging?? Why not just do it like every other program and let you do it just by… dragging? Why do you have to hit “a” to deselect instead of just clicking off canvas? Why do you have to hit “g” to move instead of just dragging?

This helps point the new user to the fact that we have a 3D CURSOR, which is central to modelling in blender. So it’s an automatic way to alert the Noob to a novelty. :rolleyes: Anyways, trust the interface. Lots of people testify to the ease of modeling in blender as a general rule(exept for a few high level mesh functions) I use maya and really like some of the mesh features, but for everyday, I just kept getting frusrated and blender was smoother.

When I opened Lightwave for the first time, I was up and running in an hour, with no help or tutorials of any kind. I was building complex geometry within a day of tinkering, and building complex layered textures and rendering scenes within days. It just seems like you need a bachelor’s degree in non-standard interface ideology just to comprehend this program, and then a high tolerance for pain to keep operating it!

Was lightwave the first program, or had you already used MAX or something. Either way, I rememeber that too. I Didn’t get it, and was sort of lost because the program isn’t menu based, but shortcut based. But maybe you just thought since you are a pro you were above going back to the basics? In a couple hours, you can master blender basics, the problem is not that it’s hard, it’s different and better. It’s like the manual transmission thing. If you just got into a car for the first time, if it is automatic, you’ll probably just naturally figure it out in a few minutes, but a manual transmission would require a little more instruction but is not necessarily inferior just because requires instruction.

Blender is a killer app by all accounts except for the interface. The developers should be incredibly proud of their work! But for we mere-mortals, it would be a big headache-saver if there were an interface mode designed to be easier to use. I think the software is perfectly adequate for mainstream professional use (like here, at my job for instance), if only the interface didn’t turn people off to it.

False modesty. you are not some “mere mortal” you’re an experienced dude who can get no compassion when all it takes is one or two days to learn blender for someone like you. Anyways, the programmers don’t care so much about people who just want to piddle with the program. They make changes that help experienced users work faster and more efficient, and any noob who wants to will just have to learn the way that the experienced ones have decided is best. It’s kind of like the manual transmission. . .

One little anecdote: When I first discovered blender a few months ago, I came into work and said “hey guys, check this out!! This is the most amazing open-source project I’ve ever seen!” One of my friends was like “oh yeah, we looked into that a long time ago… is the interface still crap? We looked into it, but it was too hard to use.”

Oh, we’re sorry, if some guys didn’t like the interface, we’ll just remake it for them:rolleyes: . Are you trying to make blender user’s ashamed of the interface? Won’t work. Blender is fast evolving. Interface changes regularly, and someday maybe there’ll be more pictures for those who don’t like to read:D . But for now, for example, We’d rather have sculpt mode and cloth than a new interface that is “obvious” for noobies. Think about it. We have limited developers. Priorities.

In summary:

  1. If you have a better Idea, submit it as a request. draw a picture or something (I realise you mentioned specifics, and that is good). IF PEOPLE AGREE, it’ll happen.

  2. Blender is simple and kids can learn it. 3 or 4 video tuts and you’re on your way, so the new users can’t handle it is false.

  3. Blender is developing very fast. Worrying about copying other interfaces would very much slow it down. When it catches up with other apps, it’ll naturally get better interface. But don’t expect it to be anything like Maya. that wouldn’t be progress. It’s sort of like a manual transmission. . .

I use XSI and blender, comparing the two, I would truely have to say blender has a much faster workflow. I have never tried lightwave, so I can’t compare, but I can honestly say that blender is designed for a fast workflow. The interface has always been the turn off point for many new users. I mean most of the guys here had problems with it at one stage.

If you come from another package then you are bound to be discouraged by the interface. I am in total agreement with you about the browser, it should be redesigned, not necessarily the way you would like it, because as has been mentioned blender is used on most operating systems out there, and they all function differently, but it should be recoded for ease of use. (it is a little outdated in my opinion)

You have raised some decent points, but I am sure that if you spend enough time to aquaint yourself with the software, you will probably never mention too much about the interface again. For some reason it turns out that way.

I have used some of the afore mentioned apps also. When I first came to Blender I found the interface practical and efficient. Blender had everything you needed to start working on a basic 3d scene. In basic I mean modeling, lighting, cameras, animation, etc, etc. Most 3d artist use 3d in a very common “basic” manner even if their apps sports ton’s of features that they never really use.

Blender has lacked precision modeling and animation features but this will change. As fas as advanced nurbs, etc, etc. I’m sure that there will be something that meets this halfway. For now focus on the “workaround”. You can create anything in Blender that looks like everything else done in other 3d apps via the “workaround”.

I have learned to setup all of my files in a organized blender work directories. Stick with Blender and you will get your own workflow going in time. When you do you’ll work faster than you did in most other 3d apps.

As far as computers go and interfaces and what not, I have never really been satisfied with things as they are. Computers were created by people with very different ideas than my own. To get things done I have had to accept this fact and “get with the program” as they say. I have never really thought about changing most of my software’s interfaces that much until lately. I guess things catch on and you get caught up in the news of the day.

A great thing that Blender has going for it is the ability to run on older hardware quite nicely. And Blender is open source.

The best thing that I really like about Blender and open source is that you can really choose the software. Before my software choices were based on tips from other multimedia pros, prices, etc. Now my software choices are completely personal in nature. Software is not “perfect” it’s either useful to us or it’s a coffee coaster.

I have yet to find the interface of my dreams within the current structure of available software. One thing that would make computing advance would be an anything that’s better than keyboard and mouse input.

And then again, as we Blender users often say, if you want a feature bad enough you can code it. More than likely you’re back to square one, either using the software or not. But don’t take anyone else’s word, try Blender out for yourself.

Like san_diego_james said, Blenders all about community. Ask the Blender community for help and it will flow in flood streams.

I find all the other interfaces (max, maya, c4d, Vue, ect…)
Boring standardized drivel.
Sure they are pretty, sure some of them have thousands of commands that can be found in 5 different menu systems (max).
Sure sounds like your collegues should have looked a bit further into Blender when you first threw it out.
Blender has a Windows Dialoges pack as a plugin/script, good handy script but sure does look out of place/strange in the most powerful 3d app on the planet.
All/most the buttons/functions that can be found in any 3d program are in different places in most programs.
Look and you will find.
Use and you will learn.
Functionallity Vs Eye Candy.
I’ll take the first option.

Wan’t more Blender options? Start here.
http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/Scripts/Catalog/System
Windows dialogs are on page 2.

Maybe the people from Max, Maya, ect…
Could change their interfaces so they look more like Blender…

the most powerful 3d app on the planet.

Ok, calm down or no one will pay attention to anything you say. Blender is NOT anywhere near the most powerful 3d app, though in many ways it’s more enjoyable to use than they are.

I would have to say Houdini is the most powerful 3D app on the planet, and only moderately more difficult to learn than Blender!

adamo: if blender would use system filedialogs, how would the extra options fit in, like opening with “Load UI” and what about appending?

i do agree that blender’s filebrowser could use more work. i’ve been hoping for shortcuts for looong time now. one day it will be there i’m sure. first we just need to find a developer interested on coding it…

anyway, here is a horribly evil python hack, that will open system fileopen dialog for you. it sits in help menu… and as i said, is very evil. if it eats your children and steals your car, don’t blame me.


#!BPY
"""
Name: 'Small Little Evil Browser'
Blender: 234
Group: 'Help'
Tooltip: 'tkinter fileopendialog'
"""

__author__ = "b"
__url__ = ("blender", "elysiun")
__version__ = "1.0"
__bpydoc__ = """\
very evilish opens tkinter fileopen dialog and loads the file into blender.
"""


import Blender
import os.path as path

from Tkinter import *
from tkFileDialog import askopenfilename


dir = Blender.Get('filename')
if dir:
    dir = path.dirname(dir)
else:
    dir = ""

root = Tk()
root.withdraw()
fn = askopenfilename(title='open blend', initialdir=dir)

if fn:
    Blender.Load(str(fn))
    

.b

I completely agree on this !

It is funny, because a couple of years ago some guys from Side Effects (the developer of Houdini) came to our school and offered a one year license of Houdini to everyone. Almost no one took it, because of the difficult interface.
Then the exact same discussion about the interface started, like we have it here now.

One of the fantastic qualities that Blender have is that’s Open Source, in opposite to those all “power” software that you’ve name droped

So as a power user, you can use your powers to change the interface to suit your taste
Welcome to the magical world of Blender
Bye

A power user is not necessarily a coder. Even a coder is not necessarily someone who can change Blenders interface. Or has the time to do so.

I don’t get this either. I find Blender’s browser faster but it does have limitations. One is that it loads into one of the subdivided windows. Shake has subdivided windows and even it loads a new browser window (though it’s not a system one). The same thing should happen with the user prefs. Plus the file brower orders things in a funny way. I expect all items to be in alphabetical order but listing folders separate from files is not intuitive to me.

Same when you quit, it’s very annoying but so simple to fix.

I agree with everything except dragging to move 'cos that actually happens if you drag with right-click but “g” lets you specify an axis to constrain to.

Left-mouse should be default and it’s been said many times. Right-click should be for a contextual menu. Clicking off the canvas should deselect too. I actually think it should bring up the world options.

“b” select I don’t mind because if clicking off the canvas deselects then it might be awkward to make additive selections. The box doesn’t show up on the Intel Mac version annoyingly.

I would also agree there. I tried out the demo and I thought it was pretty messed up. Nothing seemed to be where I logically expected it to be.

Adamo is right. Those thing are just what I would like to change in blender. Maybe a project for blender that had those implementations. Someone who can code those things. Ugh I hoped I would never become one of those that requests stuff :o

It’s obvious that Blender’s got quite a devoted and enthusiastic community, and that is commendable in itself. I’m also very appreciative of your candor, and how almost none of you took the opportunity to insult me. Many of these online communities would have. It seems that you guys are very genuine and mature, and I really appreciate all of you taking the time to feed back.

I’d like to answer each of you separately, but in short I guess I would just say this: I understand. I’ve learned a lot of difficult interfaces over the years, and Blender is easier than CATIA V5 any day of the week (but is a fly on its shoulder in terms of capability). With power comes complexity, and I understand that, but in any industry there are standards. Lightwave has a little checkbox in the prefs that allows you to choose between the system file browser and the Lightwave version (very similar to Blender’s). Though the Lightwave version is more capable, the system one is part of a bunch of “beginner mode” features that you can turn on while you’re getting started, just to let the noob focus on what they’re interested in: modelling. As you advance, you can turn on the more advanced features one at a time, and thereby learn them in manageable chunks.

One more thing to note is that I’m guilty of a little exaggeration I guess: I didn’t really delete the prog right off the bat, otherwise I would be back here months later to discuss my frustrations :slight_smile: I’m ashamed that it’s taken me this long to give it a second chance, but ah well, I’m a busy guy I guess.

Anyway, thanks a ton. I’ll be around as I keep learning. I’m optomistic.

Over in OSX land Apple has taken most of the F-keys now and Lepoard will take more. There by taking alot of Blenders away. sure they can be switched but it’s a problem. Like F-12 and F-8*

More problems with the UI and less control.