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Google Summer of Code - Blender

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Published on Aug 10, 2012

Full list of changes: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Use...
BA thread where you can download a build: http://blenderartists.org/forum/showt...

I'll now be moving on to other stuff, like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cciza... and this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw5Mt... and this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYZ2C... and this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0r2e... and whatever other games I feel like making.

Full text of the video:
My Google Summer of Code project this year was a usability-oriented tasklist for Blender. I hoped to improve the Blender experience for all users, but particularly new users. Please note that these changes may not be accepted by the Blender team, the team must approve anything before it's merged into the main project. Let's take a look at the changes.

In Blender you can create a new area on the screen by pulling it out from one of the corner handles, but now you can also remove an area by dragging the handle back over to the edge. Holding control overrides the new behavior, to allow you to easily reduce an area to just the header size.

One thing that always irked me about Blender was that if a menu was open, you couldn't click another menu to open it. That's because menus in Blender are modal windows, and while they're open you can't interact with anything else. I made Blender menus and other popups non-modal so that clicking around in the menus is a bit more fluid.

Blender has a great feature that lets you save a project as the default project so that it opens every time you open Blender. Unfortunately, that same feature is also the way to save your preferences, which leads sometimes to some odd default projects. I split this into two features. Saving the user preferences now saves your preferences to a separate file from the default project, so now you can change your preferences while working without interfering with the default project.

Bill Reynish's design proposals from his blog served as an source of ideas for new user interaction methods. I implemented two ideas from that proposal, putting X's in list boxes like this one, and also putting X's in the dropdown selectors for screen layout and scenes. In retrospect, I don't think the X's here are a good idea, since it seems likely that I'll accidentally delete something important without knowing about it.

Do you like to kill two birds with one stone? Well cut that out, you'll make the birds go extinct. Instead of that why don't you take out your aggression by toggling multiple buttons with one mouse click? Birds are valuable natural resource, you know. This feature works with most of the toggle buttons in Blender's interface. It wasn't part of my proposal, but everybody was asking for it.

Another thing that technically wasn't in the scope of my proposal was my pet side project this summer, updating the 3D manipulator. I added mouse highlighting to improve feedback for what actions are possible. I also added some new manipulator handles to move or scale objects in two dimensions at once. This design for the new manipulator handles came after a lot of experimentation, but I think it could be improved even more.

Lastly, the big ticket item this summer was the floating controls support. Again drawing from Reynish's proposal, I added the ability for Blender's designers to add floating controls over the 3D view. These controls can help new users become accustomed to the interface by highlighting important tools, and experienced users can turn them off in preferences. They can also help Blender clear up its cluttered interface. This prototype design includes controls for setting edit modes and transform types, as well as a "Last Operator" indicator here on the bottom right. It always shows a summary of the previous action the user took, and if clicked it pops up the "F6" window, allowing the user to edit the previous action, after the fact.

There's a number of other smaller things I did too, if you want the full list you can find a link to it in this video's description. I had a great time working on Blender this summer and I hope I've improved Blender's usability a little bit. This was only a small part of the work that could be done to improve Blender's usability and design, and I hope the Blender developers will study user interface design theory to improve Blender's user interface.

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