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The Blender Foundation responds to UI criticisms

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

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The video posted by Blender Guru’s Andrew Price last week proposing changes to the software’s ‘broken’ UI.
Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal has just posted his response on the Blender development blog.

Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendaal has put up a detailed post on the Blender development blog, responding to recent criticisms of Blender’s UI and the community’s suggestions for future changes.

In the post, titled (Re)defining Blender, Roosendaal comments on the discussion sparked by the videos posted by Blender Guru’s Andrew Price over the past month calling for changes to the user interface.

Not as easy as it looks
After setting out the Foundation’s general development priorities, Roosendaal goes on to discuss the work involved in redesigning the UI of a 3D software package, commenting that:

“A lot of (really great) UI design proposals that went on the past week give quite a false impression that it’s … feasible to just replace the UI, or that its possible to pay for it.”

“The misconception here is that the ‘UI’ is some kind of separated entity of a program, which can just be peeled off and replaced with another interface. However, a really good UI (and certainly Blender’s) is not just an abstract independent layer, it’s the reflection (and sometimes even the core) of the program’s design.”

Other development priorities
Roosendaal points out that Blender development is an open-source project, and that available resources are split between developing new technologies, “even when it’s with a clunky UI at first”, and on fixing bugs:

“Blender is in many ways crippled, unfinished, or half working only. That aspect you can detect in the UI easily, but if you seek a bit further it’s in nearly every part of Blender.”

“It would be helpful if people who criticise Blender (or want to contribute) [recognise this workload].”

“The Blender team – over 100 people who work regularly on the code – really isn’t dying for ideas or suggestions, nor do they spend time twiddling thumbs waiting for a brilliant request to be passed on.”

But still a need for future UI development
However, Roosendaal acknowledges the need for UI work – “I also recognise that the energetic and passionate UI discussions were coming from a lack of active development in that area” – and comments:

“I hope we can work out a proposal for a UI team at or shortly after the Blender Conference. Such a team is not going to define ‘the future of the UI’, but simply will … feed back on work that’s actually being done.”

So not a radical change in the development schedule – but not quite business as usual, either.

Given the progress that Blender’s development groups have made on other aspects of the software – notably, the new Cycles renderer and motion-tracking tools – it will be interesting to see what comes of the UI team.

Read Ton Roosendaal’s post on the Blender development blog
(Much more detailed than this brief summary, and worth reading in full)

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  • Henrik Ryosa

    I don’t buy that it’s uber-complicated to build a new layer on top, especially an optional one that simply makes the program useable for those who aren’t used to this non-obvious system.. nobody asked them to rip out the guts and start over again from what I’ve seen, we just want an alternative. Many developers see the logic in having a system like “basic layout”, “advanced layout”, “pro layout” etc. Shame that it sounds like they are so non-committal about something that has gotten this much attention.

  • Wesley Lordis

    Quit bitching about the cost and do a kickstarter to raise the funds. How many times has the program been downloaded? Take a week, do a cost analysis for how much you need to raise to fix it and post that figure. GIVE THE USERS WHAT THEY WANT!!!

  • Hagop Kaneboughazian

    or you can just use modo :) as modo’s interface is exactly like this guys is showing

  • Wesley Lordis

    When modo has fluid sims and is free I might.

  • Christian Bohm

    I totally understand the point that this is a lot of work, especially on a software that has so much code and limited resources . But to say “a really good UI […} is not just an abstract independent layer” is plain wrong. It’s a core concept in software development to do just that. A really good UI absolutely should be an abstract layer (although this is quite hard to do.)

  • Hirazi Blue

    One gets the distinct impression Ton Roosendaal himself should be replaced before any serious overhaul of the UI is to be expected.

  • Brighton

    Man, his full reply is filled with infuriating ignorance. Especially the section “We make Blender for Blender Users”

  • Guest

    I have always detested that comment. Also his derogatory comments about Maya users and how he doesn’t care about pleasing Maya users but then says he wants Blender more involved with professional production and VFX. Guess what? Most of us who have worked professionally ARE MAYA USERS! Doesn’t mean we are fanboys but we still use Maya to make a living but because of this he openly states he does not care about us.

    I use Maya at work to pay the bills
    F#@k me, right?

  • Henrik Ryosa

    I wonder who they were developing it for in the beginning? Nobody I guess. That is right, every “Blender user” starts off as a user of other software.

  • Manny Lopez

    Yeah, well look everyone can’t get what they want have you used Zbrush that interface is intense to understand and yet they use it in the industry because it gets the results that they need for a movie or game, same thing blender is for the user but we also need to look at who started this Andrew from Blenderguru was the one now if all the community said we need a new interface maybe then it would change but i dont see everyone doing that. I use Maya and Blender both and i love both but Blender i love more because its powerful it takes time to learn the program but it worth it in the end.

  • Henrik Ryosa

    Punctuation never hurts… Unless you get an apostrophe in the eye, that is.

  • nickcollins

    I totally agree with Christian. My first take was, “What?! Did he really just say that?” Then I kind of wrote it off as perhaps the language stack they are using just is that way, because every modern platform I know of, whether Java with Swing, SWT, JavaFX, or .Net with WPF, or even web technologies like Flash/Flex, Silverlight, or any Javascript UI library all follow some sort of MV* approach where the view, even at the component level, is abstracted away from the behavioral logic.

    Now if their code is such that the look and feel of the UI is not separated from the behavioral logic, than addressing that I would think would be a top priority. That would allow not only for the UI to be more rapidly evolved with the other capabilities of the application, but could potentially allow enterprising developers to offer complete UI skin replacements, similarly to Android launchers, so that users could load a UI pack, perhaps even with a set of keyboard shortcut preferences, to have Blender emulate Maya, or Lightwave, or some other 3D tool they might like the layout and UI of.

  • comeinandburn

    I think what people don’t realize is that Blender is not your average
    Commercial software and it’s not just a free replacement for [insert
    your favourite software here]. It’s a community project that fills the
    needs of its users, which happens to be small to medium independent
    studios. This is exactly why he says “Blender is for Blender users”,
    this doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t welcome, it means that Blender is
    not going to be a clone of everything else that’s out there.

    Being
    open source the primary goal is to make a tool that’s accessible to
    everyone, everywhere in the world, not just for the people that can
    afford it. Be thankful that Blender, and Ton, are doing what they are.
    The end result is that the big guys can no longer sit on there hands
    and stop innovating. Everyone benefits from what they’re doing, I for
    one am greatful for all their hard work.

    .. and for anyone that thinks they can walk up with a fistful of money and make things happen, you’re obviously mistaken:)

  • Lsleepless

    If Blender would go in the direction proposed it would be a bigger threat to Autodesk and the like. What are the chances that this is also the very reason its not being pushed as heavily?

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