Blender Foundation unveils Blender Apps
Suggested use cases for Blender Apps, which will be able to run without Blender installed, include presenting projects interactively to clients, and building new pipeline tools for VFX and game development.
Custom versions of Blender for project presentations or pipeline tool development
The Blender Foundation describes Blender Apps simply as “experiences powered by Blender”.
In practice, that seems to mean cut-down versions of Blender tailored to specific use cases, supplemented by custom keymaps, add-ons, and asset libraries.
Those use cases include education: the blog post includes a prototype of a ‘Blender 101’ app – a name the Foundation has used for a proposed simplified version of Blender for teaching the software in schools.
For professional work, the proposal suggests that artists could use the Blender App format to present visualisation projects interactively to clients without those clients needing to know how to use Blender.
Other potential uses include pipeline tools: the example given is building an image viewer by packaging Blender’s video sequencer, image editor and annotation tools, and stripping out its other functionality.
New .blendx file format for simple Blender Apps
For simpler apps, the Foundation proposes a new file format, .blendx. Double-clicking on the .blendx file would launch the app on machines on which Blender itself is already installed.
More complex apps would be distributed as compressed archives containing both the .blendx file and custom content like alternative keymaps and visual themes, or supplementary scrips and assets.
Apps that need to be completely portable could be distributed as archives containing the Blender executable itself, removing the need to have the software installed on a user’s machine.
In all cases, the code of the app would inherit Blender’s GNU Public License.
Builds on the existing Application Template system
Although Blender Apps are still an early-stage proposal, some of the functionality requied to author them is already available via the Application Templates system introduced in Blender 2.80.
Templates enable users to customise Blender to load with a custom UI, keymap and startup content.
The Blender Foundation now proposes to make it possible to store templates as part of wider profiles that will be used to define apps: you can find more technical details via the blog post linked below.
You can also submit feedback on the proposal before development starts in the comments to the post.