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Completely Lost in Blender

65

Afbeelding 23.pngHere's an article that may surprise you: Rosalyn Hunter describes her first encounter with Blender in her article 'COMPLETELY LOST in Blender - The untutorial part 1'. Hoping to create a Ghost in the Shell avatar in a few minutes the experience is, lets say, somewhat confusing.

WAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! HOW DO I GET OUT OF HERE?

Wait, wait, deep breaths. I can see a little triangle at the top next to a menu that says file. I click the triangle. The menu goes away. OH NO!

And these are just a few quotes from the post.

Why do I mention this article here? You may think I'm nuts, but I really enjoyed it. I remember the exact same emotions when I first loaded Blender eight years ago (especially the one about closing the program ;-), and I am sure many of you do as well.

Apart from that, it shows that people still have difficulty finding the right place to start using Blender.

Let me ask you this: if you could give Rosalyn *one* piece of advice that will help her learn how to use Blender, what would it be? Or: which tip or tutorial gave you the epiphany that made you keep using Blender?

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.

65 Comments

  1. unsettlingsilence on

    I remeber being totally lost, and yet it was exciting all the same.
    The best place to start, I think, is with the video tutorials.
    http://www.blender.org/cms/Video_Tutorials.396.0.html
    Watch them once then follow allong the second time.
    After that it is hard to beat Jim Chronister's book on using Blender. http://www.blendernation.com/2006/02/25/blender-basics-2nd-edition/
    I played and played with other 3d software, but it wasn't until blender that everything came together and I really felt like I could do something.

  2. Hahahaha indeed a funny article. I recognise what she is exploring, I thought exactly the same when I started with Blender 2.23 'What the hack do all those buttons do? and were can I add a cube?' wish directly turned into a removal of Blender. Afther 2 lessons of 3ds Max on school I thought how much something would cost to have at home and play around with it, and when someone told me that it was ways behind my budget I downloaded blender and forced myself to take the time to learn it, and finally I could afther a few days.

    I'm sure she'll find out it was worth the swet and stress, I'm sure, because she wants to do something with it and that drives the spirit of learning Blender. :)

  3. Same problem here. Loaded Blender the first time, couldn't figure the first thing out intuitively, closed the program, came back many moons later, after playing with DAZ|Studio, absolutely 100% determined to make my OWN models using Blender.

    I found the tutorials, and I absolutely swear by the tutorials. I'm not an RTFM type, but I now have every manual and tutorial possible on my computer, and I'm constantly using them to learn more about Blender... if I want to do something, it's only a matter of time before I figure out which feature allows it in Blender.

  4. Ahh, those fond memories when Blender 2.23 was still the norm. It's incredible how far this project has come since then. I can also recall how steep the learning curve was, but now I feel so confident using Blender. But for total beginners it must still be really hard.

  5. And I forgot that ONE PIECE of invaluable advice: get the Blender 2.3 Guide (or the latest edition of the Blender Guide). And I mean the real book, not the online version. This really made all the difference in my learning experience.

  6. Hahah, yep... We all remember that =D

    I remember the first time after using countless 3D programs with ease, I tried out blender. I thought "WTF!?" All these buttons are in weird places! Strange interface, strange way of doing things =D

    Well my first experience was 2.2... then 2.27... then again in 2.37... =P

    Then I came back in 2.41 and it was a breeze to work with for some reason, so I've stuck with it this time =)

  7. heh. funny. The one thing to remember? Hover your mouse pointer over the buttons to pop up a help message.

    I remember the thing that made blender actually usable to me was when I learned you can draw a polyline the same way you can draw a curve in any drawing program. After that everything was shiny.

  8. Hmmm.... One piece of advice, don't give up!

    Another piece of advice, buy the book (or print out the online documentation).

    And yet another piece of advice, explore: click on all the buttons, hold a mouse button down.

    P.S. Almost forgot the best advice of all, check out BlenderNation, Elysium and other online resources to ask others or find out how they did it.

  9. I can just get by on Blender, adding simple primitives, moving the vertices and the like, but the really basic stuff like deleting unused materials, centering the centre point to an object, aligning objects, still don't have a clue! lol

  10. I agree with unsettlingsilence in that the video tutorials, especially those in Getting Started, really kept me from going crazy. So, that's the one piece of advice.

    I'd used other model programs that had only one or two areas of solid functionality but then you had to find an animation program or one for texture/UV mapping. All that tracking down was worse so I went through the video tutorials and then the guide. Now I think that Noob to Pro ( http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Noob_to_Pro ) is a great second.

    Many of the videos haven't been updated or expanded to include the newer 2.4x functionality. Maybe some of us non-noobs can revitalize this area to help those coming up. Just a thought.

  11. The great advice and simpathies not withstanding... this is the sort of feed backBlender should be getting about the interface. Not all of the learning curve needs to be this steep. There are other programs that are less organized that are still easier to use(not for free mind you. But time is money as they say).
    Still, stick with it and I agree about the video tutorials. Greybeard has some good starter stuff.

  12. which tip or tutorial gave you the epiphany that made you keep using Blender?

    Blender Juice, from Robert Star and... yours, Mr. Bart.

  13. Sandra Gilbert (dreamsgate) on

    LOL, poor thing. I remember being there myself once upon a long time ago. First time I opened Blender there were so many buttons, that I panicked and promptly deleted the whole program. A year later I came back and figured it out.

    The thing that helped me the most were the current tutorials of the time and the forums at the old NaN site. Since then I still read every tutorial that comes out and I play with all the buttons every chance I get. The key is to be patient. I seem to remember doing that house tutorial in "Tutorial Guide #1" like a dozen or more times before I finally ended up with a house.

  14. People would have the same exact "what the hell do I do now" experience if they loaded up Autocad, Illustrator, quark express, or photoshop.

    The user interface of Blender is no more complex than any of those those.

  15. I for many years used software such as 3dsMax, Lightwave, Cinema 4d, etc. No standard exists for execution except those minor instances where they steal/borrow from one and other. All software has a learning curve which can be said to increase when one must unlearn other paradigms. Essentially my problem is that in my experience teaching some friends to use Blender I have found that those whom have no experience find it easy to use and those whom know even a little knowledge struggle. I still await a few things which should be apart of the interface but for many reasons Blender has one the industries best workflows reducing the number of actions required for simple things. No its not a pretty little Mac app but as with those applications and ALL 3d interfaces simplicity works for simple execution but the complication in 3d design results in too many options for a single interface. Which is why so many are buried in tabs and buttons. Bryce and Poser are very easy to use but lack of depth results in the poor quality and limited function which makes it so easy to identify the app from the image.

  16. "People would have the same exact “what the hell do I do now” experience if they loaded up Autocad, Illustrator, quark express, or photoshop."

    I partially disagree. In my OS (Mac) right click is contextual menu, left click to select. That works for files, menus, and in the vast majority of programs.

    Out of the box, in Blender, left click does something funny with the crosshairs, and doesn't select the square when you first open the program.

    In Illustrator, Photoshop and XPress, a tool palate with visual cues is right in front of you. In Photoshop and Illustrator, if you select the paintbrush or pencil tools, you can immediately paint -- somewhat intuitive, as if you picked up a wet brush of paint in a kindergarten playroom.

    More advanced stuff you would need more help with, but if you just wanted to play with the toy for a few minutes, you would get *somewhere*. There's "undo" where it is everywhere else in the system. Cut, copy, paste... so any basic familiarity with your OS lends itself to some immediate proficiency in those programs.

    No idea about Autocad, but that's why cad people get big bucks ;)

    Blender's interface may or may not mesh with some gui desktop linux flavor's standards -- but in what program is space bar the key for bringing up a menu? :) Even KDE uses left click to select. Yes you can swap those in preferences for Blender -- but guess where those preferences ARE? Who would ever think you have to drop the top menubar down because they're hidden above the top edge of the screen?

    And don't get me started on not being able to change the keyboard mapping :P :) I love blender; it's become second nature to me. But it was work, not play.

  17. Chris is right. It isn't really that hard to do basic things, neither is it in photoshop and probably not the others either, but when you want to do some harder things than meta balls then things started to get harder.

    I learnt Blender through starting with metaballs (no tutorials or anything) to do some simple objects like (scaling, moving and other stuff to make simple shapes) it was hard (the only thing that made me keep Blender is that on a site it stood that I needed Blender to do a game. Then a week or two later I found some tutorials.

    @Bart: The more the merrier. I really think you should put it up. I haven't seen it but if people remember it then it's probably good.

  18. Hehe, I was just *waiting* for the interface arguments to start. The interface was not the point though, so let's return to the question at hand: given the interface, what do you think is the best way for a new user to start learning Blender? What is your 'killer' tip?

  19. I'm talking about getting useful data out of those programs, not "I want to play a little bit of them"

    Put a tyro in front of Illustrator or Quark express and tell them to get something useful done (beyond kindergarten level stuff) and you'll find that context right clicking and pretty eye candy won't let anymore progress won't get them far.

    Any serious program needs some serious learning/study if one wants to get a good level of results from them.

    Dumbing down stuff so that folks can get that initial "kindergarten experience" isn't going to help them much if they expect to be able to achieve advanced level results with that same level of ease. Autocad is a prime example of this as are the more advanced functionality of Illustrator and photoshop.

    I (and other people I know) learned blender from a status of being total tyros to 3d programs, yet we weren't discouraged? Why? Because we had the common sense to realize that not every program needs or has a consistent way of working and that learning a different way is sometimes worth the effort. And since we didn't have a set in stone view of how such things work from using other packages, we found learning blender as our first 3d program to be simple and fairly intuitive.

  20. And for the record, autocad is no harder to learn than blender. Like blender, it does things in a very different way than other programs, but in a way that makes sense within itself.

  21. I feel sympathy for this poor gal. I first jumped into Blender four years ago, because I had a friend who had done some cool stuff. I opened it and stared at the interface (2.26, mind you) for about five minutes in silence. Then I went to his house. He got me started, and it's been nothing but fun. I surpassed him a long time ago, and though I'm no Blender expert, I can actually make things now, and the program doesn't scare me at all. In fact, I love. Now I have newbies asking me questions, and I have to remind myself what it's like to be in their seat. It's terrifying. Like a roller coaster. But, also like a roller coaster, it's definitely worth the ride.

  22. the fist tut i did (and they were few at this time)was the "animated gear" one. well described, quick and end with a animation.
    it was a time before the C key. the 1.72.
    i think the old NaN site was easier to find tut a

  23. The best way to start with Blender ist playing around. Don't try to finish a project. You should know that speed of use is more important in the desgin of Blender than ease of learning.

  24. I read the old Getting Started tutorial from the NAN site and thought "this doesn't look bad..." Tried it out and in 5 minutes time I was so frustrated because it didn't seem consistent. Gave it up until I had the summer to work on it because I saw the potential in the classroom. Then I learned "you have to exit Edit Mode BEFORE making another object so they're not joined together!" That was about 6 years ago. Love it!

  25. I can't understand thouse n00bs. Back when I was a total n00b and used Win98 and installed GIMP the first time, I had no big problem using it. In fact I could better handle it then photoshop!

    Well blender is a different thing. Blender really is a bit complicated, but what do you expect from a professional 3D moddeling tool? When I first used blender I had no idea what to expect, so I wasn't suprised. Yes, the interface was a handicap and I didn't use blender back then very much. But still back then I knew things like "Alt+Tab", "Alt+F4", "Win+R" and "Strg+Alt+Entf", and therefore a fullscreen-app is no cause for panic. Theese are the very basic key-combinations you have to learn when you want to use a PC (under Linux they are configurable, but often they are: Alt+Tab, Alt+F4, Alt+F2, Strg+Alt+Esc or Strg+Alt+Backspace etc.). Without them you are lost.

  26. Bart asked: What is your ‘killer’ tip?

    Think 3d! Who cares about the buttons? You don't need any of them!

  27. GreyShirtGuy on

    I have idea....

    Like many other people have already said - "I remember that feeling too".
    Because of all the "standard interface paradigms" you get used to being able to pick-up an new program and learn it on-the-fly by playing around inside it (aided by your thorough knowledge of "standard application interfaces").
    But Blender's interface *is* different...
    Since then (like most other people), I found that reading the manuals/tutes/etc was the only way to learn to use it.
    Finally, here come my suggestion:
    "How about integrating into the main window some sort of *really obvious* link to an intro to using blender tute/guide/etc"?

    It would be analgous to a great big (that can be seen from anywhere) flashing neon-lit tourist info sign with map and other key info for visitors who find themselves lost in this strange new town

  28. Yeah, read the official manual and don't expect to learn it all in only an hour. Thats what i did, and within 3 days i was modeling my first human head using only the G, S, E, and F-keys... I LOVED it, and still do :) Please never change the interface just to accommodate new users, in time they will learn to love it.

  29. Yes, forgot to mention: I love the interface as it is, too. Well except the scripts-interface. And that's because of its crappy API. I allways see how horrible the code must be, which draws a script UI, so I can't enjoy the UI of scripts.

  30. note to self.... harasses ui designer at siggrapth :P

    No really,,, it's time someone that knows ui design be hired somehow to redesign blenders work flow and buttons layout.. I know you all think it's fast once you know it... BUt it can be even faster, and most other people wont just give up which can lead to more users... and faster work time to start produceing better work...

    All just maybes but that ui is wack!

  31. I remember the exact emotions like Rosalyn, when i started in Blender. I couldn't find out how to do anything in Blender. But then i found a very useful Danish guide, by Thommy Helgevold. It explaines everything about Blender. And i have been using Blender since, and it really helped me.

    Rasmus
    Theck it out, doese of you who can read Danish: http://www.hamsterking.com

  32. Please don't dumb-down the UI. It's perfectly fine...once you LEARN it. Sometimes you have to dust off the old brain and learn a few new things, learning Blender is one of those times. LEARN it, LOVE it. Then, go back to the other applications and realize how clumsy THEY are.

  33. i love the quick blender gui ...but,

    but what i hate: when the mousepointer moves to to the upper right corner and for an "unknown reason":)and unfortunely the mouse drops to the floor and s***F**k blender is closed: thanx for using ......
    Just a liittle menu or just the need to push two times on the x would help sometimes calm my nerves...
    Why is there only a remark whe you push the shortcut ctrl+Q (Quit Blender?)

    ..of course the most time i know what i do... :)

  34. Terry Hancock on

    Ha! I think Rosalyn is trying to communicate the frustrations of using a new program, and Blender probably tops the charts for "Most Frightening Interface".

    One thing that just occured to me is that Blender has quite a complex keyboard interface. Most modern end-user GUI apps don't do that (OTOH, most 3D and engineering apps do). It would be quite useful to publish a keyboard mask (e.g. a collection of little stickers to put on your keyboard). I remember I used to have one of these for Word Perfect (back before Intel PCs typically had mice at all!).

    I've seen commercial manufactured keyboards that provide this kind of support, but of course most Blender newbies aren't going to buy a new keyboard for a program they haven't learned yet. OTOH, they may very welll download a PDF key guide/ key mask, etc.

  35. Hi Terry.
    That thing you are talking about is called the blenderhotkeyboard.

    Ofcourse you need to read stuff (google) to find out where to find information.
    And for most people that's just to much work. They step into the cockpit of a boeing 747 and start complaining that the interface is so confusing. They've driven a car before so it's all to blaim on the airplane company that they can't pilot a plane... ;)

    So, again, think 3d, and don't use any of the buttons, they are only there to confuse you.

    http://3d-graphic.hachmeister.org/uploads/media/blender_hotkeys.pdf
    http://download.blender.org/documentation/BlenderHotkeyReference.pdf

    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_HotKeys/All

    And a list of nice tutorials by Bart:
    http://www.eskimo.com/~johnnyb/computers/blender/Blender_Tutorial_List.html

    A, yes, then, what are you learning? 3d or Blender?
    Seriously. I read she wants to write a best selling poem with the modern incredible design on Open office without ever using the software before, by looking at the interface...
    Ofcourse you will have a hard time.
    But I find it a very funny piece. And blogged with a healthy attitude.

  36. I guess the first step after install, if you've ever used a 3D tool, is to open the Quick Start Guide that comes with Blender and that is before searching for a tut. But as many of us, we didn't knew that a quick start guida came with Blender when we started :P (In my case I discover it just months ago). The print it, and then u could find an easy tutorial to follow in my case I started with just Meta meshes and made a stick man, cause a friend told me thats the way I will get used to the 3D window just G, R , S and some X, Y, Z, and thats all. Well thats the way I started but of course I have one tut that I loved to start to. Its in spanish but here is the link.

    http://es.geocities.com/jm00092/blender/tutoriales/cbm/index.htm

  37. Terry Hancock on

    Google doesn't knowabout any "blenderhotkeyboard".

    747's are complicated largely because few people need to learn how to fly them, but there are many airplanes that are simpler to fly. And the analogy breaks down there. After all, this is software, there is no engineering design tradeoff that requires a "good Cessna" to be a poor "747". Well-designed UIs provide a ramp from easy to hard: easy things are easy, hard things are hard.

    Your OpenOffice example shows this: no one (Rosalyn included) would have difficulty writing a very nice poem in OO.o -- it's only when you try to do really difficult stuff that you would run into trouble, and by then, you've learned how.

    Blender lacks that kind of graded slope to allow new users to learn it by experimentation.

    There's a practical reason for that, which is that Blender, like the 747, was only intended to be used by professionals (at least originally). Given substantial work-related motivation, they could overcome the learning curve.

    It's harder for amateurs (with jobs and lives and families) to justify that kind of contiguous-block time investment to learn an application which may or may not be useful. And even if you are that committed, it's still going to be hard. Especially on the first time.

    And I happen to know that's what Rosalyn's "COMPLETELY LOST in" series is all about -- first attempts with unfamiliar software packages. It's all about precisely that kind of intrepidity -- you pick up a new tool and you hack at it until (hopefully) you get it to work. Of course, 'some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you'. :-D

    It's not at all about "blaming" anybody for the problems -- it's about the experiences that you have to go through if you want to learn new software. Many people are timid, and won't do it. Many are afraid of precisely the kind of newbie-bating that can be found in this thread (though I notice a lot of people seemed to 'get' the article, so it's not as bad as I expected).

    I also know she' s eventually going to learn Blender, because we need it for our game project. ;-)
    And so am I. But I know it's not easy (and I managed to get further than she did, even -- you can find a few Blender renderings in my earlier articles, also in FSM -- fortunately I was mostly doing mechanical stuff).

  38. Terry Hancock on

    Ah ha ha ha. It's called the "Blenderboard" and here is a link:

    Blenderboard.gif

    I can't speak for how up to date it is, but the keys I already know look right.

    Then there's baby, which I *want*:

    Optimus Keyboard

    According to the page it will be "open source" and there will be an "SDK", so
    I'm hoping that means "there will be an open source SDK", though it doesn't
    quite say that. I will have MANY applications for this tool, of which Blenderizing
    is only one.

    So I was able to find it, thanks for the hint.

    Cheers!

  39. "Your OpenOffice example shows this: no one (Rosalyn included) would have difficulty writing a very nice poem in OO.o"
    If they would be any good in writting poems. If they are not, no gui is going to help that. And there is a difference between writing and publishing. I don't believe anybody can create a publishable ready poem in OO.o by looking at it's Gui.

    "It’s harder for amateurs (with jobs and lives and families) to justify that kind of contiguous-block time investment to learn an application which may or may not be useful. And even if you are that committed, it’s still going to be hard. Especially on the first time."

    This is not blender specific. After 7 years of using blender it took me 1.5 years to master Maya. I've seen xsi and can just about render an image with that after pooking at the interface for a whole week. I'm not even talking about 3d max.
    But yes, a better start into 3d might be sketch-up. For that I would also first follow the tutorials and not randomly start hitting buttons.

    "you pick up a new tool and you hack at it until (hopefully) you get it to work. "
    Yes it gives funny blogs, and less dangerous to do something like this with software then (say) with a chainsaw.
    ' I never did any sculpting and I saw other people create sexy statues of their love-ones. Now I found this Gazoline powered chainsaw and my husband says it's interface is improved so let's see if I can create a Rodin. '
    If you consider this

    "It’s not at all about “blaming” anybody for the problems —"
    I think you mean; "It’s not at all about “blaming” anybody for *her* problems —"

    "it’s about the experiences that you have to go through if you want to learn new software."
    I think you mean;"it’s about the experiences that you have to go through if you want to learn new software by looking at its interface."

    "Many people are timid, and won’t do it."
    That's a shame. Blender is released first as free and now as open software to make it widely available. But please do read into what 3d modeling and animation in general is
    (just as learning some words is handy when starting to write poems) and try to show some interest into blender by reading the documentation. It's not written because people are bored (or not have lifes and jobs and families) but because they are an essential part of the tool. Ignoring the manual will kill you when using a shainsaw.

    "newbie-bating that can be found in this thread"
    I havend seen any newbie-bating in this thread, people share their first experiences with blender and share ideas on how to improve on their blender skills.

    "I also know she’ s eventually going to learn Blender"
    I have not met much people who did not. And most of them who are serious about using it bless the interface once they are beyond the "Let's see if this proggy can create a rembrandt for me".

  40. Won't you just STOP the useless fight over graphical interfaces... now we have those saying it's totally awesome, we have those saying it's totally terrible. now... no 3D app will ever be incredibly easy, and will neither have a perfect interface either. instead of fighting over uselessely you should discuss together how to make it better, or write tutorials.

  41. “I also know she’ s eventually going to learn Blender”
    I have not met much people who did not. And most of them who are serious about using it bless the interface once they are beyond the “Let’s see if this proggy can create a rembrandt for me”.

    I doubt that. I've tried to learn Blender to about 6 persons and everyone gave up except the last but I started to teach him yster day.

  42. "I doubt that. I’ve tried to learn Blender to about 6 persons and everyone gave up"
    :) And this is ofcourse to blaim on the blender interface, not your teaching skills.

    "Won’t you just STOP the useless fight ... or write tutorials."
    The initial blender hotkey list is by me. I think some amount of people has used it and seen it as a life saver. I've taped most of the blender conference and put them online. But there will always be people who want 'the easy way out' ie. master a skill by looking at their tool. You are right, it's to silly to take serious. Gives a funny blog though.

  43. Terry Hancock on

    Joeri,
    You keep talking about how R should've read the tutorials. Maybe you missed the part where she mentioned doing just that before even starting this project? You're pretty defensive about this whole subject, which I think proves the need for this kind of article to be written.

    I don't really want to spend the time explaining why. It's evident to me that a lot of people here "got" the point of the article, and I'm pretty sure that an accurate analysis of why would draw nothing but more flames from those who didn't.

    I myself never would've thought of taking this tack on the subject, but I'm glad Rosalyn did.

  44. Well this blog and discussion somehow has made me think about this age old debate in a partly new way. Maybe this is old hat to you'all but it strikes me as a division of 2 types of person.

    1. Ambitious - expects 3D software to acheive alot, to be deep and technical. Plans to create work over considerable time. Will read ALL docs first, pick the software that meets their requirements and study it on its own "Terms" until very proficient. Thier expectations of the ability of the software are High and expect similar dedication from fellow users\learners.

    2. Modest - has a more imediate (specific) goal in mind. Feels that a simple task sould be simple to achieve. Likes to make aleast some progress quickly ie, plonk an object in 3d space and rotate, pan and zoom round it. Much the same way as when entering a new environment, people like to size it up and get comfortable.

    One type will gain motivation from feature lists, the other from first impressions.

    If you ask me both are valid and the easiest way ahead would be to fork blender, with one version sacrificing efficiency for an easier learning curve. containing more common and simpler interface concepts, big clear buttons, (and loads of point'nclickn hehe) etc.

    At the end of the day as long as modest users could make some progress in the first hour, blender would see more use.

  45. Luckybreak:

    I absolutely disagree about forking blender. Twice the work? No. Way. Let all the cheerful programmers concentrate on one central Blender, thank you!

    However, a python guru could develop an in-Blender quickie guide/tutorial. A screen could pop up when it's run the first time "I see you've never run this before, here's a great starter tutorial..." whether it links to tutorials online, or python guides in blender itself.

    I don't think the interface should be changed, but there could be customizable keyboard map sets that could be swapped in and out. Those of us used to the current mapping would have the "Classic" keymap, those people starting out could use the "Mac" or "Windows" map... where control-C is copy/paste, for example, where left-click selects the object, right click brings up the menu, and *maybe* holding the space bar allows people to drag the interface instead of the alt key (if that's possible, and that's not incredibly intuitive or OS-centered either). Just that type of consideration alone would lead to people having a half clue as to how to proceed, and give them that "first look" that you're talking about. Even if everyone recommends switching to the classic keymap after the initial look-see, it would lead to people being actually interested, which is half the point.

    I turned away from blender because I wanted that first glance at the system and it behaved counter-intuitively. I came back because I wanted a serious and free 3d modeling application, and I thankfully found tutorials. I agree about the current keymaps being fine, but for a few nitpicks about using Blender on the Mac (I can't re-map F9 in the OS to save my life! It's quite annoying.). I also found the interface so confusing it delayed my starting to learn Blender by a good 9 months. I think ensuring that people can easily find the tutorials that everyone loves and holds so dear is the important part. Also, having one centralized list of tutorials, with links off the page for each language I suppose, would be terrific. Right now to find "that tutorial I watched 3 months ago..." I have to look around at a half-dozen tutorial link lists. That would definitely be helpful.

  46. Terry Hancock on

    """
    Maybe this is old hat to you’all but it strikes me as a division of 2 types of person.

    1. Ambitious - expects 3D software to acheive alot, to be deep and technical.
    2. Modest - has a more imediate (specific) goal in mind. Feels that a simple task sould be simple to achieve.
    One type will gain motivation from feature lists, the other from first impressions.

    If you ask me both are valid and the easiest way ahead would be to fork blender,
    """

    NNOOOO!!!!

    Bad idea. The two goals do NOT conflict -- this is a false dichotomy. There is nothing about the difficulty of Blender for newbies that is essential to its success for pros. Likewise, newbies don't want a special dumbed-down version. They see the beautiful renderings by pros using Blender, and they want to get on the path to making them. People are not looking for a separate slow road, they are looking for an on-ramp.

    There are two things that are going on here. One is that people have to learn that it's *normal* to have this kind of experience with a new piece of software.

    That was actually R's point: "It's okay, we all go through this, it's not your fault". That's really needed, because the minute you express frustration with the interface some bozo will come out and tell you "Well it IS all your fault, because you're an idiot who thinks it should be easy, and then gets upset when it's not -- go home to your mama you little *girl*" and then starts talking about 747s and how amazingly macho and proficient they are for having learned how to use it (IOW, from their PoV, 'the harder, the better').

    It's all about adolescent male psychology. There's always some bully who's insecure and has to defeat his own feelings of inadequacy by dumping on the newbie. In an all-male environment, this kind of works, because the the new guy plays 'low man on the totem pole', gets angry and tries to prove himself by learning the tough program so he can "show" them "he's not a *girl*!". It's all part of primate psychology and the 'pecking order'.

    But that's pretty the much opposite of the typical female reaction. They think "Oh these people are all jerks, lets go somewhere else where I don't have to listen to pissing contests" (if they're self-aware enough to recognize the problem) or "Oh, it *must* be me, I'm just not smart enough to do this" (if they're basically insecure about their ability with the computer).

    If you pay attention to the way female-dominated groups react to this kind of problem, it's totally different: They band together in groups and actually *support* each other emotionally when it comes to frustrations. They say "it's okay we all have to do that, because it's just hard". And that makes the woman want to do it, in order to "belong" to the group. For those that didn't 'get' the blog, that's what it's all about. I don't think Ros immediately realized that's why she needed to write it, but I think that's what it is. Ultimately, women have different psychological problems when faced with frustration, and they cope with them differently.

    (Side point: this can drive guys crazy -- I spent about 3 mo working in a nearly all-female office environment in the early 90s, and I nearly needed a straightjacket by the end of it).

    THIS is the reason why there's only 2% women in the pool of free software developers and Gnome is spending money on figuring out why: It's because the social dynamics of the community are driven by the mindsets of pre-teen boys (some of whom are in their 40s and ought to know better, but that's another story).

    We like to imagine ourselves rational beings, but we do so much on hormones and instinct, even in the high-tech world. It's an amazing thing to watch, really. (And a little bit of a sad commentary on the human condition, but hey, it apparently worked for our ancestors or we wouldn't be here today, so try to be philosophical about it).

    Anyway, that's only one response -- the way you change the users and the culture to deal with this kind of problem (which is NOT unique to Blender, though at the moment Blender is one of the worst offenders -- afterwards I might mention xcircuit, gEDA, Emacs, vi, xfig, anything to do with configuring a Linux server, and maybe even Gimp (though it seems quite comfortable to me now)).

    But as for how to improve Blender? Well, the truth is, from what I've seen, the hot-key mappings are totally random and illogical, so I can't really buy the "Oh they're great" argument. But you still shouldn't change them, and that's not because they are any good, but because so many people have already learned them (and there is a degree to which key mappings are doomed to become incomprehensible as they get more complex, no matter how carefully you design them).

    Nor is it really all that good an idea to provide multiple methods to do everything -- that just makes things really complicated. So the problem becomes, how do you *teach* Blender -- or rather how do you set people on the path of learning it for themselves?

    The main issue is PACKAGING of Blender. The program needs to lead you to the tutorial right after installation and every time you start it up. Then you provide an option somewhere down in the menus to turn the on-ramp off for experienced user. You see the trick is, you have to be an experienced user in order to turn off the training wheels -- isn't that clever? :-)

    People seem to act like UI issues are rocket science, but sheesh, it's really pretty trivial. You just have to have more empathy and realize what the new user sees. You have to be careful about jargon -- don't use it until you know the person addressed knows it. Which is NOT the same as not using it at all -- I find that the most frustrating thing about Windows, because it's constantly asking you stupid questions or using roundabout phrases instead of the obvious and quick jargon-correct terminology. No, the point is that the system should teach the jargon.

    The idea of tutorials, of course, is great. But the existing tutorials do have a tendency to be a bit haphazard about their approach (which tutorial is the obvious starting place for instance?). You have a situation where you have '1792 hatches, windows, and portholes, but NO FRONT DOOR'.

    Consider this -- when you open Blender, what is the "big first step"? What's the key thing to do first?

    With Gimp, it's easy: "click the right mouse button on the picture -- everything proceeds from there". Once you learn that, the system draws you in. You immediately start learning. That was the big insight. Of course, at one level that was a failing, because most people assume they need to click the *left* button. But once you start thinking Unix and Desktop Environments like Gnome, KDE, and CDE, it makes sense -- because "right click on the desktop" is where the application menu is. It's just a different 'common sense'.

    If I'm not mistaken, the closest thing Blender has to this is to realize that it's really keyboard-centric. You use the mouse for maneuvering, but all the important commands are driven from the keyboard. Plus they have NO logical connection to the key labels (or at least it's pretty foggy -- maybe it makes sense if you're Dutch). You should realize of course, that this seriously bucks the trend -- these days most applications are mouse-centric, and the keyboard goes virtually unused. That immediately sets up a conflict, because you've broken a key user expectation.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that the version I first used was sensitive to "mouse gestures". That's another new concept for most users, so that needs to be explained pretty early. The thing is, you've got to explain all this seemingly random stuff that happens when a new users starts trying to use the interface. Unexpected and irreversible results have the effect of causing a new user to "lock up" and become overly cautious. That retards the normal process of exploratory learning.

    OTOH, there's a hidden advantage to these conflicts, because you, as the designer, know that the power users are going to go straight to the keyboard. So you put the newbie-friendly help in the menus, where they expect it to be. And in those menus, and the help they provide, you TELL the new user they should learn the keyboard commands. You also make sure that some things can only be done via the keyboard -- that gives them a firm motivation to learn it (otherwise the userbase forks into 'mouse users' and 'keyboard users' -- and you still have an effective fork in the userbase and documentation, which is bad for the future of the software package).

    In the end "able to do simple things simply and capable of very complex things" is an achievable UI goal, and Blender is not as far away as you might think. Most of these things turn out to be minor tweaks, not major design changes.

  47. xand: I'm glad somebody else remembers 1.72! I was starting to feel old. I agree that the tutorials were MUCH easier to find on the old NaN site, and it was fun reading dutch (even though I don't know dutch...). I did not learn Blender quickly, but I did not struggle to grasp it either. I was learning 3DS Max at the same time, and I found Blender to be much easier and much more intuitive. I just read the vague tutorials available and looked at the ten or fewer example blends. Then I started pushing buttons until I knew what they all did. I figured I'd stop that method if my PC exploded.

    bart: I didn't read everyone else's lengthy posts, but here's my killer tip--Put a link to the blender 2.3 manual and the wiki on the same page as the main download. Label it with an enticing title like "Learn how to use Blender." Even better, I like the integrated help system using Python idea that was presented. The best would be to have an in-Blender HTML viewer that could be used to read the manual. Pack the most current manual with each distribution (or make an optional "with manual" download) and have it open from "Help >> How to Use Blender" or something else straightforward. Direct program icons to the manual would be helpful as well. I think the biggest problem is that new people do not know how to surf blender3d.org. I have watched several people try to find things, and I was shocked at their blindness.

    My bit for the interface argument: Blender's interface is unique, but it is worth learning. Now that I am familiar with it, I often catch myself trying to use Blender hotkeys in every other program I use. It does not need changed or dumbed down, it just needs patience.

  48. Terry Hancock: I just read your post, and I don't understand why you think the hotkeys are counter-intuitive. [G] = Grab, [S] = Scale, [R] = Rotate, [F] = "make Face" in edit mode, "Face mode" in object mode,[P] = Play game, [ctrl]+[P] = make Parent, and etc. How does [W] = Boolean? I don't know, but [B] was already taken for "Border select". The vast majority of hotkeys are letters related to their functions in English. What more do you want? You just need to memorize the word associated with each key or combo and start thinking it as a second language. I don't think "Press [G] to move" anymore. I think "Press grab" and my finger moves to the [G] key.

  49. Wow. I've never seen so many excuses given for not having the fortitude to sit down, shut up, and go through some very basic BEGINNER tutorials BEFORE launching into Blender (or any new application, especially when you have no real experience with the subject matter the software addresses) to try and create some 3D masterpiece. If you go back and read through Rosalyn's post, you'll realize that

    1.) She wanted to create a 3D portrait of herself similar to the graphics seen in "Ghost in the Shell". Have you seen that movie and the level of the graphics it contains? Is it even remotely reasonable for a beginner to have those expectations and then, upon failing, blame it on the software's interface?...

    2.) She stated that she had read through a few tutorials. It's clear that her reading through the tutorials and her attempts at using Blender happened at two separate times. Who here thinks that's a good idea? What IS a good idea is to actually go through a tutorial WHILE using Blender...duh.

    Anyway, according to Terry, most opinions here are symptoms of the excessive male macho. So, I guess I'll go off and quietly neuter myself for being such a bad boy...bad Kernon, BAD Kernon, sit... sit... good boy.

  50. Terry Hancock on

    """
    She wanted to create a 3D portrait of herself similar to the graphics seen in “Ghost in the Shell”. Have you seen that movie and the level of the graphics it contains? Is it even remotely reasonable for a beginner to have those expectations and then, upon failing, blame it on the software’s interface?…
    """

    Uh-huh, and I'll bet you started learning Blender because you wanted to make cubes and spheres, right?

    Come on, everybody starts because they see a really cool picture and they want to learn how. Don't be dense. The GiTS reference is there precisely *because* it's unrealistic goal. Sheesh.

    """
    She stated that she had read through a few tutorials. It’s clear that her reading through the tutorials and her attempts at using Blender happened at two separate times. Who here thinks that’s a good idea? What IS a good idea is to actually go through a tutorial WHILE using Blender…duh.
    """

    Well, duh, you are just SOOO smart, aren't you. I bet you've NEVER had this experience, right? You're always a good little boy who does what he's told, right? Uh-huh, rriii--gght.

    Get real. It's a story about someone's learning process. It's not "excuses". You guys read so much into this it's funny. I guess every time you admit to having trouble it's an "excuse" and every time you have difficulty you have to have someone to blame, and so you figure that's what everyone else is doing, too. It never occurs to you that someone might just choose to be HONEST.

    """
    Anyway, according to Terry, most opinions here are symptoms of the excessive male macho. So, I guess I’ll go off and quietly neuter myself for being such a bad boy…bad Kernon, BAD Kernon, sit… sit… good boy.
    """

    Sounds like a plan. ;-D

    Anyway, I happen to know there are two more installments in this blog series, so I'm really wondering what you're going to think of the rest of it. ;-D

  51. LOL! Well, when I started Blender sure, I had dreams of doing all sorts of things. But, I had enough sense to know that I couldn't start at the end of a learning process. I knew, as I suppose most people do, that I would have to take things one step at a time.

    "I bet you’ve NEVER had this experience, right? You’re always a good little boy who does what he’s told, right?"
    NO, I'm not always a "good little boy". However, I do always make it my practice to have reference materials readily available when I'm trying to learn new things in Blender. It saves a tremendous amount of time and frustration (it also helps eliminate the dreaded Blogs Gone Wild effect that we're seeing here).

    "Get real"
    I am real...I think. (EMO...E-EMO......don't you ever get tired of this?...)

    "It’s a story about someone’s learning process."
    Well, I never thought about it in that light before. I'll have to go back and watch the film again...you are talking about Elephants Dream right? ...i'm sorry, your posts are so long my mind tends to wander. ;)

    Anywho, I contend with you Terry in the name of fun (sort of). So, no hard feelings, huh? Happy Blendering!

    Somehow I knew you would approve of the neutering. :))

  52. "Get real. It’s a story about someone’s learning process. It’s not “excuses”. You guys read so much into this it’s funny. I guess every time you admit to having trouble it’s an “excuse” and every time you have difficulty you have to have someone to blame, and so you figure that’s what everyone else is doing, too. It never occurs to you that someone might just choose to be HONEST."

    I wouldn't exactly call it a "learning process" when you approach Blender like it's a 3D pinata. Where if you swing at it enough times, you're liable to bang something out of it. I don't think anyone's taking anything out of her post that isn't there. And the blaming is actually coming from her, not from "us guys".

    3D graphics are a lot more complicated than the average person realizes, no matter what software they're using. To make her blog more HONEST and relevant, she should try to create her desired graphic in other applications as well and then present the details of her successes and/or shortcomings. Now that would actually be something worth following...

    Cheers!

  53. When explaining somebody how to start with Blender.
    Say: it's easy like ABC !?

    First tell about the Tab-button (to know difference between object/edit mode is essential!)
    Then explain:
    A the A-button (select/deselect the dots...)
    B the B-button (how to select...tap once or tap twice)
    C the C-button ( Center so don't get lost in space)
    D the D-button (Different views of the cube)
    E the E-button (Extrude what you select!)
    F the F-button (you make a strange Face when in object mode?)
    G the Grab button

    Space to add new shapes.

    The num-pad doing the viewports is also very easy for newbies to understand. And then........direct them to the Blenderwiki and do the cookieman tutorial!

    Don't forget to tell to save your work because...

    You see it's as easy as the ABC; it took me years to read and write.
    Working with Blender since version 2.36 and still not knowing all the buttons....... :)

  54. Crissis:
    "I turned away from blender because I wanted that first glance at the system and it behaved counter-intuitively"
    There in is the rub. Most people do and understandbly Blender gets the (incorrect) stygma of a poor UI.

    Who knows though Crissis, if someone had pointed you to a link of a...
    --->>"Slightly redundant but behaves like you expect fork"

  55. ...ah... rest of my post got itself lost.

    Anyway I recall broken had some plans for the UI, I look forward to seeing them, and if new users take to them...
    ...The only way i learnt Blender was through the books....
    ...and honestly...will take my hat off and happily munch it the day blender is intuitive to new users...

  56. I remember my first try with blender - back in the days of 2.14; now I don't want to go off on any sob stories or anything but I remember finding [email protected]'s cave tutorial somewhere on the net - that's the very thing that got me started and also the first time I'd ever felt I'd achieved anything; so there you are! - epat.

  57. the first time i opened blender my first thought was that hmm how to rotate the view, then i thought that naah left click must select some thing, so i tried the mmd and it worked, yay i was sooo happy! well, ill wish her good luck with the learning, and no blenders gui IS easy, and wery beautiful, what i cant stand are 3ds max, well maya i can somewhat stand, and xsi is more like: "ok so this is it, and that is that, ok fine, ill go back to blender now!"

  58. Give us ASSIGNABLE HOTKEYS NOW! We need some configuration, some tweaking, the ability to dock/undock, and custom buttons/macros!

    I tried blender, gave up, and then started Using SILO. I'll use blender to rig, to maybe even render, but to start boxmodeling, Silo blows blender out of the water. Heck, even ZBrushes non-standard UI is easier. Blender has a lot of awesome features, but no easy way for newbies to use them. It's the EMACS, the DOS WordPerfect of the 3D modeling app world.

    Please, make the UI easier for newbies. Allow user-assignable keys and macros. :P

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