You're blocking ads, which pay for BlenderNation. Read about other ways to support us.

William Reynish' UI paper


An updated version of William Reynish' UI analysis (25 pages, PDF) is now available.

Ton Roosendaal writes:

William has updated the paper he presented during the Blender Conference. He was very pleased with all feedback, which mostly was very positive. His update covers some of the criticism he received, and clarifies some unclear parts.

I think did a great job on this, it's a good analysis which will help us forward. Although it's important to review such proposals now, be aware that an actual implementation of a new UI is really not scheduled yet. However, the 2.5 event/tool refactor project does cover the foundation and back-end allowing UI concepts like this.


About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
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.


  1. Yes I agree! If this is all accomplished... that's moving a long way towards making blender an amazing application. Great read!

  2. Blender is already a AWESOME program. But the learning curve is steep (all it takes is some patience and eventually the UI makes sense). Nonetheless, these changes William is proposing are very much welcomed. Excellent work! Make sure you all view his presentation on this topic at last month's Blender Conference.

  3. BlenderLovingSquirrel,

    I did not realise that PDF was so hard to deal with. Hmm I guess I should start complaining now. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. BlenderLovingSquirrel on


    who are you?

    why are you talking to me? lolz


    no MY computer is having issues with stupid PDF updates and I cannot view PDF and I hate PDF in general also cuz it's soooo unnecessary unless u are going to print it out =)

  5. First off, Blender does have a very good work flow. That said I think there is some major room for improvement. I agree completely with everything that William said. Blender has a non-modal ui which is good. However it is hard to make heads or tails of some of the ui elements, and if we can get over these problems Blender will be on the fast track for industry wide adoption.
    Thanks you SOOO much Mr. William for this wonderful presentation.

  6. I appreaciate the changes that Reynish proposes. Especially the part where he proposes that a button changes colour if it has any animation/IPO added for that property. Though i think he could have gone further in this area. We MUST be able to access the button's IPO curve directly from that button somehow.

    e.g. If i animated a flickering light, animating the light's "Energy" Button is they way. if the button changes colour, to green or yellow as he suggests, we should be able to open that button's IPO curves (e.g Light's "Energy") from the same submenu where we insert keyframes in without a hassle.

    its kinda hard to access e.g. a light's animated "energy" IPO curves, if at all possible. i think pop up IPO curve windows are cool for something like that.

  7. Very good! Cuz William's UI implementation is impressive. Personally I think that devs should go in the directions proposed by him. At least take them under consideration.

  8. One of the few thinks I would like to add is that the radio buttons must show real depth so people can infer which button is depressed, don't just make them light and dark, show edges! Windows maybe primitive but it shows this very well.

  9. Wow this is gonna be so good for blender. Looking at XSI, and Maya (most likley also 3dmax) having all those fancy UI's, makes blender look bad, and when people looking for a non-autodesk software they will defintly choose well-designed blender.

  10. OK, maybe I should finish my thoughts before hitting submit. I realize getting around Blender with and new UI will take some learning, but I think it will help make an already good tool even better.

  11. Now this, is juicy. I was reading this paper, and im astonished how many things are solved simply by common sence... Now that i think about it, it does seem practical to have an easily distinguishable progress bar, especially when something is taking a long time to work. Along with that, I feel that it's a REALLY good idea to make a dedicated properties dialog, WITH SCROLL BARS. That makes customizing the UI MUCH easier,

  12. This is like night and day the overall positive feedback this is getting here is in sharp contrast to the heated debate this topic sparked on blenderartists a few days ago. I love the work that William has done because he has not tried to ape what other apps do but has looked at it from the angle of what could be made to work better.

    I hope this makes it into 2.5

  13. YAY!!!!!!! I now can read this whenever I please!!!!!!! I'm excited to re-learn the button windows! ;)
    Great job, William!!!! I hope this stuff gets implemented!

  14. I wondered when this will hit the nation...

    anyway, for some reason ppl think its about the buttons... its far more than the buttons... from the backend, it is a whole change of the mechanism blender uses to structure and present its UI.

    from the user perspective it will give the opportunity to give new functionality easier... think "now I can write custom behavior to each object on the screen"..

  15. I am really hoping that this gets implemented in 2.5, otherwise the interface is going to get slower and more cluttered. I myself would like to see the interface simplified a bit and made more compacts. Blender's UI is already very efficent and useful but occasionally I find something out about I never knew before - And that's not good.

    ~ Ed

    ps. PDFs are fine, I just don't like PDF readers, especially adobe-please-update-me-NOW-reader :/

  16. I think in version 2.5 will have great changes on the UI, to be more friendly to the common user.
    And it have to be that way, for example i'm a noob in 3D but i found very difficult in starting to do something in Blender, and when you think like thats it's half the way for u to start and look for another 3D application that is more friendly in the beginning.

    Blender it's a magnificent and powerful application, but the UI it has to get a turn up, for the better, of course.

    With that implemented i'm sure it will be more powerful than any other application.

  17. I like the "tools / tool settings / actions / properties" segregation.

    I like variable height button panels.

    However, I don't believe the assertion that variable height is incompatible with horizontal layouts.
    There's no reason a horizontal panel can't scroll vertically.

    I'm also not sure about the assertion that humans scan better vertically than horizontally. I think more research might suggest that we scan diagonally or in a scattered search pattern.

    However, having vertical button panels as the _default_ layout is fine, so long as we retain the option to stack them horizontally as well.

  18. Very nice paper!
    Made me realize many things (good and bad) about the GUI of Blender.

    I would recommend a few corrections/improvements:
    - p.6, "This reuse of conventions is all over the place in Blender makes it easier to learn..." => should put an "and" => "This reuse of conventions is all over the place in Blender AND makes it easier to learn..."
    - p.8, last sentence above the figure, "...settings that lets..." => remove the "s" in "let" => "...settings that let..."
    - p.9, at the top, "...the user decides she would like to view all his objects..." => decide whether the user is male or female, don't use "she" then "his"
    - p.21, second sentence: "...and the features IN includes ..." => should be "...and the features IT includes ..."
    - p.18, "She can simply select the tool, AND AND make adjustments afterwards..." => remove one "and"
    - p.22, "memorize an objectS name" => "memorize an object'S name"
    - p.22, graphic design section, "...than the behavior of them..." => better to write "...than their behavior..."
    - p.25, first sentence, "...for BlenderS user interface..." => "...for Blender'S user interface..."

    These are just my opinion, I may be wrong, I am not even a native English speaker :)

    - fig.20, p.23: I agree that the difference between action buttons and radio buttons is minimal, but in the current version of Blender, we can still distinguish between them because they have different colors.

    I enjoyed reading this paper anyway!

  19. Awesome paper! I can't wait!
    Personally, I prefer horizontal panels but that's probably just because that's what I'm used to. It is a pain sometimes when you have a bunch of constraints or modifiers.

  20. Well the formula for comments on Blendernation as on most blogs lend poorly to debate.
    William hints at many good changes but his document is very far from being a complete blueprint for what the UI should become. There is remains a lot of debate to be had, a lot of suggestions to be heard, a lot of mock-up to be designed, a lot of testing, a lot of work for those who actually have the heart to contribute, people who don't loose their nerve as soon as a question is raised, as soon a they see the shadow of dissent.

  21. it would be vertical as it is easier to skim read that's why news paper articles have multiple short width columns. The idea is that the reader doesn't get lost on which line he/she is reading. But there are cases where i think horizontal would be better.

    love the new look by the way!

  22. Fantastic, just what Blender needs. This is a thoughtful and knowledgeably designed paper, and I like the fact that Blender's advantages and disadvantages are discussed in such a straightforward manner. I really hope that the suggestions he makes are taken on board and implemented as soon as possible.

  23. William, congratulations on a great paper. It's very well written up and shows the results of some great thought put into the interface.

    The other thing I'm pleased about is how well-received it is by everybody here in BlenderNation... even Endi seems cautiously optimistic! Given that experienced Blender users will all need to bite the bullet and relearn some things, it's nice to see such unanimous support for this. Because it really is the way to go I think.

  24. I really enjoyed Mr. Reynish's paper and am looking forward to more designs brought forward. I really like the Properties panel. Any of you guys out there that use AutoCAD or MicroStation XM know how powerful it really is when working with multiple objects, oe even just quickly accessing "hard to reach" settings on individual objects.

    I would like to see a very powerful selection tool added -one that allows you to select objects by certain properties; i.e., select by material, or object type, or object layer. Or even be able to fine-tune selections using filters. For instance, say I have a complex scene that contains over a thousand objects. I can select everything in the scene, then deselect all objects that are using a certain texture, then deselect all objects on certain layers, and then deselect types like curves or lamps....Basically, a powerful selector that incorporates filters.

    With this kind of selector, and the properties panel, this further extends Blender's editing abilities into a new arena.

    Have a nice day,

  25. Hi, looks good but I think instead of sacrificing horizontal layout, you can just add a slider to an individual panel that fall off-screen to make it less useless on horizontal layout. Sometimes I want a wide screen working environment and Blender should make ease of that. Thanks.

  26. Wow, I think so many people have been waiting for this! It has been a LONG time coming and it would be a crying shame if you pushed it further down the agenda! I would donate money to have this added in 2.5!

    That being said, is there a place where this discussion is happening currently? (ie. wiki?) I would really like to be able to contribute to having this done on time.

    Kind regards,


  27. I remember listening to the video (watching too). I know its been typed before, but William really did a great job. Its apparent that he has a thorough understanding of user interface design, and his ideas are clear, perceptive, and a really great direction for Blender to go. Non-overlapping UI, YES! The cycle of object-action-detail (not quite the way he put it but the way I remember it), is a good idea. Instant and continuous user feedback all along the way. I don't know if its as far 'as cool/useful' as a UI can get, but it does all sound very very good. It would be good to make the move to the new version of Python (slightly different language syntax). Potential for deep color (36 or 48 bit) and of course, modular design to allow expandability, etc. I'm really looking forward to 2.5. Its a (Big expensive 3D app.) killer.

  28. great developers doc! can't wait for the 2.5 overhaul.

    but please please please... someone look at just basic MOUSING! i really hate the gestures being on by default (without option to turn them off) and i feel that rt. button select is an inconsistency even WITHIN blender's methodology.

    but other than that, rock on. you blender dudes are kicking ass and taking names.


  29. Missing from the good: unlimited screens or workspace layouts.

    From 99% of Blender files I download, the author seems to do everything on one screen, which requires a lot of constant window reconfiguration.

    I love to be able to have lots of layouts and cycle them using ctrl+left(or right) arrows.

  30. Vassilios Boucer on

    Great Paper!
    very Interesting Points!

    Personally, I prefer horizontal panels or a combination with Vertical panels (thats for me is very flexible to work)!
    to have only Vertical Panels is not flexible i think!
    if someone like to use only Vertical Panels he can already do this!
    some Panels have many buttons and looks Longer as others (looks not Visual Hommogen)so i dont think this is a reason to kill Horizontal Panels ....better organisation of this Buttons inside a Panel needed so the Panels looks the same size!
    many users from other 3D Applications want a Blender GUI like some other big 3D applications!
    Please Blender Developers dont do this! your own Ideas and Inovation and creativity!
    let blender be different!
    This is so Special in Blender!this is the reason i love Blender!!

  31. wow cant wait for this to be implemented!!!

    the interface is the one thing that keeps new users from switching to blender!

  32. To think that he recieved ANY criticism of the UI work he's done is typical of the selfishness of some people in the O-S community. That makes me sick!

    You have to realise people, that anyone who contributes to Open source software, especially in terms of streamlining the UI of a particularly established piece of software that has been criticised for having a difficult UI like Blender is a bloody godsend. Pretty much all who contribute do this for NOTHING! Get it? NOTHING BUT THE LOVE and FAITH IN THE SOFTWARE.

    Grow up!

  33. I also would be a bit hesitant to get rid of the horizontal panels for one reason and one reason only. I have a screen that can be tilted to also work in Portrait mode which can be handy when dealing with long tall things like a human character. On a wide screen having a vertical button bar is going to be too much.

    The best solution I can think of would be to have the horizontal toolbar panels float - that is have the toolbar panels in alternating shades of the same color. If a panel is too tall for the space then the panel continues on the right. and the next panel starts when last panel ends. This would not be as nice as the vertical layout but it would still be usable.

  34. These are great news, indeed. Blender developers are taking a big step in the direction of listening to software users as a whole, not filtering only they want to listen. Blender is not a toy, it's a great tool for professionals.

    Keep up the good work on the new GUI. And please keep the PDF files.

  35. I don't mind the .pdf, evince came with my Dell and it works fine.

    I like the direction the changes proposed in that paper would take us. It would be nice if, by eliminating a little bit of complexity in the UI, blender could be made somewhat less intimidating for new users, and appear more polished.

  36. Wow, didn't read it all but this is amazing. ;) I will definitely have to relearn the layout of the buttons window (to-be Properties Editor) which will be an adventure. :D

    Thank you so much William Reynish for your excellent work on analyzing some needed changes in the UI!

    P.S. Why do you refer to the user as a "she"?

  37. @banor - "P.S. Why do you refer to the user as a "she"?" - because hi like girls?

    @ROUBAL - "For my own, I'd be happy if horizontal panel would be kept available for at least materials and textures." - any problems tweakin'' them vertically?

  38. I'm rly afraid that Ton will go his own way. I don't say it will be bad, as he was the Main Brain and Heart behind Blender all these years. But few concepts are different, if I heard well from Blender conference. Ton said that new UI WILL ALLOW for tweaking such layout. And this proposal seems to be to fixed for Ton's plans for Blenders future.

  39. Oh my god. If you get it looking like Leopard (mac) that much there would be no point in a full Aqua build! + it would keep everyone happy on all systems. Great ideas!

  40. A lot of good points in this analysis. However, some of them contradict parts of Ton's philosophy. For example, the "interactive highlighting while hovering over stuff in the 3D view" proposal, which Ton has always frowned upon.

  41. Also, the "Radio buttons and actions buttons are indistinguishable" thing is something that actually worsened when the 2.3x "series" came - in Blender 2.25, action buttons were always orange, in contrast to all other buttons ;)

  42. For whats its worth, i'd be happy with horizontal button window and variable height pannels that can be stacked on top of each other and in which case those stacks are scrollable with the mousewheel.
    But heck, i dont see the point of sacrifying the horizontal buttonview. If people like to scrub for their pannels just let them do so.

  43. Blender actually looking like a usable and powerful application (instead of just being the latter)? Inconceivable!
    I also love the design behind the controls (very Mac-like, but that works well with Blender).

  44. It looks really cool, certainly easier to use, and the gradients and stuff in the UI are very nice, but I am worried that it will take a while to get used to cause i have been using it so long, so i will try and go to a commonly used button and it wont be there, then ill realize its over there etc.. I just hope it will still fully support the horizontal button window layout cause i like it better that way.

  45. I don't think I have ever read such a careful and insightful analysis of a user interface. You've clearly put a great deal of thought into this, thank you.

    I too would like to see the Blender UI take these ideas on board.

  46. If Ton takes away nothing else I hope he at least grabs onto the workflow suggestions covered on pg. 18. It would save the user from re-doing work in order to make what should be a simple change.

  47. This UI looks so fantastic and William's knowledge about UI-design ought to be on quite a high level.
    What about Blender 2.50? There are almost no information about it.
    When will it be released? Which UI-concept it will follow?

  48. personally, i like the reasoning behind getting rid of the horizontal panels... but i say it can't hurt to leave it in as an option for people who want it their way.

    as for difference - i strongly disagree with the notion of something - especially an interface- being different for the sake of difference! that adds nothing and makes it unintuitive for everyone coming from elsewhere. switching the positions of the gas, brake and clutch from car maker to car maker doesn't make anything better or easier for anyone.

    if it's different, it needs to be because it is BETTER.


  49. Really nice to see! I'm glad you're thinking about this properly! All good stuff, but there's one problem with the gui this doesn't cover...

    Several functions in Blender ONLY have hotkeys: they don't appear in a menu or a button. Just in a hotkey. Also, buttons don't tell you what the hotkey is. If a function is JUST hotkey then the chances are loads of people don't know about it.

    Also... how about a new panel called Help?

  50. I'd offer some criticisms here with the disclaimer that the document was a good one.

    First: I have some doubts of removing floaters from 3D ui (if I got it correctly that the properties will move to the button bars).

    Since the floaters are transparent, they do not obstruct and are quite easy to hide/move (N - key) -- they are beneficial by being nearby -- you keep the mouse in 3D window and as such the movement and tweaking is cheap considering the mouse travelling and aiming time. (Rotate the view, tweak, rotate again)

    Second: the scrollbars. I have never missed them and at least on the mockups they only add to the visual clutter. A compromise could be made -- maybe some rectangular 3px wide strip on the right side of whatever you want to scroll.

    Also, please do not forget the mouse aiming -- I fell in love with the current UI when I saw the Quit dialog: it appeared under the mouse and it went away by moving outside of the menu. I do not know how the sphere creation example could be made with this tweaking possibility while keeping to that local-mouse convention.

    My (three) cents.

  51. Something that most folks seem to be missing are these sentences by Ton at the top: "Although it's important to review such proposals now, be aware that an actual implementation of a new UI is really not scheduled yet. However, the 2.5 event/tool refactor project does cover the foundation and back-end allowing UI concepts like this."

    To me this means that this new interface is not going to be on 2.5. 2.5 is going to do the necessary retooling to make the new interface possible, but not actually implement it yet.

  52. Very good. But as has been said, there are a few things missing like help, hot-key only features, pop-up menus, floating panels, floating tool-bars, etc etc...

    I personally think my major wants would be:

    1. I'd like to see icons for all the tools. The option to choose whether or not to have the text accompanying them would be warmly welcomed.

    2. I think if colours are going to be used to show automation state, it should be the outline colour of buttons, not the overall solid background colour. I for one, really like the fact that I don't have to stick with a boring, grey, uninspiring interface - that all the colours are currently customizable! Blender set up black with green controls looks awesome and I find colourful interfaces inspiring to creativity. A lot of people find the opposite. If it were only the outlines of buttons that changed colour, we would still have the option of using colours for what they are currently used for, that is, making it even clearer what kind of button it is! Also, the colours used for such outlines should be customizable. I have always prefered red to indicate automation, as this is generally used in audio applications for instance, but it also seems more intuitive because red means 'don't touch' or 'danger' to me, whereas yellow just means 'yeah, go ahead and fiddle with it'. Green is however a good choice for keyframes, though going with an overall green layout, I would prefer yellow! :P

    One other thing that has not been considered, is how python buttons would fit in with all this? I'm not sure whether python buttons will be able to be animated in 2.5, or whether drag-and-drop would be a possibility, or even how python tools will be integrated into blender. I'd love to see them as panels in the tools window, having the option to run them almost like plugins, where they don't have to be stopped and started all the time, but could remain running as extra functionality until it is decided by the user that they should end. If done like this, python buttons could well be automatable, tools could be written that fitted in with the interface of the rest of blender, and some tools could be set to start and stop with blender each time it is run if the user uses them a lot. Those scripts that perform some action could register a button for themselves in the user interface somewhere. That way, they would appear to be action buttons written into blender itself. (although perhaps they could be marked as script buttons by the outline colour) This is invaluable to making python features easily accessible from the interface and solves the problem of having to keep switching to the python window or scrolling through menus to choose a suitable script every single time you want to run it! The same multiple-object functionality needs to be implemented for python too to a certain extent - how many users want to have to go through 300 monkeys going through a menu, finding the right script, and running it for each one? Wouldn't it be a lot simpler just to select all 300, then just click on a suitable button, put there by the script having been registered into the interface?

Leave A Reply

To add a profile picture to your message, register your email address with To protect your email address, create an account on BlenderNation and log in when posting a message.