[Bf-funboard] Menus and toolbox intentions

Matt Ebb bf-funboard@blender.org
Thu, 7 Aug 2003 18:26:46 +1000

I thought I'd send this in a separate email since it's about more general

>From some of the responses I've read, I feel I haven't been clear enough
about my intentions for this project with the menu and toolbox. So I'll lay
it all out in the open for debate lest I confuse people or seem like I have
hidden agendas ;) Warning: large semi-rant approaching!

Right now, Blender's menu and toolbox are quite disjointed. Neither of them
contain all the functions available, they are organised differently to each
other for no visible reason, they contain different sets of functions, are
not organised very logically, and so on. It seems that there's not much of a
guiding design to how they are, and if there is, at least I can't see it :P
So I'd like to make their roles clearer and more functional.

In other software there are a few different philosophies about how they
should operate. Usually, the main menu bar is used as a big organised
structure of all the different features in the application. The Apple
philosophy is that every feature in the app should be accessible from the
menu bar. I tend to agree with this idea for reasons I've mentioned before:
easier and more accessible for newbies to 'explore' the app and discover and
experiment with features, easy way to learn hotkeys, easy to find
'forgotten' features since you can use spatial menory and the structure
helps to find what you're looking for - if you forget a hotkey, you're in
trouble, but if you forget a menu item, you can think "well, it's an editing
funtion so I'll check in 'edit'... *checks* ... oh there it is!". Because of
these things, one major aim of the main menu is to have an emphasis on
logical organisation. It's more important that the structure of the menus is
clear and well organised, then it is to be efficient (there are alternatives
such as hotkeys for efficiency).

Now a lot of software nowadays has a toolbox type thing in addition to the
main menu, for accessing features. While Maya's radial hotbox layout is a
good idea, I think the implementation is a big mistake. Maya's hotbox
(screenshot:  http://mke3.net:9000/blender/ui/misc/maya_hotbox.png) is
basically just the main menu arranged in a circle. Since the idea of having
a hotbox that appears right where your mouse is, is to have super fast
efficient access to features that doesn't get in the way of working, simply
repeating the menu again seems to me like a *huge* waste of potential and
speed. Rather than having better access to the features that the user needs
to access quickly, time and time again, with Maya's hotbox, the user only
saves about half a second (the time it would take to move the mouse away
from the workspace to the top menu bar), since the user has to navigate the
same structure as the top menu anyway. I'd even be willing to bet that on
MacOS, there is no advantage to the hotbox over the top menu bar, because of
fitt's law (http://www.asktog.com/columns/022DesignedToGiveFitts.html) and
that the menu bar may even be faster. I don't understand the choice to just
replicate all the options of the main menu in the hotbox - the more options
that are in the hotbox, the more crowded (and difficult to find items) it
becomes. Who needs fast split-second access to menus like 'Help'??

Another approach, which I'm much more of a fan of, is what 3DS Max uses (Ton
mentioned this before). Max uses a 4-paned contextual menu for its toolbox,
which gives relevant options what whatever kind of mode you're working in at
the time. Screenshots here:
I personally think this is a much better approach, since it really takes
advantage of the fast access with the toolbox, and gives you direct access
to the tools themselves - no need to navigate through layers upon layers of
menu structure.

So, for Blender, I propose this:
* Use the top main menu as a well organised and structured list of all of
Blender's features that will feasibly work in a menu
* Change the toolbox into a combination of Max's and Maya's:
  - Display context-sensitive features that can be accessed directly with
one mouse click
  - Also have one or more *additional* buttons/options that will replicate
(perhaps in a manner similar to Gimp's right-click menu? I don't know) the
main menus as well
  - Use radial (pie menu) layout as much as possible (articles at

So... any opinions? :)