[Bf-funboard] Thought on improving panels

Jude Jackson syzygy6 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 27 23:27:25 CEST 2013

I'm talking about panels as defined here:
http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:2.6/Manual/Interface I think I've
seen panel used to mean region so I want to clarify.

So I think that there's a few tweaks that could be made with panels within
the current design paradigm. Right now there are a few minor annoyances
that come with panels that could be fixed with some minor redesigns.

First, I think it would be nice if the region auto-scrolled when you expand
a panel. It's a minor touch, but the only reason to expand a panel is if
you want to look inside, so it makes sense to make all the panel contents
visible instantly. This would simply entail, when a panel is expanded,
scrolling so that the entire panel is visible, or until the beginning of
the panel is at the far top or left side (right, I suppose, in left-hand
languages). It's a minor automation that would save a lot of scrolling.

Another thing that might be more controversial but would be helpful to
users with limited screen space is to automate the opening and closing of
panels. For almost all menus, the total information does not fit within the
height of my screen. For me, it is actually more useful to have an overall
view of the entire menu than to have immediate access to one set of
controls but have to scroll to see the rest. What might help is if I could
enable a feature that automatically keeps all but one panel minimized at a
time. In effect, this would make panels behave like tabs.

This leaves a bit of room still for designing the UI. One, how do users
switch between active panels? My first thought was to make it instantaneous
with mouse-overs, minimizing the need for precise clicking. However, for
some layouts this could cause problems with users idly moving their mouse
over multiple regions (although this problem is minimal with small screens
because there isn't room to have lots of regions arranged next to each

Another option is to use the scroll wheel. Although there could be
some ambiguity if a user is scrolling through a large panel as to where one
panel ends and the next opens, good feedback design could minimize that
(consider on iOS the swipe to reload feature, which is often accompanied by
an elastic bubble to show if you scrolled enough).

Even though these might reduce scrolling, they still don't solve the
problem of information density. Perhaps there could be an entirely
different solution. Perhaps collapsed panels could display some information
(maybe even collapse into a miniature version of themselves). Perhaps in
more cases information needs to be separate from functions. Maybe Blender
just needs icons. But perhaps that's for another time. In any case, I look
forward to thoughts and feedback.

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