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Author Topic: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus  (Read 2572 times)

thecolclough

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Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« on: April 09, 2015, 11:24:20 am »

Hi all
Firstly: apologies in advance for the rather long (although I hope worthwhile) post :P

We had some new users posting on the forum a couple of months back because they were confused about the Anim8or menu setup, and to be honest, although I've usually been able to find what I'm after eventually, I've always thought it could do with some tidying up as things aren't always in the most intuitive location.

I think Steve mentioned that he had been planning to look at this and try to overhaul the menus (sorry, can't find the relevant post to quote), but since he's currently busy making improvements in other areas (those new bone tools are SO shiny...) I thought I'd sit down and take a systematic look at the menus myself.  No point complaining about something if you aren't willing to help fix it, eh? 8)

Obviously, what follows is ultimately just my personal recommendation; some parts are more likely to find widespread agreement than others, and some parts are more important than others; however, I've tried to think things through as logically as possible, and to always aim for clarity and consistency, so hopefully you can at least see where I'm coming from even if you don't entirely agree...

Problems and recommendations are listed in order of their appearance along the menu bar.

GENERAL POINTS AFFECTING ALL MODES:
  • Please can we have a keyboard shortcut for ‘File > Save’?  Virtually every other program in the world uses Ctrl+S for this command, and that key combination has become almost a reflex for a lot of us.
  • ‘File > Exit’ should be at the bottom of the menu, because that’s where everybody else puts it.  Or at least nearly everybody else.  Also because it’s the last command you click at the end of your session using the program, so it follows that it should be placed last on the list.
  • Most programs place ‘Undo’ and ‘Redo’ at the top of the Edit menu, probably because they are the most commonly used (or at least among the most commonly used) editing commands.  Would recommend Anim8or follows suit for the sake of making it easier for new users to find their way around the program.
  • ‘Select None’ should be included as a menu item under ‘Edit’ in all modes.
  • The ‘Check for Missing…’ command (currently located under ‘Edit’) operates on the current Object/Figure/Sequence/Scene, so it would make more sense if this was moved to the ‘O/F/S/S’ menu (probably underneath ‘Attributes’).  This is in keeping with the general principle that commands affecting the current O/F/S/S generally should be in the ‘O/F/S/S’ menu to make it clear what they do.
  • The ‘Options’ menu has always struck me as a bit haphazard; some of its contents (especially ‘Backside’ and ‘Tooltips’) seem to control parts of the interface and so would be better located in the ‘View’ menu.
  • Some points relating to the ‘Preferences’ menu item and dialogue:
    • The ‘Preferences’ item isn’t always easy to spot in its current position in the middle of the ‘View’ menu; ideally it should be placed as the first or the last thing on the menu in order to make it easier to find.  Again, this would be helpful for new users, as most other programs place their ‘Options’ / ‘Preferences’ item at the bottom of a menu and newcomers will therefore tend to look there first.
    • Within the ‘View > Preferences’ dialogue, the ‘File Output’ section actually has nothing to do with the view (i.e. program interface) but is in fact part of the rendering setup, which makes it rather counter-intuitive to have it accessed through the ‘View’ menu.  Therefore recommend that the dialogue be split in two: the ‘OpenGL Workspace’ section should remain in its original location (‘View > Preferences’), and be renamed ‘View Preferences’ or ‘Interface Preferences’; the items in the ‘File Output’ section should be removed from the ‘View > Preferences’ dialogue, and instead accessed through the ‘Render’ menu.  Might be an idea to combine with the ‘Render > AA Setup…’, ‘Render > Renderer…’ and ‘Render > MultiThreaded’ items to create a new ‘Render Preferences’ dialogue.
  • The ‘Build’ menus could be made much more consistent between Modes.  In general, any command which adds new elements to the O/F/S/S or performs modifications on existing ones should be located in the ‘Build’ menu (most already are, but there are exceptions at present).  Recommend always starting the ‘Build’ menu with an ‘Add’ sub-menu.  More details in the following sections.

OBJECT MODE:
  • The ‘Edit > Select’ sub-menu should be placed immediately after ‘Select All’ and ‘Select None’, so as to group all of the selection controls together for consistency.
  • There’s a lot of stuff in the Object-mode ‘Edit’ menu (i.e. everything below ‘Check for Missing’) which would make as much if not more sense being placed under the ‘Build’ menu.  Will come on to the ‘Build’ menu in more detail later.
  • Like ‘Check for Missing’, ‘Options > Info…’ operates on the current Object, and so would make more sense if it was placed under the ‘Object’ menu.  Two ways of implementing this:
    • Keep the dialogue the same but move its menu command to ‘Object > Statistics’.
    • Or, scrap the separate statistics dialogue, and incorporate its contents into the bottom of the ‘Object > Properties’ dialogue.
  • The aforementioned stuff about the Object-mode ‘Build’ menu:
    • As mentioned previously, the first item under ‘Build’ should be an ‘Add’ sub-menu.  As the name implies, this would contain any command which involves adding a new element into the Object, i.e. the items currently located in the ‘Primitives’ sub-menu, plus ‘Add Text’ and ‘Add Warp Modifier’ (which are both currently missing from the menu altogether, and can only be accessed through the left-hand toolbar!), and also the ‘Reference Image…’ item.
    • Recommend the ‘Add’ sub-menu be followed by an ‘Element Properties’ item, which is enabled when one only one element is selected, and brings up its Element Editor dialogue (the same as if you had double-clicked the element in the viewport).
    • Recommend placing the ‘Group’ and ‘Ungroup’ items next, as there’s nothing to be gained by moving them too far from their previous location.
    • The ‘Locate’, ‘Rotate’ and ‘Scale’ sub-menus should be moved from ‘Edit’ to ‘Build’.  At the same time, ‘Locate’ should be placed above ‘Rotate’ and ‘Scale’ instead of below them, in order to be consistent with the way the Location, Orientation and Size parameters are laid out within the various Element Editor dialogues.
    • It would be useful if, as well as ‘Rotate X 90’, we could have menu commands for ‘Rotate X 180’ and ‘Rotate X -90’, and the same for the other two axes.
    • These sub-menus should be followed by a new one, called ‘Convert’ or similar, including any items which perform other large-scale changes on the current element(s), e.g. the group of five items from ‘Convert to Mesh’ to ‘Join Splines’, plus things like ‘Smooth Object…’ and the various Mirroring commands.
    • Menu items such as ‘Fill’, ‘Extrude’ and ‘Lathe’, which only work on Paths and/or Texts, should be placed in a sub-menu called ‘Path and Text Operations’ or similar, to make it clearer what they do.
    • There should be a ‘Mesh Operations’ sub-menu, containing the various Point-Edit Mode commands which are currently located at the bottom of the ‘Edit’ menu, ideally re-ordered so as to group the Point ones first, the Edge ones in the middle and the Face ones last.
    • The ‘Build’ menu still needs to include the ‘Warp Modifiers’ and ‘Morph Targets’ sub-menus - no change there.

FIGURE MODE:
  • Figure-mode ‘Build’ menu:
    • This menu should start with an ‘Add’ sub-menu, with the commands ‘Add Bone’ (equivalent to the current ‘Insert Bone’ item), ‘Add Object…’, ‘Add Cylinder’ and ‘Add Sphere’.
    • As with Object mode, would recommend following this with an ‘Element Properties’ item that has the same effect as double-clicking something in the viewport.  The ‘Joint Limits…’ item seems to do the same job as an ‘Element Properties’ item at the moment, but only for bones, not cylinders, spheres or objects.
  • The Scene-mode ‘View’ menu should probably contain some toggle items to control the visibility of axes, bones, and objects – another case where certain interface commands are currently accessible only through the left-hand toolbar.  The current toggle buttons are great if you know where they are and what they do, but if a newcomer is trawling the menus looking for those commands then they’ll probably get frustrated at not finding them.

SEQUENCE MODE:
  • As with Scene mode, the Sequence-mode ‘View’ menu should probably contain some toggle items to control the visibility of axes, bones, objects, and ghosts.
  • Sequence mode introduces a fundamentally new element which is not present in the previous two Modes, namely the Timeline.  Rather than burying timeline-related operations under the ‘Edit > Frames’ and ‘Edit > Bones’ sub-menus, it would make things much clearer if Sequence mode introduced a whole new menu, ‘Timeline’, to gather together all of the commands relating to frames in general and to keyframes in particular.  Recommend it also includes a toggle item to replicate the function of the ‘Animate’ button.  Should probably be located between ‘View’ and ‘Render’.

SCENE MODE:
  • The ‘Scene > Element’ item doesn’t operate on the entire scene, just on the currently-selected element, and as such, the ‘Scene’ menu probably isn’t the best place for it.  Would recommend moving it to ‘Build > Element Properties’, in line with the other 3 modes.
  • Again, Scene mode should feature a ‘Timeline’ menu, this time located between ‘Build’ and ‘Render’, including all frame and key operations.

So... any thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?  Bit of both?  :)
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davdud101

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2015, 02:15:21 pm »

Well, shoot, I think you covered most of the bases here, thecolclough. The big thing is just making the interface as much like more commercial software as possible.
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kreator

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2015, 04:32:05 pm »

The big thing is just making the interface as much like more commercial software as possible.

I For one would`nt like it to look like most commercial software, Blender Springs to mind Lets keep it simple and efficient without over doing it.
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davdud101

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2015, 07:02:40 pm »

Okay I don't like the absurd complications of buttons and crud in more commercial applications, but I'd love a more aesthetically updated GUI. Something flatter and cleaner, which looks  a bit less like 1998 (no offense meant Steve... I'm just not sure the interface has been updated since the first few releases!!)
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captaindrewi

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2015, 12:58:41 am »

change.....it gives me the shudders.......but yer cant stop progress....yep yep yep.!
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Steve

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2015, 01:33:51 am »

davdud101: Heh heh, more like 1898 :)  I'd also like to update the look but it's more work that you might think. It'll happen after I whip the functionality into better shape.
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davdud101

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2015, 01:50:50 pm »

Steve, that's good to know. I know for me, I'd rather actually wait for the functionality to reach a "new high" before seeing any GUI changes. Keep up this incredible work, Steve!
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thecolclough

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2015, 05:09:04 pm »

...I'd rather actually wait for the functionality to reach a "new high" before seeing any GUI changes.
in terms of aesthetics, i'd entirely agree :)  but in terms of menu layout, wouldn't it make sense to tidy up and solidify the current stuff sooner rather than later, to provide a stronger platform for the new functionality to build on?  the longer it gets left alone, the more tidying up will need doing when the issue finally gets addressed :P
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davdud101

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Re: Streamlining the Anim8or Menus
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2015, 06:16:58 pm »

You bring an interesting point, thecolclough! By mine I only meant visuals as far as icons and things like that- I wouldn't mind if Steve did change up the toolbar arrangement, but I think I'm willing to wait a couple more years for Anim8or to looks pretty if it means I'll instead get a lot more cool features that just aren't /as/ easy to find lol
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