Solution to the sidebar panel design

Tabs Management tab was already suggested (as far as I remember)

any news?
hate this N panel


Currently method use Simple Tabs Addons …


I’m new over here. I began learning blender roughly a week ago, trying some AddOns, then I hit the N-Panel clutter. I started thinking of developing an add-on to solve the issue.

I came across “Simple Tabs” add-on, but the idea to manually keep reorganizing tabs maybe another problem if you have hundreds of add-ons and keep adding, removing, updating.

My idea has been to make a scrollable side-list with icons and search filter for quick retrieval. However, I see that the debate here is hot. Can we try to make a poll before I get my hands dirty into coding?

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Breaking my devtalk hiatus for this…

So why not create a new editor type to stuff add-ons in? This is another foundational aspect of Blender (like modifiers) that add-on developers can’t touch, I think?

I’m currently investigating letting coworkers (who are in a 3D adjacent field) use Blender instead of a commercial tool, and I need add-ons to reach the level of ease of use they expect, and I know having them hidden by default and only tilt your head readable when expanded is not going to go down well.

Forcing add-on developers to draw an icon is not difficult! So many other software package already do!

Ok, back to my hiatus now… I think we’re going to stay on the commercial software for a few more years… :expressionless:


Oh those addon icons we made mockups of multiple times, parallel… :smiley:

Welcome back, I always followed and liked your (reasonable) ideas.

I get anxious about this one, as this seems the only functioning way and William Reynish actually confirmed once, that it’s what they have in mind and it’s planned. But I haven’t heard from him and about any bigger UI changes for ages. We should keep making noise about this till the 3.0 UI meetup happens.

So I’d be happy to have those icons in the N panel with the added functionality improvement idea I stole from PS (and I’m also linking)




Icons are a good idea. And one of the ideas I originally had for SIMPLE TABS. Unfortunately, they’re is no interface in python to use icons on those tabs without some changes to Blender.

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Icons concept were discussed and rejected due to low self-presentation.
It is a solution that don’t allow to handle lots of addons properly, and looks like emoji list as well.

Also, there is still no way to access addon tools and properties, such as coordinates, at the same time, in the same way as it is solved almost everywhere, which is essential for any kind of precise technical modeling.

At the moment we have the very basic tools on the left, which are used as a shortcuts anyway, and properties mixed with addons tools on the right, so you have to switch between them at

It is an incredibly frustrating design solution.


+1 for icons. I like both of your ideas from PS. I do believe (not matter how many times it’s “rejected” or whatsoever) icons on the sidebar are the best improvement we can have without a big UI overhaul.


I agree with you on your main point but tiny grayscale icons are not an emoji list
They work just pretty fine on the properties (albeit I dislike the default coloring of them)
and also in Photoshop when closed:

I propose 3 states for the N panel: hidden → icons are out → fully open (-> icons → hidden etc.)
When in icon state, you could click to open AND CLOSE the panel under that icon.

To your other problem (showing things at the same time) I was thinking of proposing something to the brush management discussion which might apply in other editors too. There could be 2 elements vertically on each side (T and N) where you should be able to put in and swap panels
So for example under the tools you could be able to put in the brush settings. But you should be able to put this to the N panel too top or bottom.
Or to stay on topic: under the basic coordinates you should be able to open any addon to the bottom half of the N panel.
Or even simpler: with the well established pin icon, you could just pin up the coordinates to the top of the N.
Obviously this needs further thinking. But I agree with the suggestion absolutely.


haha, I haven’t seen you ended up here too. hell yes

Blender already made a vertical monochrome icons design.
It was hard to recognize, so they was colored to satisfy subitizing perception speed level.

Also, there are problems with management - for example, for addon’s managing tab concept, where you have to operate with names. The point of a text is that text is literally readable.

Properties can be more complex than coordinates, especially taking into account possible expandability Blender is famous for. For example, CAD snap addon is a nice example of a custom properties addon.


You make good points about icons not being as readable as text. That’s why it’s a good idea to offer both, just as it is with the T panel and the sculpting room tools.

Icons by themselves are still preferable to long scrolling vertical text only menus from a user experience perspective. In this case they are the least objectionable solution.


icons, text, emojis, animated gifs… who cares? if it’s all just in a gigantic list stuffed off to the side somewhere it’s not solving the underlying problem. it’s a bandaid solution at best.

we already allow users to subdivide their layout by creating new window areas, why not allow further subdivision into regions, and let users put addon UI panels wherever they like? If they want it to be a panel that collapses down into an icon tab, cool. text tab, whatever. Hideous frankenstein interface, who cares? It would be a lot of work for sure, but at least it would incorporate addon interfaces into the overall window layout rather than tossing everything into a ‘junk drawer’- unless that’s what the user wants, in which case it should be totally possible.

It’d be pretty disappointing if this thread goes for four years and we spent most of that time talking about “icon tabs”


Hideous frankenstein interface, who cares?

Commercial workflow designers cares.
The cant build artists teams on a trashed approach. And they cant build a massive production without building teams.
Its a Babylon tower issue - if people learned different approaches, they start holywars.

Every studio I have worked at in the past 20 years has had their own ‘internal plugin’ or interface for whatever dcc was being used, re-learning is inevitable. The only difference is that Blender hides everything in a junk drawer and pretends it’s clean. That isn’t going to change if we slap icons on everything.

Also, I’m not saying that the default should be a Frankenstein interface- I’m saying that if the user wants to create one, it should be possible.


Unlike other DCCs, Blender was renowned for managing a single unified approach suitable for the widest range of workflows, avoiding the necessity of a retraining.

Artists always want more than they actually needed, since they prefer making art way more than workflow design.
In software design that leads to fractioning - a flexibility sugar that leads to obession, turning software into an inconsistent features set.
This brings lots of problems, especially for communication.
This is why most programs try at least to remain recognizable


yes, but users like to customize to make their workflow more efficient. studios do the same. I’m not saying that we need to randomize the UI for every download of Blender, but we have to respect the fact that skilled users are perfectly capable of deciding how they work best and not force a particular workflow on them.

If we truly want a homogenous experience where we all need to ride a conveyor belt to our destination, we should remove the Python API and addons altogether, because the whole reason it exists is to break out of that homogeneity. All I’m suggesting is making it something the users have more agency over, that’s it.


Let’s see, the idea sounds great, but it just sounds.

If you have a problem that even having the interface quite tidy the sidebar becomes a chaos because the users have 50 addons in that it solves that those 50 addons need an own area? Nothing. It will only worsen the problem and besides, no addon developer, or the vast majority, will not care about that because they are only interested in something in the sidebar. What are we going to be, changing workspace every time you want to use a stupid addon? No, of course.

Blender already allows to make more complex solutions for addons, some use them, for those who the sidebar falls short, but almost nobody uses it… why? because as I say it does not interest.

And this was already raised in the past, and it was officially tried to remove the addons from the sidebar (the reason why they killed the T-shelf) and in the end what happened? the reality fell by its own weight and everything went to the sidebar (former n-Shel).


Of course that would be ideal that if we can further customize tabs, but I supposed that’d be a very huge UI overhaul. Rearrangeable icon-tab is a relatively easy change. And it’s an immediate improvement over the current system. Sidebar is one of the worst designed UI part of Blender, and I personally welcome any improvement.