Solution to the sidebar panel design

So there’s a lot of suggestions regarding this menu in the big paper-cuts thread (and other threads here). Will they now be reviewed? Do you have a method of finding them even, since this forum doesn’t use tags? Or will you only look at right-click select? Will suggestions posted in the task thread itself take priority? Will the influences of user feedback be documented anywhere?

Looks more cleaner and readable I like it !
Actually I’m using a personal method (pie menu editor addon based) which is fast also but you can’t select more than one addon at time, until now I never had to do so but it can be interesting in some case.

Hope your proposal will come soon or something better if any ?


I made a quick mockup for another idea, basically having only two sidebar “header” tabs.
One for the regular sidebar and one for custom, it’ll probably take a bit of space but it’ll give more flexibility as you can put more addons there or when there will be the possiblity to pin or drag & drop favourite panels and with the dropdown list added it’s even more flexibility ,similar to what other Softwares like Maya have.

PS; we could even add icons to both tabs so when the panels size is small only the icons shows up, something like how the toolbar does it.


The problem here is that even with vertical layout, there was sometimes not enough space to fit all the tabs in. With horizontal tabs, the whole thing would become overcrowded even with 3-4 default tabs and no addons installed.

My idea is not to have more than 2 vertical tabs (columns), and combined with William’s idea of a dropdown list then it becomes much more extensible than before.
Imo this is better than just one column and a long list, you hit two birds in one place.


As some of you already mentioned it, the real issue here is not to make the N panel prettier, but to find a solution for this sidebar that can become vertically cluttered by tabs, especially if the user has activated many add-ons.

As you already know, an add-on is not simply displayed in a tab, but also in an expandable drop-down menu, some kind of “container”. Some addons sometimes have many of them.

Since there is currently no real solution (at least not yet) to fix this “N panel tab clutter”, I decided for the last weeks, to contact several addon developers to ask them if they’d agree to add an option (in the add-on preferences) to let users customize the location of their add-on. …To let users choose where they want it to be placed.

The overall response has been really positive and most of them consented to add this option.

For the moment, I have asked about 50 developers to add this option (some devs have created several add-ons).

  • 15 devs implemented the option
  • 11 devs added this option on their todo list
  • 23 devs haven’t answered me yet
  • 1 dev refused to add the option (preferring the solution to come from Blender itself)

This particular thread IS about the look of the sidebar panel though. That being said, I think the main reason for the sidebar clutter is that Blender’s python API still does not allow addon developers to implement addons in form of custom editors or custom tabs in the Properties editor. That would help addon developers a lot in finding better place to put their addons in. Right now, the sidebar has became a kitchen sink for everyone to throw their addon in.



This particular thread IS about the look of the sidebar panel though.

There would be no point of redesigning the “sidebar panel” without fixing this annoyance: the “tab clutter”.

IMO, the right location for add-ons is where they currently are: in the N Panel.

I don’t see how, allowing add-on devs to place their add-ons in the Properties Editor would fix the clutter. It would just move the clutter in the Properties Editor.

The N Panel is a better suited area because add-ons are very accessible there, being very close to the center of the viewport: the distance between the scene and the N Panel isn’t that far, which is good for a speed workflow.

I don’t think that any improve better the look of the sidebar that talk with addons developer to make optional the tab in the sidebar. It’s more improvement that any other decision.

And some of us want to use the viewport without a properties editor. Do you know that we use multimonitor, fullscreen mode, workspaces,…?

For some addons, certainly. And it certainly will be too much to contain them all in there as is. But there’a bound to be addons better fit elsewhere too.

Add-ons can already be placed in expandable drop-down menus in the Properties Editor (Proxify, Animated Render Border, …) but indeed, not as tabs.

Just to make sure that I am on the same page wit everybody else, here. Currently the N-Panel is supposed to be the place where all the Addons are going to be instead of the T-Panel where they used to be in Blender 2.79, correct?

Since there has been a discussion about the T-Panel in another thread I was wondering if an additional empty shelf for custom editors would be really such a bad idea. Obviously there is the danger that addons and everything else could get thrown into it again to create the kitchen sink phenomenon (which is to be avoided).
Yet 3D programs with as many addons as Blender are a large thing and the UI needs to go somewhere.
Also I am not sure if I’m comfortable with only one panel that has to stick on the right side.

I mean - I do like William’s proposal. The drag and drop access seems like a good thing.
But I also do feel like the N-Panel alone could be overburdoned by all the things that are going to be thrown at it. And we probably do need some place to stick additional interfaces, don’t we?

In reality I do 4-5 proposals different. I made the last only in response to this thread and I can’t find the other proposals.

The problem is known

  • There are no tabs where you can put addons that can enter other categories, such as create, edit,… where the developers can put things.

  • The T-shelf was removed, which allowed to divide the viewport in two easily distinguishable panels and more space for tabs

There are many ways to solve the problem. The right one in my opinion is to return the T-shelf to its place of origin with some predefined categories where the developers can put tools without having to create their own tabs as a side effect in 2.79. And to separate the addons without categorizing, in the same tab bar or that only use the sidebar the addons with own tabs. It would be a very good solution, tools on one side, addons on the other, so we can make a better mind map of the program, as in 2.79. Right now the tools are spread all over the interface for no reason.

But that’s at a hierarchy level, at a technology level there are also many ways to fix it, icons, lists, tabs that can be without selecting anything, buttons instead of tabs…

The problem is the same as always, with the movement of everything to the sidebar. And forcing it to be on the right any solution that is adding icons next to the icons of the property editor does not look as good as on the left of the viewport. With the sidebar on the left, this problem would disappear.


I like the idea of decoupling addons from others things (view,transform,etc) and that is how I’m doing it currently with my custom pies. Having addons on the left and coupled with the William’s proposal it can be interesting. But where to put the active tools in this case ? Personally I don’t use them but I guess that the devs would not want to hide them or move them to the bottom of the 3d view ?
We have a hard design task here🤯

I kind of agree to this. For now the T-Shelf is mostly intresting for the more painterly workspaces like sculpting and drwing or painting vertex colors or -weights.

When the proposals for using the t-shelf as a toolbox were introduced initially I kind of thought it would go more ito Modo’s direction of offering a quick access to several tools and a way to expand or add tools yourself. Basically I thought that the tools that were already there would just be expanded and clarified better by clearer Icon and color coding.
The way that the tools are very limited and especially fixed by working mode does feel a little wasteful.

I am totally fine with cleaning up the N-Panel and all the discussions around it so far. I do not have any better input for the tabs or structuring proposals right now. All of you seem to have put much more thought into it.
It is werd, that Item Tool and View are also incorporated in the Sidebar. Those are not plugins and some of these need to be either accessed or checked frequently. During work traveling with the mouse to switch between vital areas should be minimzed as often as possible, though.

I kind of fear that it would become a bit like the tool settings - changing the settings for the creation of a new primitve or invoked tool on te lower left of the screen: having to move the cursor and focus away from the object and to the lower left of the screen, then having to open/expand the settings panel and having a disconnect beween looking at the object itself and the values. That is always a slight pain to work with. And I completely admit that I do not know all the shortcuts to every tool by heart or think I need to (if there even are shortcuts for everything).

If we don’t bring back the T-Panel we could still offer a secondary, customizable toolshelf:


No, at least some of the things that used to be in the T panel should actually be converted into tools and be in the tool palette/bar. Some that used to be buttons in the T panel should be menu options per each of those previous buttons, categorized appropriately. etc.

The properties panel should only really be for properties, under the current paradigm it would still result in a lot of add-on tabs though.

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Another idea:

This uses a few concepts from previous proposals. Here there are two drag zones. One is at the end of the icons, and one is at the end of the panel. The icon drag zone expands to show labels. The labels would also be displayed with tooltips when it’s not expanded of course.

I didn’t bother changing the icons, I think I have better things to do : P

If there are too many tabs the list would scroll, just like in the properties editor. And the text should probably be smaller too, so if wouldn’t have to be as wide.


  • It keeps the tab concept for interaction
  • Uses the same system as the properties editor tabs
  • Quick interaction with buttons already exposed


  • Somewhat confusing interaction with two drag points
  • Addon-created tabs need icons (like other icon proposals)
  • Labels would probably be hidden by default

A note about the last con
We already use only icons for the tabs in the properties editor, so clearly this concept works. I would argue that withe the proper icons the tabs would be even more clear and quicker to read than with text.


I experimented a bit over the weekend to see how feasible it’d be to let users ‘dock’ panels in the header via a set of configurable popover buttons. It didn’t take much to get a bare-bones system together:


It doesn’t solve the issue of sidebar crowding, but a more polished version might alleviate some of the pressure.

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A custom pop-over instead of yet another tab in the properties editor is certainly an alternative that add-on developers can use, but it is an option for them already and it has as much of a potential to become overcrowded and potentially even worse.

There’s a huge difference between a bar and a popover. Popover is something that stays visible only as long as the mouse cursor is over, and disappears as you click in the viewport. That’s completely different to a sidebar which stays available all the time. Most of the addons are in the sidebar because you need it constantly available as you work. Like a tree generator for example, you don’t want your tree generator panel to disappear every time you click inside a viewport to turn it around and look at the tree from a different side before continuing to tweak the settings. Or even when you just accidentally move the mouse cursor away from the popover.

Futhermore, popovers will end up covering important parts of your viewport while sidebar is always on the side, leaving your viewport clear.

Anyone who is suggesting replacement of sidebar with the popovers really has no clue what’s going on.