Tool settings are on too many places

I am confused. Why are you replying to my response to megalomaniak’s message? I wasn’t replying to you. Not directly nor indirectly.

Its all started because I answered to temeddix post here
Megalomaniac answered to me, but site didn’t shown that.
That happens pretty often.

Ok, sure. My point was that I don’t disagree with your argument. I was just explaining to him I meant “tools” in different context.

About the flexibility of the tool properties placement. I agree. I am just really not happy that it’s 4 different unique UI panel systems. I’d like more flexible solution, where it would be just a single type of UI panels, which could be “instanced” on any place you want, and would rearrange the UI controls depending on if it’s docked on the side of viewport, top of the viewport or into properties panel. Right now, I believe it requires at least 3 different unique python implementations.


About the flexibility of the tool properties placement.
Indeed, it can be confusing, but blender have static window arrangement because of custom UI.
This is because blender is cross-platform, so this solution allows to it to be stable independently of platform and its window server.

For example, 3dsmax is win only, but I guess you remember how long it took to it to brew a proper support for floating toolbars.
It is pretty much hard to find crossplatform software that supports things like floating toolbars properly, usually it takes a lot of time to brew such a thing.

So Blender has got such kind of a solution, that works stable at any platform, but looking strange.

I see. I also understand that tools and operators are intended to be used in different ways(pros vs beginners). Though I believe someday tools should become more hotkey-friendly(mouse-friendly, too) and become one elegant option for all, It is true that this thread is all about tool properties duplication problem. I’ll try to stick back to the main topic.

Speaking about addons, while using addons that integrates into the tool system it is easy to spot that they have completely different UI between the header, sidebar and properties editor. Not only this duplication is toxic for users, but also for addon developers.

Plus let me point out that the top bar was removed(actually moved to the editors’ header) in 2.80 beta stage not only because it was taking up so much space but also it was unclear which editor should the top bar tool properties should represent. Currently this problem applies exactly same to the properties editor.

Say, if you have UV editor, image editor and 3D viewport in a single workspace all with their own active tool, which editor should the properties editor’s tool tab represent? This is the reason tool properties shouldn’t exist in the properties editor. Tool properties are per editor, unlike objects. Properties editor exists to represent properties of the active scene, world and objects, not other editors.


I’d like to propose an additional concept to @LudvikKoutny’s original proposal: The footer.

Of course, footer is the opposite of the header. It is located at the bottom of the editor.

The underlying principles stays the same:

  • No tool properties at the header, properties editor. Only at the sidebar
  • Sidebar with only tool properties applies equally to all editor types, such as UV editor, shader editor, image editor, etc.

This additional proposal comes out from this simple question: If the bottom part of the editor is empty and the right part(the problematic sidebar) is so crowded as described in this sidebar panel design thread, why not make use of the bottom part as a footer? It perfectly makes sense with the new concept called popover newly introduced in 2.80.

This UI is really simple, too. Even more than the current one.

  • Tool related things are at the left and right
  • Menus are at the top and bottom.

Also this footer thing is not something brand new that came out of nowhere. You can see that text editor already has a footer. The name of this thing is actually footer, if you right click on it.
text editor

This Exclusive sidebar tool properties + Extra footer menus might also be applied equally to all editor types.

In real-life scenarios and workflows:

  • While modeling or sculpting or painting, tool settings will be on the right sidebar. Pressing N key, this sidebar will hide and reveal really easily. Hide it if you want a bigger view, show it if you want to tweak tool options.
  • When installing many add-ons as many as 10 or so, the footer will still be able to handle them. It will be able to show all add-on names because it’s long horizontally. Also, no vertical text.
  • Sidebar can show way more tool options than the header. Easy on the eye.

P.S. Here are the reasons why header + properties editor tool settings should be removed:

  • Header tool settings makes header 2-lined, which is not so ideal.
  • Header tool settings cannot show all the sliders and buttons if the tool has many options.
  • Properties editor tool settings is confusing because it is unclear if you have multiple editors with multiple active tools at the same time. This is also why the top bar was removed in 2.80 beta stage.
  • Current 3 duplicated tool settings UI is toxic for both users and add-on developers. Add-on developers using the tool system has to deal with 3 different Python APIs and UIs.

Check how the big boys do it.
The properties editor is the only place that should display the tool settings, not elsewhere.

And of course, the N panel should be removed entirely from blender. :v:

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These are why tool settings should be placed inside each editors. If the editor has its own toolbar, it should also have its own tool settings panel

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Like I said, check the big boys.

I see that many other 3D softwares such as Cinema 4D or Modo has separate tool settings editor(in Blender terms). However they also have separate tool editor, outside of the 3D viewport editor.

Blender is different. tools belong to the editor. Therefore tool settings should belong to the editor too. In Blender, there are no such thing as the tool editor.

I want to point out that what the major softwares do is not always the answer. It is sometimes, but not always.

I agree that N panel is too miscellaneous, but that kind of drastic change is hard to happen IMO… Since Blender is evolving gradually(not dramatically) after 2.80 shift.

But this is what needs to happen, otherwise there will be no end to this clutter madness.

It has several dealbreaking issues:

  1. The popover system works in a way that you always need to have mouse over it when interacting with it. As soon as you click away into viewport, it disappears. Many addons, such as tree generators for example, are currently in the side panel. If you were to have your design, then every time you would want to as little as turn or move the viewport around, you’d inevitably close all the tree generator settings of the tree you are working on and would have to re-open the popover by clicking the label. That would be beyond infuriating.
  2. The bottom popovers would constantly obscure/block the contents of viewport, which would make it impossible to tweak the settings and observe the effects of the setting changes. Especially for the popover buttons near the center.
  3. Scrolling large UI sets in popover vertically would be way clumsier than scrolling a side panel.

This is a big no go.


I answered in the other thread, now i do here too.
As Rawalanche already pointed out, the issue is that apparently these addon panels would behave like popovers, so you don’t always have “at hand” the parameters but you should move the mouse all the way to the bottom and click on the required label each time you want th change or simply read a value.

For the last couple of months, I’m slowly shifting to Blender, coming from Cinema 4D.

The changes in 2.8 really made a big difference, which makes switching easier. Also, some of the future plans listed on the module roadmaps look very promising - some things are confusing though at the current moment.

‘Tool settings are on too many places’ and the N-Panel in general are probably the biggest UI Layout issues that made Blender confusing for me to use in the beginning. Rawalanche’s initial picture nails it:
the placement of information seems very random and scattered all around the screen, also the amount of information in different places isn’t consistent, which adds confusion.

I’d very much appreciate a unification-pass of the layout here. Rawalanches proposal seems to do this very well and smartly :slight_smile:

I agree, that changing the layout appears drastic, probably leads to friction, and might not be as shiny as a new Eevee feature, but a thought-through high-level UI will be a big win for usability and solidity in the long run and therefore more than worth it.

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My whole point is that Tools do not show the exact same settings though.

Criticism towards settings duplication applying specifically to operators might be fair enough, as is definitely settings duplication for tools.

But Tools aren’t exactly instancing the same settings as the operators.

edit: ah yeah, I was specifically replying to @1D_Inc

I don’t like to insist on my own opinion too much since there can be other point of view and better solutions… but this time, let me explain about this proposal a little more.

About clicking too much while switching between UI:
When it comes to switching between addons, clicking between vertical tabs can be harder than clicking and hovering over bottom menu buttons. It’s not hard to open popovers. We are already used to popovers of viewport settings, overlays, transform orientations, pivot point, proportional editing.

About clicking too much while simply reading or changing a value:

  • If the addon or Blender feature is responsible for changing object’s custom properties, than it should register itself in the properties editor, not the sidebar. Object element properties(inside edit mode) such as edge crease weight and bevel weight should also be inside properties editor with a brand new element tab, just like current polygon material slot. Sidebar(previously N panel) was not intended to be used in that way when it was introduced in 2.50. It was originally for viewport settings, annotation(previously grease pencil) settings, etc. Sidebar just became a kitchen sink for a decade while addon developers continuously threw their addons inside it. I believe Blender should allow addon developers to register their custom tabs inside properties editor. Properties editor is the right place for properties of the objects or the scene.
  • If the addon is responsible for providing operators to be used inside the 3D viewport, it should register itself in the header or footer menus.
  • If the operator needs to be tweaked visually, those sliders should go inside adjust-last-operation panel.

In short:
Not only Blender has to improve its sidebar UI and API, but addon developers should too.

  • Operator buttons should go inside header or footer menus
  • Operator tweak sliders should go inside adjust-last-operation(redo-last previously) panel.
  • Object or object element properties should go inside the properties editor.
  • Even then if addon should use its own space, it can make its own popover at the footer.

To be fair the properties and toggles in popovers are things you likely don’t need to touch too often but when you do you want to have relatively quick access to them.

While depending on the add-on you might want to access it constantly to the point that even though popovers are a relatively quick access it will still become bothersome.

Unless the popover can be pinned to stay open for a while, which we can’t and probably wouldn’t want to anyways since it would cover a significant portion of the viewport.


All this list of “this should go here and this should go there” is just one point of view. As @megalomaniak says, a UI can also take into account how useful is to have something more or less prominent based on how often you may want to access it. Also many people might want to adopt full screen (I do sometimes) for certain tasks within a workflow, and that property editor (about sinks…) kills this possibility.

good luck for when you have the many addons enabled that are in the screenshots that show an overcrowded sidebar… :wink:

I see you’re talking about accesability and preserving familiar workflows to existing users. That’s good because Blender is made to get the 3D art job fast and easy. I too think that’s important, but what I’m trying to talk about is logic, simplicity and consistency that makes the Blender reliable in the long run. Maya and 3ds Max is a good example of not doing this so well.