Bforartists 2 manifest

Reiner's picture

The Beta of Blender 2.8 is close. And i am already back at work and at preparing everything for the new development cycle as you may have noticed. Time to define the development goals for Bforartists 2.

Bforartists 1 was once started to fix the UI issues in the Blender 2.5x series within the given bounds. And we have been very successful with what we did. Bforartists is much more user friendly and accessible than Blender. And we have lots of happy users already. Thanks for your support !

Blender 2.8 was then the long promised and long awaited development step that should solve and fix most of the UI issues in Blender. Blender has even introduced icon buttons in the tool shelf. Something that was plain impossible when we started with the development of Bforartists 1. So they obviously learned from us. They have now also official learning videos. Which is also a good thing.

All in all Blender 2.8 is a big step forward in terms of usability, and should have made Bforartists obsolete in best case.

So why a Bforartists 2? Why should we even continue with Bforartists when Blender 2.8 is so great now?

The answer is simple: Because it is not so great. Because they have again managed not to manage it in quite a few areas, and made even steps backwards. As expected and predicted before three years already. It was the same people involved with the same odd ideas about UI and usability. And so the output is as expected still flawed. And can be improved in many areas.

And that's why we continue with the development, and why there will be a Bforartists 2.

To name a few points: 

Blender 2.8 comes still with Right Click select as the default. Ton will not let go Right Click Select. Never.

And they have made it even worse in this regards. The hotkeys for the tools in the tool shelf are hardcoded now. 

There is no way to work with left click select and perform the tool with left mouse button too anymore. The tools in the tool shelf are now hardcoded to action mouse. And when you switch to left click select, then using the tools becomes right click select. And vice versa. This means that they force you to use both mouse buttons now, no matter if you choose right click or left click select. 

That's worse to what we had in Blender 2.7x, which was already bad enough with RMB select as the default. Just try to paint a annotation or grease pencil stroke with right mouse button, or just extrude that way, and you will see what i mean. Annoying.

Another problem was the lots of wasted UI space. Blender Solution: waste even more UI space, and make scrolling paths even longer. For example, they list everything underneath now in the Properties editor instead besides each other.

Or that you have to look at too much places and that you get thrown to death with all tools and their settings at once. Blender solution: they introduced even more places to look for the needed tools and settings. The Header of a editor is now divided into three sections. And we have now more visual noise than before. Not fewer.

They introduced new icons. Monochrome. A really bad design decision that makes readability worse. Monochrome icons is a good solution where the icons are big and where you just have a few ones. A mobile phone for example. But not with a 3D app, tiny icons, and over 1200 different operators in the UI. Color plays a big role to distinguish icons.

And oh the double menu entries. We fought an eternal battle here already with the 2.7x code. And they continue to throw them at us. They display now every tool setting in both, the new header and the properties editor. I have still no idea why Blender devs needs everything double implemented.

And then there is again the documentation. The Blender manual is still a unsearchable and in big parts useless mess. And also the 2.8 manual will follow the old patterns from what can be seen at this point. It is already online, but is in most areas still the old 2.79 manual. So i personally don't expect a big change here.

What bothers me personally is how they massively start to commercialize Blender at the moment. More and more campaigns comes up to collect money. Merchandising is growing. Lots of new addons are commercial addons nowadays. And you can be sure that this functionality will then never make it into the Blender trunk. Blender earns its part with every sold addon, it is connected with the Blender market. So why should they?

All in all Blender is a business model nowadays, not this far away from the game engine Unity or Unreal for example. You get the base software for free, and then you pay for the needed functionality, and even for important tutorials. Well, the GPL doesn't forbid to sell your work. And it's not even a bad thing to collect money for further development. But for me how they do it at the moment is drinking wine and praying water in regards of gpl, freedom and open source. This is most probably another area where Bforartists can become important in the future.

Bforartists is more important than ever, and far away from being obsolete. There is lots to do. And we will! 

Roadmap:

We will merge the 2.8 code into Bforartists once the Blender 2.8 Beta is out. Means fingers crossed that the 2.8 Code is finally in the Blender master then. This merge will most probably kill nearly all of our old changes. The code base has changed too massive. And so we need to start over again in most areas.

Next step is to go through all old commits to check if they are still valid and if and how they fit into the new code. For example, we most probably need to reimplement our toolbar. A fuzzy task since lots of things are connected with this toolbar. And that's just one issue. Another one is to remove fragments that may still exist after the merge. The old Wireframe colors code needs to be removed. All in all thoudsands of commits are waiting here.

Then we need to make Bforartists working again, and to remove all the flaws and conflicts. As told above, some functionality has changed. Some stuff is now hardcoded. And conflicts with our Bforartists keymap. The addons needs a fix, and so on.

The time frame to finish this chapter is hard to judge. We have lots of things already done. For example we don't need to rereate the icons. But i cannot say if and how our old code integrates into the new Blender code. I expect to be busy for around half a year or more up to this point. But i wouldn't be surprised when it's a year or two instead. That's development.

And then let's have a look what can be improved. A few points have been already told. We need to revert some bad decisions. Like to make the panels more compact again and to remove the empty space, remove double menu entries again, reduce the places where the user has to look for tools and settings. There was a request already to make the annotation and grease pencil tools more accessible. And so on.

As you can see, there is lots to do. We cannot promise that we have a working version when Blender 2.8 goes final. But we do our best to create the best possible Bforartists 2 version for you.

- Reiner