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UI Design, XUL, Blender

P: n/a
Newcomers to Blender (3D modelling/animation program)
often find its fairly unique UI a bit off-putting,
but on closer inspection, I find it's a very compelling
design for "power users" (i.e. professionals who need to
use a given program on a daily basis, and who are therefore
willing to make the effort to learn the specific interface).
It is much better than either a command line interface
or a more conventional GUI, for that purpose, IMHO.

Unfortunately, Blender doesn't really follow a Model-View-
Controller design, so I'm not sure how separable the
interface is from the rest of the program (I'm asking that
question elsewhere). My question here, is just how unique,
really, is that interface? Could it be implemented with
"standard" GUI toolkits (using complex widgets and
customizing button appearance, for example)?

The main things I notice as a user are that:

* The buttons are smaller and use iconic graphics, so you
can access more controls at once.

* Extensive use of "tabs" allowing control pallettes to be
brought up or expanded, facillitating highly hierarchical

* Widgets are color-coded as to functionality and fall into
several important categories:

o ON/OFF (Bistate)
o ON/OFF/FLOATING (Tristate)
o Numerical data entry, which act simultaneously as
sliders and data-entry widgets

* The main thing is that these "buttons" actually have
fairly complicated behavior, acting as sliders,
text-entry, and selectboxes simultaneously.

(I may be missing things that would be more apparent to GUI
designers, though, so I'd be even more interested in a reply
from someone who's actually seen the Blender UI themselves.)

I'm wondering if this could be achieved in a Python program
by using wxPython or PyGTK or another popular,
cross-platform GUI toolkit? Also, is a GUI specification
language like XUL capable of expressing this kind of
interface so that it could be made functional on multiple
GUI implementations?

I'm trying to compare two alternatives:

1) Figure out how to mimic the Blender GUI in a more
conventional, separable GUI toolkit, so that an MVC
design can be more easily used. (This leaves a fairly
complication "View" component, but there are other fairly
advanced 3D visualization components).

2) Use Blender itself, using the Python scripting facility
to wedge an MVC design into it (probably by hacking
Blender to create a bridge between Blender's internal
(C struct based) model, and an external model (probably
represented in an object database component, such
as ZODB).

in order to figure out which would be easier.

Any more informed comments from people who know the various
GUI packages would be a lot of help. I assume it goes
without saying that I'm looking at Python as an integration
language. In my ideal design, the M,V, and C components
are separate Python modules, so that the communications
are all at the Python level.


Terry Hancock ( hancock at )
Anansi Spaceworks

Oct 22 '05 #1
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