19 Replies Latest reply on Jul 27, 2009 10:06 AM by Tim R

    Examples of Great UI Redux

      It’s been quite some time since I commented on this thread, so I apologize in advance for this. After a couple of weeks and some good answers from some in our SW community frankly I brushed it aside because my original post had somehow been misinterpreted to mean "how can the GUI of SW be improved" so I gave up. I thought it's time to take another stab at this topic so I'm going to attempt to make this very succinct and concise:


      What software programs do you use in your life that you think are wonderfully implemented?  These can be programs you use on your TV, cell phone, PDA, computer, games, professional day-to-day etc. For instance:  I love what Eric Wenger did with Bryce3D (see attached) one of the truly unique CAD interfaces.


      Please remember, I’m with the New Concepts group, not the SW group; for suggestions on how to improve SW - that would be Tom Spine and Jim Wilkinson. With that said, in this thread, I’m not interested in what you think of SW or what it could be, but rather, what other products software products and interfaces get you excited?  And so you don’t think I’m just musing with this subject, yes, I’m trying to gather opinion for a future SW product that we are currently working on so your suggestions and opinion DO matter.





        • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
          Angela Crawford

          I recently downloaded blender (http://www.blender.org/).  Its interface is different from anything I've used before, but the more I go through the tutorials, the more I like it.  Specifically, I like the control I have over all the menus, the way they are laid out, and he way you navigate quickly from one to the other.  This tutorial was really good about explaining how to get started with the new interface, and explains how to navigate it pretty well:  http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Blender_3D:_Noob_to_Pro.


          I like the way a lot of programs have tabs across the top or bottom to switch easily between open files (MUCH better than going to Window -> then looking through the list to find what you want...if there's even room for it on the list).


          One other example of good user interface, to me, is when text is auto-copied when highlighted and pasted on MMB.  Because if you are highlighting text, you're most likely doing that to copy it, so it saves the extra motions of right click, copy.

            • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
              Neil Larsen

              heh, this makes me smile a little cos Blender has been criticised a lot for its bad interface in the past by people not familiar with it - or should I say unwilling to stick with it long enough to learn how to use it.

              It is true though that over time and many revisions and additions it has become too crowded, jumbled and inefficient and somewhat outdated/unattractive.

              Currently Blender is getting a major overhaul to be known as Blender 2.50.

              It will be sort of a hybrid intertwining of Python and C and OpenGL in realtime. The UI will be prescribed and also customisable by Python script and virtually everything will be accessible and able to be driven by script if desired and likewise virtually everything will able to be animated at well.

              There are many goodies coming under the hood but at present the UI layout is still a work in progress

              You can try a WIP alpha stage 2.50 by downloading a recent development build from www.graphicall.org/builds/index.php- see svn r21880 -32 bit (Win), built by oogsnoepje

              you may need to install Python 2.6 to run it..not sure.

              Unzip the file and double click the Blender.exe to run it.

              I suppose you would need to be a little familiar with present Blender to make sense of it but all windows are zoomable and draggable at the edges and you can divide and join adjacent ones. you can also  rip a window off as a floating one, save your new layout etc. and change screen layouts to suit the focus of the task at hand and also search for tools - lots of flexibility and utility built in.

              There are a few bugs and quite a bit of stuff is not finished or decided on but it might be of interest to some to poke around at.

              It has some aspects of the old UI and some departures -not everything done so far is to users liking but generally folk are enthusiastic.

              I have been trying to get auto expand/collapsing fields and auto field tiling based on width incorporated - have to keep working on the powers that be a bit more, however it is my understanding users will be able to make their own custom UI layout fairly easily...and some talk has surfaced recently about drag and drop elements which is actually an idea I proposed a while ago to make developing complex interfaces for scripts easier..

              Anyway it is hoped to have a fairly complete build together to demo at Siggraph09 - coming soon.



              BTW Mark as usual you guys won't say what you are actually working on so I don't really think you can expect to get much meaningful feedback/feedforward about it.

              The situation is about as useful to both parties as a one question survey like: How long is a bit of string?....

              and besides you know whatever we say SW decision makers are going to do what they want anyway and its going to be excessively pretty, needlessly animated, and socially fluffy by default..


              and I am sorry but I really dislike the Bryce UI...I definitely don't want to see anything like that in SW...not that that will dissuade anyone...

              • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux

                Angela Crawford said: "I like the way a lot of programs have tabs across the top or bottom to switch easily between open files"


                Yes, I agree. I especially like the recent versions of Adobe products, especially Photoshop that does this.



                  • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                    Wayne Tiffany

                    But keep in mind that those tabs take space and if the Ctrl-Tab works acceptably, then you don't lose that graphics area.



                      • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                        Angela Crawford

                        Yeah, I guess the best bet would be to make it something you can toggle on and off.  But as far as Ctrl-Tabbing...I frequently work with 10 or more files open at once and even though Ctrl-Tabbing works, "Ctrl-Tab" x 10 is a hassle and Heaven forbid you accidentally skip the one you want .


                        Actually this makes me think of another good UI - Bluebeam.  It has the tabs, and it has a little button to split the window into two windows so you can easily compare two documents side by side.  You can click the split button again to compare 3-8 (I think 8 is the cutoff) documents.  You can then click through the tabs to set up each window to the correct document, then compare away.  I know you can tile windows in SW, but Bluebeam's method of doing it is more user friendly in my opinion.

                          • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                            Jim Wilkinson

                            Angela wrote:


                            Yeah, I guess the best bet would be to make it something you can toggle on and off.  But as far as Ctrl-Tabbing...I frequently work with 10 or more files open at once and even though Ctrl-Tabbing works, "Ctrl-Tab" x 10 is a hassle and Heaven forbid you accidentally skip the one you want .

                            Hi Angela,


                            Try pressing Ctrl-tab and hold the ctrl key but let go of the tab key. This will keep the document selection window up and then you can either select the desired document by selecting it with the mouse, or if you tap the tab key multiple times (while still holding tab), it will cycle through the documents visually in the interface and then when you get to the one you want, let go of both keys. If using the keyboard only, it works just like Microsoft's Alt-tab interface for applications. We added the mouse selection too which is an improvement on Microsoft's approach.


                            I hope this helps.


                              • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                Angela Crawford
                                Thanks, that does help .  I rarely used it because I thought it was identical to the Microsoft way of doing it but I will try the method of holding control and selecting with the mouse.  That sounds much easier than how I was doing it before.
                                  • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                    Wayne Tiffany



                                    That was the method I was referring to when I talked about the Ctrl-Tab usage.  But there is a Pro and a Con that must be mentioned especially for the new user.  The Pro is that you don't have to even click the mouse on the one you want - just put the cursor over the one you want at the point that you release the Ctrl key.  It's quicker than clicking.  The Con is that once you get in that habit, you forget to think about it.  So what happens is that you are zooming along and want to go back to the previous doc, so you quickly hit Ctrl-Tab and release it.  But then you see that you ended up somewhere else - why?  Your cursor is out in the graphics area somewhere and if it happens to end up over a selectable area of the Ctrl-Tab interface, then you accidentally end up selecting that one instead of the previous one.  So, a good method, but takes a bit of learning.



                            • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                              Neil Larsen


                              What I think is that we should line up all of the SW staff and have them choose between:

                              A) wanting to work for a company that perfects technical programs for professional engineers

                              B) wanting to market niche products to hairdressers and socialites.

                              Those choosing hairdressing will be given a handkerchief and a bunch of flowers and then be escorted down a red carpet to be eliminated by a user firing squad around the back.

                              The rest can then return to work with a healthy sense of self awareness and direction and be able to actually achieve something worthwhile.


                              I really don't see the need to keep generating a different UI for each new bit of program.

                              Why do we have so much time and energy going into UI development and redevelopment?

                              How about focusing on real content and bug fixing.

                              SW is going to resemble Michael Jacksons nose soon with all the attention the skinning is getting.

                              If we could journey back in time with SW2015 to the design of Apollo it would have launched with full gloss pink metallic paint and party streamers trailing from it while the crew twittered about the coffee they just didnt have.

                              The pity is that many important folk at SW would think that was terrific marketing and unfortunately I think you would be one to agree with them.

                              I am really disappointed that you as a former seat of the pants SW user would want to champion still more of this stuff.


                              ok I rest my case.

                          • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux

                            I belive all the great UI are all from Game industry.


                            PSP, WII, PS3, XBOX360

                              • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                Daymon Hoffman

                                Ok Sir i am sorry. But this is where i have to put my foot down.  I seriously.. and i mean SERIOUSLY hope that SWCorp doesnt take the Xbox 360's User Interface as an example.  It is one of the most frustrating UI's i have ever used.  Slow, cumbersome, painful.  Did i mention slow?  A great UI is anything other then slow.


                                The PS3 on the other hand is a fine example of how the simple subject of speed makes a UI so much more useable.  A User Interface should never get in the way of me.  I'm a slow human. A computer is fast.  if i have to wait for the UI *at all* then there is a major problem.  Any software engineer's that crate a user interface that is any of these following things in the unacceptable list should be fired immediately right after being forced to use the UI for a LONG period of time under time constraints.



                                *slow to navigate

                                *sluggish to respond

                                *is anything but fully customizable in every possible way (no two people are the same so the only way to make it work is make it customizable).  This is a huge one itself.  Includes so many things from simple icon size and quality right up to being able to utilize unused areas of "Title Bar" spaces and the like.

                              • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux

                                Minority Report style UI


                                • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                  Matt Lombard

                                  I think if you aim at an interface that is cool, or trendy, you will come up with something that a few people like and most people don't like. Interface has to be functional, and "cool", well, you can't even define that much less get a bunch of people to agree what it is.  The ribbon, for example, would be a bad idea. Whatever you do, make sure you run it by some skeptics. If you keep running wild changes by "yes men", you will get another disaster like SW2008. You need to talk to people who can articulate criticism and you need to be able to hear that kind of talk, whether it is constructive or not.


                                  SolidWorks is a very complicated piece of software that does a lot of different things. The interface has to be complex. If you're talking about simple software like a web browser, I like the functionality of Avant with the simplicity and speed of Chrome. Personally, I like interfaces you can detach from the document window, and I like document windows you can separate from one another. I like Gimp, which I guess is like Photoshop, although I don't use photoshop.


                                  Go here http://www.dezignstuff.com/blog/?p=54 it has some interface ideas I don't think I've seen all in one place before.

                                  • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                    Derek Bishop
                                    Google is a good example in my mind of a good user interface. It is simple yet very powerful and reliable. Simple is beautiful!
                                      • Re: Examples of Great UI Redux
                                        Tim R

                                        Yeah.. simplicity is important and how intuitive an interface is also.  My favorite browser Opera does this.. simple and it feels intuitive.  The only thing I don't like about Opera is it's silly name and that doesn't have anything to do with it's interface.