Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2.5 Sneak Preview

I played around with a recent build (878-361, to be exact) of Blender 2.5. Blender 2.5 is a major rewrite of Blender which, in my opinion, makes Blender's great user interface and experience even greater. I'd like to give you a quick tour of the startup windows and the menus, to give you a sneak peek at Blender's makeover. Blender's new look is very exciting.

Please remember that we're looking at 2.5 in its embryonic stage. It's not even in its pre-release stage. Not all the features we see may make it into the final release. However, there's enough to explore so that we can get a general idea of what 2.5 will ultimately look like. I'm not going to try to build anything, or see whether any of the menu choices work. I just want to give you a quick peek of 2.5, under the hood.

So let's get started.

Here's the Blender 2.5 startup screen. Right off the bat, you'll notice a few changes. First, the Buttons Window is gone, replaced by the Timeline. Second, the 3D Viewport, defaults to a User Perspective view, as opposed to Top View in earlier versions. In the 2.5 view, you actually can see the cube as a cube, aligned along the grid.

Some things are the same. We still have the same 3 default object, the camera, the lamp, and the default cube. You can verify that because a small outline view window is in the upper right corner of the screen. Scrolling down will show you that the three objects are indeed in the scene.

Look at the User Preferences menu, which has changed somewhat. Gone are the Timeline and the Game menus. We have 4 menu items, File, Add, Render, and Help. So is the dropdown with the 5 default screen styles. This is replaced by a menu with the default Screen, called, appropriately, Screen. You can create your custom screens by pressing the + key, which adds a screen named Screen.001. You can delete the Screen by pressing the X key right next to it.

The default scene is called Scene, as in 2.4x Blender versions. You can click on the + button to add a scene - a change from selecting Add New.

A new menu lets you select among different rendering engines. The default, as it was before, is Blender's internal renderer. You now can select Blender Game, Povray, or install another renderer, which should (I'm only speculating) make the Engine menu item selectable.

A new "jobs timer" has been added.

The information about vertices, faces, objects, layers, memory, and so on, has not changed.

I mentioned the small outliner window earlier. You can use the scroll bar or press Ctrl - down arrow (as before) to toggle this window (or any window, for that matter) .

The panel at the lower right contains a number of menus. These menus change depending on the context you're in. The default is the scene panel, which has the buttons you need that are relevant to rendering the current scene.
These used to be part of the World buttons. If you click on the All Scenes dropdown, these buttons can apply to other collections of scenes and other data.

The menus are collapsable. Press the arrow to expand or contract. You can get full expansion or full contraction. Fully collapsed into groups, the scene groups are: Render, Layers, Dimensions, Anti Aliasing, Shading, Output, Performance, Post Processing, Stamp, and Units. The groupings have changed from the old World settngs. Look at Output, for example.

At the bottom is a group of icons that let you toggle among different button settings. The default is the camera icon, for the scene. Next is World, which has the menu choices that are more global - Preview, World, Ambient Occlusion, Mist, and Stars.

The Object buttons are Transform, Relations, Groups, Display, Duplication, and Animation. Note that the default name of the cube, which is selected by default, is NameCube - no doubt, to encourage you to actually name your objects - a good habit to get into. These buttons control aspects of the selected object. Look at Transform, which controls location, rotation, and scale. Note that X, Y, and Z are assumed, so LocX, LocY and LocZ labels are gone.

Next are Constraints. From the dropdown, you can add the constraints shown.

Next are the Object Data buttons, grouped into Normals, Vertex Groups, Shape Keys, UV Texture, and Vertex Colors.

Next are the Modifiers. The modifiers are grouped into an easy to read 3 column list.

Next to last are the Material buttons, with the groups you see.

Finally, there are the Texture buttons.

Each window has, at its lower left corner, a menu from where you can change its type. We'll go to the Timeline window, which currently has its menu bar displayed, and click on its window type icon. A few changes, right off the top: the Scripts Window has been renamed Console, User Preferences has been renamed Info, and the Action Editor has been renamed Dopesheet. I'm sure there are other changes.

I hope you enjoyed our sneak preview of Blender 2.5. It looks like the best is only going to get better. So happy Blending and see you next time.