There are two main reasons why the User Preferences need an overhaul:
- Outdated/aging design
When the current User Preferences design was created, there were much less options than there are now. As more were added, the User Preferences became a pretty polluted place. Finding options in it became increasingly harder and by now it's just not pleasant to work with.
- New concepts don't fit into current design
2.8x introduces new concepts that require new kinds of settings. One being workspaces, which users can set up to their liking and store in a custom configuration. This configuration is separate from the user preference configuration (userpref.blend vs. workspaces.blend) so their setup should not happen in the regular User Preferences. Another new concept was splitting system settings apart from User Preferences. The system settings would be purely for the current work station and its devices (GPU usage, monitor configuration, pen/touch tablet options, etc.)
Diagram by @Ton Roosendaal (ton) from here.
I'd propose a design that is similar to how many applications, websites and operating-systems (or desktop environments) do it:
Notable suggestions are:
- Rename the User Preferences window to "Settings".
The window would now show more than just user preferences, so it should be renamed accordingly.
- Increase size of Settings window.
The current size of the User Preferences limits us too much in space. We end up cramming together options quite a bit, even though some more whitespace would increase readability.
- Have two levels of grouping, first the "category" (User Preferences, Workspaces, System), then the settings-"group" (Interface, Add-ons, Theme, Devices, etc.). Of course "category" and "group" are tentative names.
- Add a search button to search for settings.
Note that the mock-up shows changes to the theme-system as well. These are not part of this proposal. Changes like that can be checked on separately as we go more into details.
A design similar to the one proposed, should bring multiple benefits:
- Allows having a central place for user preferences, plus the new workspace and system settings.
- Options can be placed in a more structured and readable way.
- The design is more extensible in that new categories or groups can be added as needed. Old one was too static (as in, we tried to fit everything into the few existing categories).
- The term "Settings" is often used in other applications and should therefore be easier to find for novice or occasional users.
- Many applications and websites use a similar design. That should make it easy to learn for both new and existing users.
- A search button should hugely increase usability of the Settings window, as it's not untypical to search a very specific option.
Although there may be some challenges, I expect this redesign to be a nicely isolated task where we can do much good with rather little effort. Definitely a doable change for 2.8. Especially since it allows us making the workspace configuration more flexible & useful (we don't have a proper UI for that yet).
We may have to add special widgets for the category/group chooser, but a temporary solution using existing widgets would work too.
I wouldn't mind working on a prototype and transforming it into a ready-to-use state once the design is agreed on. A nice task for until we know how to continue with the topbar.
I did do some research before opening this, in fact the proposed solution is based on this KDE-settings mockup:More mockups using this design here.
Other useful references: