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Blender 2.8: Naming Conventions
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Description

In Blender 2.8, we are making some slight changes to naming conventions used throughout the app.

Rationale

By default in Blender, we use the English language. In any language, words have certain meanings.

Language is a communication tool, and the only way language can work, is if we adhere to the same meanings. Using wrong or misleading language serves nobody - it only makes simple things unnecessarily difficult to understand and learn.

So, we want to favour unambiguous, plain and standard language. In Blender, there are some examples where we simply aren't using the correct terms for things, and we want to fix that.

Here's a list of the changes:

Draw -> Display

Status: Done
In the context of information shown to the user, eg. Draw All Edges, Draw Type, Draw Method etc.

Draw: (Oxford) Produce (a picture or diagram) by making lines and marks on paper with a pencil, pen, etc..

Display: (Oxford) Show (data or an image) on a computer, television, or other screen.

The word 'draw' for displaying information is fundamentally confusing in a graphics application which includes actual drawing tools. The word 'display' is clearer and unambiguous. This also means changes for common word combinations, eg:

Draw Type -> Display As
Status: Incomplete
Display As [Wireframe] is unambiguous and clear, whereas 'draw type' is not.

Properties (N key) -> Sidebar

Status: Done
It used to be ambiguous if you were referring to the Properties area vs the Properties Editor. For this reason, we've changed the convention so that we use 'sidebar' for the N-key area and 'Properties' for the Properties Editor.

Group -> Collection

Status: Done

This reflects the merging of the old Groups and Layers into something new. Blender's old Groups wouldn't actually behave like a grouped item in the scene, and so the term was misleading. 'Collections' makes it clear that items are simply part of a collection.

Translate & Grab -> Move

Status: Done

In the context of the tool in the toolbar that lets users alter the position of items.

Translate: (Oxford): Express the sense of (words or text) in another language -or- convert something or be converted into(another form or medium) Translate can also mean, in formal terms: (Oxford) move (a bishop or, in Scotland, a minister) to another

Grab: (Oxford) Grasp or seize suddenly and roughly -or- obtain or get (something) quickly or opportunistically

Move: (Oxford) [with object] change the place, position

The 'Translate' button in Blender could never translate between German and Spanish. The word is ambiguous and not plainly clear.

Using 'Grab' to mean moving something from A to B is simply not correct.

'Move' is both more plain and clear.

Before/After:

Manipulator -> Gizmo

Status: Done
Shorter, more standard term.

Grease Pencil -> Annotate

Status: Done

Annotate: (Oxford) Add notes to (a text or diagram) giving explanation or comment

Gives a better idea of what the tool is for, rather than a reference to an object. This name also had to change because of the new Grease Pencil objects in 2.8.

X-Ray -> In Front

Status: Done
Blender 2.8 has an actual X-Ray feature now in the Shading popover which lets you look through objects. However, objects also have an X-Ray option which simply displays them on top of other objects. Using the same term for two different things here is confusing, and 'X-Ray' is not a good description of displaying in front.

Lamp -> Light

Status: Done

Lamp: (Oxford) A device for giving light, either one consisting of an electric bulb together with its holder and shade or cover
Light: (Oxford) A source of illumination

A sun can't be a lamp, but it is a light. 'Light' is a better generic term here.

Spin -> Lathe

Status: Not Yet

Spin: (Oxford) turn or whirl round quickly
Lathe: (Oxford) A machine for shaping wood, metal, or other material by means of a rotating drive which turns the piece being worked on against changeable cutting tools.

The Spin tool in Blender doesn't spin at all. 'Spin' implies movement. This is simply not the correct term. 'Lathe' is the correct term here.

Duplication -> Instancing

Status: Done
In the context of Particle instances, Collection instances, and the old DupliVerts/DupliFaces, which also creates instances.

Instances are a unique feature that saves memory, which isn't communicated by the term 'duplication'.

Before/After:

Actually duplicating objects and items should still use the term 'duplicate'.

Subsurf -> Subdiv

Status: Done

As a shorthand for Subdivision Surfaces, Subdiv is correct, Subsurf is not. 'Subsurf' is especially confusing because it sounds like Subsurface Scattering, which is something very different.

Center Points -> Origins

Status: Done

This is not a name change. Just to point out that we aren't being consistent here. Sometimes we refer to the origin point as 'center points', although mostly we refer to them as 'Origins'. We should use the same name everywhere. 'Center points' is also a bad name because, obviously, it's most often not in the center.

Circle Select -> Paint Selection

Status: Not Yet

Circle Select does not select circles. It doesn't even let you drag a circle around items to select them. What this tool is, is a way to paint selections, so that's what we should call it.

Border Select -> Box Select or Rectangle Select

Status: Done
Oxford: Border: 1: a line separating two countries. 2: the edge or boundary of something

Border Select does not select borders. It selects everything inside a box or rectangle.

Shape Key -> Morph Target

Status: Not Yet
The term 'Shape Key' is not a good word. It implies keyframing, which isn't what it does. This feature allows you to define a set of shapes to morph between. So, 'Morph Target' is a better term.

Border -> Region

Status: Done
This applies to Render Border, Clipping Border and other related features.

These features are not about rendering or selecting borders, but creating region for selection or rendering.

Ornaments -> Extras

Status: Done
Oxford: Ornament: A thing used or serving to make something look more attractive but usually having no practical purpose
An ornament is a superfluous, useless, decorative element.

Remove Doubles -> Merge by Distance

Alternatives: Distance Merge, Proximity Merge
Status: Done
The current Remove Doubles operator name is not clear: 'Doubles' implies exactly two items, even though it works in an arbitrary number of vertices. 'Remove' is also misleading - really it's just performing a merge operation.

Since this operator is really just a special kind of Merge that takes distance into account, the name can reflect that.

Add -> Create

(for placing new primitives into the scene)
Alternatives: Insert
Status: Not yet
Oxford: Add: Join (something) to something else so as to increase the size, number, or amount: a new wing was added to the building | some box offices now add on a convenience charge | (as adjective added) : one vitamin tablet daily will give added protection.

OR:

Put together (two or more numbers or amounts) to calculate their total value: they added all the figures up | add the two numbers together.

The term 'Add' is somewhat ambiguous, because it's used in maths to add to values together. We even use the term Add inside Blender for this in many places.

The term 'Create' is more specific and unambiguous, and is more widely used for this.

Details

Type
Design

Event Timeline

There are a very large number of changes, so older changes are hidden. Show Older Changes

The problem with the term "Helper" and it's synonym "Assistant", is it is very vague and sounds like it might do something (allow you to perform tasks more easily, interactive or expose functionality).

In this case they don't, they only display extra details.

Campbell: You are not wrong, but think of the context.

Overlays -> Ornaments sounds like you can add useless decoration in the viewport, whereas Overlays -> Helpers sounds like exactly what it is, in that context. You already know it's an overlay.

You could also call it 'Visual Aids' although that also sounds like Visual AIDS, which is bad.

Another option is 'Extras'. A few well known apps use this term.

Technically they are handles from the Oxford Dictionary Handle: (Noun) The part by which a thing is held, carried, or controlled. which is what they do after all.
They provide a way to select or manipulate abstract objects that have no real geometry or representation of their own

It might also sound vague and uninformative though, and may falsely suggest bezier curve handles. Manipulators is another possibility, though it may also allude to gizmos

Other possibilities, Trims: Decoration; especially, decoration placed along edges or borders or Adornments
I'd be totally fine with either helpers or ornaments

I think either of these is fine, and all of them more descriptive than 'ornaments'

  1. Helpers
  2. Handles
  3. Extras

Side note for the recent units commit: meter, centimeter is only the correct spelling in the US, everywhere else it should be metre, centimetre...

A meter is a device for measuring things not the metric unit of length.

From Wikipedia:

"Metre is the standard spelling of the metric unit for length in nearly all English-speaking nations except the United States and the Philippines which use meter. Other Germanic languages, such as German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages likewise spell the word meter.

Measuring devices (such as ammeter, speedometer) are spelled "-meter" in all variants of English. The suffix "-meter" has the same Greek origin as the unit of length."

AFAIK we use US English in Blender? We also don't call it 'colour' or 'randomise'. Likewise, we should stick to 'meter' and not 'metre'. Same for 'centre' vs 'center'

As a native British English speaker I wouldn't mind making all of Blender British English. Oi mate, ello ello. Nah, just having a laugh. I think we should stick to US English.

Meters and Centimeters is what I am used to. In fact, this is the first time in 27 years of my life that I got to know that "metre" and "centimetre" are actually valid words, and not a typo. I fact, even google doesn't think so, and considers it a typo :D :

Regarding the "Ornaments" discussion. If "helpers" causes issues, then let's try "3D Icons". That's also very descriptive.

Ludvik: I guess you are not British then. In any case, Blender uses US English, and so our spelling should follow US English spelling. It's that simple.

Ah, if the convention is US English then that's fine. A little annoying but fine :)

Campbell: You are not wrong, but think of the context.
Overlays -> Ornaments sounds like you can add useless decoration in the viewport, whereas Overlays -> Helpers sounds like exactly what it is, in that context. You already know it's an overlay.

Even in this context, we toggle gizmo's which are interactive (and not *exactly* an overlay).

You could also call it 'Visual Aids' although that also sounds like Visual AIDS, which is bad.
Another option is 'Extras'. A few well known apps use this term.

Prefer 'Extras' over 'Helpers', while vague it's not misleading,

Although it does have the down side of suggesting showing the camera or lamp is something 'Extra' (not something that's default which users expect to always see).

Part of the confusion AFAICS is this option is hard to summarize, it's basically this meaning (when negated):

Disable most non-rendered guides which interfere with viewing the final result except for those which are needed for editing & animation (selection origins for eg).

It's a light-weight way to disable overlays, without making the view-port unusable. However we name, it's an approximation and not something you can fit a dictionary definition. An issue with using general terms is we could have buttons named the same elsewhere which do different things.

i think "Extras display" will be more fitting.

Ok, 'extras' it is then. Updated.

Renamed:

  • ornaments -> extras
  • border select -> box select

We should also rename the Cursor to Center entry in the Snap menu (Shift+S), to something like Cursor to World Origin, or just Cursor to World but it's less descriptive. But currently Cursor to Center is confusing, as it suggests the center of the objects, or selection, it's not clear.

@Campbell Barton (campbellbarton) I could go ahead change it in the menus but I guess the operator itself should also be renamed, if we agree on a name.

bpy.ops.view3d.snap_cursor_to_center()

Pablo: completely agree with those.

“Cursor to Center” is such ambiguous wording. Which center? The fact the it turns out to be the world origin you’d never guess.

Suggestion to change Spin -> Revolve

  • Revolve (oxford): Move in a circle on a central axis
  • Revolve is a verb, whereas Lathe is a noun

Should we rename 'operator' to 'command' ?

Noticed some of the UI docs refer to commands, but AFAICS this wasn't proposed/agreed on, (P835 for reference).

They'd still be operators in the code bpy.types.Operator, bpy.ops.*, etc

@Campbell Barton (campbellbarton)

I think we should use the term 'Operator' when referring to the internal implementation.

We should use 'Command' as a term for actions, like Remove Doubles. Subdivide etc, which take effect immediately. We can then use 'Tools' or 'Active Tools' to describe something that stays active. Both tools and commands use operators under the hood to perform modifications.

rndmnm added a subscriber: rndmnm.EditedNov 26 2018, 6:03 PM

I'm actually strongly against "Lathe" .
First of all, the word it self isn't as understandable as it may seem. Someone using english as second language might actually not learn this word for years, as it is only used in context of woodworking or machining.
Second of all, I think words should be used in a 3D modelling software context. In this case the tool is creating a Surface of Revolution- a mathematical term. Therefore most CAD software (Fusion, AutoCAD, Solidworks) uses the name "Revolve" for those tools.
Even if "Revolve" might not be a simple enough term for the tool, it still sets a precedent to "Spin", as a middle ground for CAD users and artist .

@William Reynish (billreynish) ok, so "Operator Search" should be renamed to "Command Search", "Repeat Last Action" -> "Repeat Last Command" ?

@Campbell Barton (campbellbarton): I would think so, yes. Although with those things they really are referring to the underlying operator in a way. It's debatable. No particular strong opinion.

@rndmnm: We could go with Revolve instead of Lathe or Spin.

@Campbell Barton (campbellbarton) this space before "Only Origins" is it an intentional one, or is it a Design bug?

If it was intentional, in the design "point of view" it would be better to align it just like the others.
IMO though,
Greeting.

Chiming in on the Spin / Lathe question.

Appreciate it's difficult to come up with an unequivocal name for what the tool does. Currently I see it's called 'Screw' and this seems worse than 'Spin'. Screw implies tapering and directional movement perpendicular to the axis along which the modifier operates and an implicit confusion with an actual screw (which the tool doesn't create). Screw (Spin/Lathe) doesn't create 'screws'.

Not entirely keen on Lathe as that's a piece of machinery that you use to 'turn' a cylindrical block of stuff into a desired profile. It will be obscure to someone without an engineering/woodworking background and isn't quite right anyway. Also 'Turn' wouldn't work as it will be confused with rotate. There's nothing about the modifier that applies the desired final profile to any object in the scene.

What the tool does is take a desired final profile and an axis of rotation and creates a cylindrical version the profile around that axis. So perhaps 'Cylindrify' would work? Appreciate it could be difficult for non-English speakers at first but it does go well with Solidify. And yes, you can choose less than /more than 360 degree rotation but I think that's splitting hairs.

Also the current Icon implies two axis rotation and translation which is a confusing visual metaphor. A dotted axis with the classic vase / face illusion would be better as that's a thing I think most people would recognise qv. http://www.kidsmathgamesonline.com/images/pictures/illusions/facesorvase.jpg

@Adrian Giddings (cunabula) Currently it's still called Spin. There's a 'Screw' modifier but that's something else.

'Cylindrify' is ok, although it's not a real word in use afaik.

'Lathe' is both a real and normal word, and pretty accurately describes what the tool does. It's also the standard term for this kind of operation. Even Wikipedia refers to this as 'lathe', see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lathe_(graphics)

The goal for these name changes, is to use real and standard words for things, rather than obscure and wrong ones.


I wonder if Only Origins would be more explicit if it were named "Positions Only".
"Only Origins" may falsely suggest we are changing object origins, by leaving the geometry static and moving the centers only.

"Positions Only" reflects much better what the option does, since scaling or rotating don't affect object scale or rotation, nor its geometry; only its coordinates in the scene.

Can we rename Select Sharp Edges to Select by Edge Angle? It should also probably be under Select by Trait as well since it is selecting according to a trait. It has nothing to do with edges that are Sharp, and having two meanings for the same word gets confusing.

Could we rename Brush Curve into something more functional? Currently it is just Curve, and in other 2d software it is referred differently like 'hardness' or 'shape' etc.

What about "Link" and "Append" ?

In some other software, its "Reference" and "Merge" (at least, Maya does "references", 3DS does "XRefs" and "Merge").

Don't know for other softwares though. But in my experience, "reference" and "merge" also often used in common everyday English language, non-native English speakers might understand those easier. And those words are everywhere in forums.

A couple comments...

Further up this thread @Regnas (Regnas) asked about "UV Sphere". I'm pretty sure that is a name made up by Blender and is used nowhere else. A better name that better describes it would be "Polar Sphere". So we would have "Isosphere", "Polar Sphere", and (later) "Quadsphere".

I've also seem some comments about our repeated usages of "Add". It gets confusing to have multiple "Adds" in different places. And I agree that it would be nice to replace some of those where we can. If we are selecting items and extending a previous selection we could use "Append" rather than "Add" (and "Remove" instead of "Subtract").

If we are putting primitives into a scene, that menu could be "Insert". The words seem similar, but "Insert" might be less ambiguous in our context. "Add" could be assumed to be a Boolean operation, or even something mathematical, while "Insert" might be pretty clear.

My suggestions:

Remove Doubles -> Merge Doubles
Or:            -> Merge Overlaps

Both ‘overlaps’ and ‘doubles’ are not accurate descriptions. It merges based on *distance*.

@Harley Acheson (harley):

Most apps use ‘Create’ rather than ‘Insert’, which is at least as uncommon as ‘Add’. If it is to be changed, we might as well use ‘Create’.

Most apps use ‘Create’ rather than ‘Insert’

That would work too. I wasn't that wedded to "Insert" to be honest, just nice to not have "Add" for everything if possible.

@-L0Lock-

IMO Link is okay, but append should really be just "Import .blend" or "Library import", functionally it's not much different from importing other formats. Maybe link could be "Library link"

I agree with you Doubles doesn't describe it, and I will agree with you if just the Operator renamed to "Merge by Distance" or executing it under a menu on its own like Mesh -> Merge by Distance , but putting it under Clean Up menu doesn't make sense either. at least must have some sort of Clean, Remove, Multiples, Overlaps ...

I think it should be put under Clean Up. Removing doubles is something you do to remove unwanted mesh data i.e. clean your mesh, not an operation that changes the form of your object.

+1 to rename the 'Add' menu to 'Create'.

Add can mean a blending mode when talking colour, adding something to a collection, add up, add as in math.

Can I suggest that "factory settings" is a little weird and maybe consider at some point just making it "default settings"?

The term "factory settings" usually applies to a physical device that came from a factory somewhere. Seems a bit odd to use in software, and where the "factory" is a bit nebulous at best.

+1 to rename factory settings to default settings. Maybe default preferences since its edit->preferences?

The down side of this is you manage your own default settings.

Many users will be familier with the term "Factory Settings" from hardware that often has this feature (phones, cameras, TV's).

Currently under the "Defaults" there is a "Save Startup" option.
Since you just saved defaults, it's not clear what loading them should do.

It could be renamed to "Factory Defaults" instead of "Factory Settings", I don't have a strong opinion on this.

Another name change we could do is to the term Make - as in Make Links, Make Parent, Make Single User, Make Meta-Strip, Make Local, Make Proxy, etc.

The use of the word 'make' here is rather odd grammatically, and in some cases misleading, such as with 'Make Parent' - you aren't actually making a parent, you are just setting a parent/child relationship.

Here are some examples of better wordings:

Make Links -> Link To
Make Parent -> Set Parent
Make Single User -> Set Unique Data
Make Local -> Append Linked Data into This File
Make Meta-Strip -> New Meta-Strip
Make Proxy -> New Proxy
etc

These are just a few examples, but in many of these cases we can come up with proper titles that much more accurately describe what they represent, without the odd use of 'make'.

Make Links -> Link To

This one is particularly confusing! A lot of items in the Make Links menu are not linking at all, in the way that the rest of Blender uses the term.

What about the word 'Transfer' instead? It's clear, fits all use cases, and is already used by one of the items.