Blender 2.8 now includes pie menus enabled by default for some key features. Pressing the Z-key opens a pie menu with viewport shading options. We also use pie menus now with the tilde key to set the viewpoint.
Because 2.8 makes pie menus a default UI paradigm, it's a good time to review other areas where we might want to use them.
About pie menus
Let's briefly revisit why pie menus are in interesting UI concept.
First, they allow us to map a setting, such as viewport shading, to a single key shortcut, rather than several ones for each type. It means we can make more efficient use of the keyboard, and we can free up keys for other useful things.
Second, they make features easier to use, because the user only has to learn and remember one shortcut for a given feature, rather than several.
Third, pie menus are fast, because you can use them via a gesture. Hold the key, swipe in the direction of the option you are looking for, and then simply release. We take advantage of muscle memory to allow quick interaction. With pie menus, we can surface more features via direct shortcuts, which are faster to execute.
Now that we've started to include some pie menus by default in Blender, it's time to review some other places where it would make sense. Here's an ongoing list of features that would work well as a pie menu:
The Pivot Point setting is a perfect candidate for a pie menu.
In the 3D View, we have 5 types of pivot points, and one pivot option.
Currently, two of the five pivot point settings are mapped to comma and period, respectively. The two next pivot point settings are accessed by holding Ctrl and pressing comma or period. The last option is accessed by holding Alt and pressing period. This means users have to memorise five keyboard shortcuts for one feature, and we take up a large portion of the keymap for just this one thing.
This is ripe for being converted into a pie menu, like so:
- Only one key to remember
- Only one key used (if we map this to comma, period can become free)
- Fast access, with no need to hold modifier keys to access the various options
Currently, setting the transform orientations is done with Alt+Spacebar. This displays a list menu with the various orientations. This can be improved. The simple menu isn't very fast, because you cannot use muscle memory and just use a gesture. Also, the Alt+Spacebar is not as fast as a single key shortcut.
As a pie menu, we could make this faster to use, by leveraging the gestural aspect, and mapping it to the now free period.
Currently, switching Proportional Editing types is performed with Shift+O. Rather than opening a menu, it just cycles through the various options. This is extremely slow, because you have to keep cycling through all the options to get to the one you are looking for, and even worse, if you tap Shift+O one time too many, you have to cycle through all the options again.
We could make this a pie menu, which is both clearer and much faster:
Other candidates for pie menus:
- Snap To
- Merge (Alt-M)
- Grease Pencil Stroke Placement
- Grease Pencil Drawing Plane
Pie menus could be added more places too - suggestions welcome