In Blender 2.8 we introduced Collections to manage our objects and scenes. This places more emphasis and reliance on the Outliner, and so now is a good time to make additional improvements to how it works.
I’ve identified a few areas that have potential to make the Outliner more delightful to use.
In Blender, the selection state is not shared between the Outliner and the scene. This is inconvenient and often impractical, but it’s also confusing. If you select something in the viewport, the same object is not selected in the Outliner. But if you select something in the Outliner, it overrides the selection inside the viewport. The selection is synced one way but not the other. It’s half syncing in a confusing way.
It also means that we need two confusing ways of showing selections - the highlighted row and the icon circle.
I think we can make this a lot easier to use. Here’s how:
We add a toggle inside the Filter popover called Synced Selection, just like we have in the UV Editor. This should be on by default I think.
With this option on, the selection state is shared between the Outliner and the viewport. This makes everything simpler, because users don’t have to worry about selecting things twice. If something is selected, it’s selected in both Outliner and viewport, always. With this enabled, we can get rid of the yellow-on-yellow circles that make the icons hard to read, and use the same colors for selected and active as we do in the viewport:
With this option off, the selection state is completely decoupled, rather than the current half-syncing system that tries to only sync one way. So it’s either fully on or fully off.
This should make selection in the Outliner a lot more straight forward by default, in a way that’s both more efficient and less confusing in the vast majority of use-cases.
We can make two nice improvements to selecting in the Outliner
1: Box Select by dragging from the left gutter. We can use this empty area to our advantage, so that users can always start a box selection by dragging from here and around items.
Likewise, we can also support deselecting by clicking in this area, without having to scroll down to an empty section to click outside any items.
2: Select all items in-between when holding shift / select individual items by holding Ctrl.
When holding shift to select multiple items, we can select all the items in between.
Users can then use Ctrl to select individual items without the ones in between.
Pull items in and out of Edit Mode
In 2.8 we added the ability to bring multiple objects into Edit Mode. However, it’s not easy enough to pull in more objects into the Edit Mode session, or to evict items from it. The Outliner can be of great use here. Here’s how I think we can solve it:
When in Edit Mode (or any mode that supports editing multiple objects), we add a fourth column of toggles. Using these, it’s easily possible to either add in any items into your session, or to evict something you are done editing.
As a bonus, the also makes it easier to see which items are in the mode and which are not.