July 22 Blender 2.53 Beta was released. This is the version with the radically new user interface. (See image) This new interface is going to take some getting used to. It is available for Windows 32 & 64, Mac OS X, Linux 32 & 64 and Solaris.
This version is about cleaning up old problems in the API and menu system. The Blender 2.53 Beta Release Notes are an interesting read.
For those of us working in primarily Second Life an update to 2.53 is probably not in the near future. The two most popular add-ons for Blender are waiting on the Blender API to stabilize. Domino’s Primstar 1.0 runs on Blender 2.49b and Domino is reported to have said he will wait for the Blender API to stabilize. So, no update any time soon there. Gaia Clary’s JASS 2.0 now installs Blender, Python, and JASS from a single install, which is great for those not wanting to have to deal with Blender/Python/JASS installs. These add-ons are huge time savers for those building sculpties for Second Life.
It does look like Blender 2.53 may be easier to learn. I’m not finding it easy to figure out how to do things I used to do. Many of the shortcut keys retain their original function. That helps. The manual is mostly for 2.49. So, it does not provide much help. The release is too new for there to be much in the way of tutorials online.
The screen is far more polished and pleasant to look at. Hover tips are on most controls. The contrast and colors used make working in the editor much more enjoyable. The selection boxes, selected items, and similar things are much easier to see. In busy areas where selections over lap the layering and increasingly brighter face color helps.
The first thing to stump me was splitting windows. The new install opens with a single editing window. The Blender window system has been completely changed. One has to find the new Window Split Action Zone… right. In the upper right and lower left of each window is a zone marked by parallel lines at a 45 degree angle. Click via LMB and drag to split windows. To join windows click in one Zone and drag to the other windows Zone and they join. The one you click and drag is dominant and replaces the window you drag to. Shift-LMB click on a Zone and drag to create a floating window. Press ‘T’ to hide and reveal the left side menu.
The left icons in tool bars are still there and change the display as one would expect. On my system the new panels rendered wacky. Rolling the mouse into window often changed how it rendered, in a good way. But controls like Extrude have moved up to the left-hand panel.
Grease pencil is out where one can get to it. I like that.
The mouse controls are apparently mostly the same. So, zoom, rotate, pan, etc. work the same.
All in all I like it. But, I’ll be doing my work in 2.49b and using PrimStar for the immediate future. However… once the new SL meshes come out, things change. The new 2.53 has Collada import/export, which is the format LL is rumored to be using. I am hoping this is a more up-to-date import/export that works well with Blue Mars and soon with Second Life.