Blender Editor Types - dummies

By Jason van Gumster

In many ways, Blender isn’t so much one program as it is a bunch of different programs sharing the same interface and access to the same data. Thinking of it this way, each of Blender’s editor types is kind of its own little program in a Blender area.

A Blender area can contain any editor type. You can see what editor types are available by left-clicking the button on the far left of that editor’s header. This figure shows the menu that appears when you press this button:

The Editor Type menu.
The Editor Type menu.

Each editor type serves a specific purpose, but you can organize them into four basic categories: animation editors, 2D editors, general editors, and ­miscellaneous editors. The menu shown attempts to organize the editors according to these categories. The exception to this is the 3D View. Technically, it should probably be among the general editors, but since it’s used most ­frequently, it has a distinguished position as the first option in the list.

General editors

The editors covered here are usually the most common way of interfacing with objects in your 3D scene, as well as customizing Blender itself.

These editors give you general control over your scene or over Blender itself:

  • 3D View (Shift+F5): Arguably the most-used editor in Blender, the 3D View shows you the three-dimensional view of your model or scene and provides access to many of the tools you can use to modify it.

  • Properties (Shift+F7): You can manipulate nearly all of the different attributes for your scene and the objects within it via this editor.

  • Outliner (Shift+F9): The Outliner gives a hierarchical view of all the objects in your scene along with the ability to see how they’re related to one another. It’s also a quick way to select objects and do simple ­manipulations in a complex scene.

  • User Preferences: Through the User Preferences editor, you can ­customize how you interact with Blender.

  • Info: The Info editor contains Blender’s main menu and displays basic information about your scene. It also serves as a report space where warnings and errors are logged. This can be used to figure out what ­happened if a feature doesn’t work as expected.

Animation editors

The following editors relate specifically to animation:

  • Timeline: If you’re working on an animation, the Timeline editor offers you a convenient way to quickly jump from one moment in your animation to another as well as play back the animation.

  • Graph Editor (Shift+F6): Blender’s Graph Editor shows a graphical ­representation of animatable attributes in your scene as they change over time.

  • Dope Sheet (Shift+F12): The Dope Sheet is where you create and adjust your overall animation using actions or keying sets. You can use actions to animate all of a character’s movement in a scene, or you can mix them together in the NLA Editor. Keying sets give you the ability to group together a bunch of different animatable attributes.

  • NLA Editor: NLA stands for nonlinear animation. This editor allows you to mix pre-animated actions on a single character (such as mixing a waving hand animation with a walking animation to have your character walk and wave her hand at the same time).

2D editors

The following editors manipulate specific kinds of two-dimensional data:

  • UV/Image Editor (Shift+F10): With the UV/Image Editor, you can do basic image editing as well as edit the texture coordinates for your models.

  • Video Sequence Editor (Shift+F8): Blender’s Video Sequence Editor (VSE) is a lightweight video editor. The VSE isn’t as powerful as some other programs created specifically for editing video, but it’s quite effective for stringing a sequence of scenes together and doing basic effects, overlays, and transitions.

  • Movie Clip Editor: Currently, the Movie Clip Editor is the primary go-to editor for Blender’s motion tracking features. Motion tracking is a process where the software analyzes moving parts of a video in an effort to relate them to 3D space. With video that’s been successfully motion tracked, you can integrate 3D models into recorded video. Have you ever wondered how they get computer-generated monsters to look like they’re in the same room as living actors? Motion tracking!

  • Text Editor (Shift+F11): Blender’s integrated Text Editor is not only handy for keeping notes about your scenes and models, but once you become a more advanced user, it’s also a convenient place to write and test your own Python scripts and material shaders in Blender.

  • Node Editor (Shift+F3): Blender has a Node Editor for materials and ­textures, as well as for compositing. This editor is where you modify these node structures. Cycles, a relatively new rendering engine that’s integrated into Blender, makes heavy use of the node editor for its ­materials and lighting.

  • Logic Editor (Shift+F2): Blender has a game engine integrated with it, allowing you to create your own custom video games directly within Blender. The Logic Editor is how you control and design the behavior in your game.

Utility editors

The following two editors aren’t easily classified in any of the other categories, so they’ve found themselves at the end of the list. That doesn’t make them any less useful, so it’s still worth knowing what they are and what they do:

  • File Browser: This editor allows you to look through the files on your computer. It also allows you to look at the innards of your Blender ­projects to see how things are structured or for linking to other projects.

  • Python Console (Shift+F4): The Console is a pretty handy editor that’s more often utilized by advanced users to help write custom Python scripts. It’s a “live” console where you can use the Python language to directly issue commands to Blender.