Blender Screen Layout Presets - dummies

By Jason van Gumster

You can make a variety of layouts depending on the sort of work you’re doing. In Blender, these workspace layouts are called screens, and, by default, Blender comes with nine presets: 3D View Full, Animation, Compositing, Default, Game Logic, Motion Tracking, Scripting, UV Editing, and Video Editing. When you first load Blender, you’re in the Default screen layout.

You can cycle through these screens by pressing Ctrl+left arrow and Ctrl+right arrow. If you prefer to use a menu, you can use the datablock at the top of the window in the Info editor, as shown here, and left-click the screen icon next to the name of the current screen layout.

The Screens menu.
The Screens menu.

You can rename any screen to any name by switching to that screen and left-clicking its name in the Screens datablock. Get used to the idea of naming everything in your projects. Being in the habit of using a reasonable name makes life infinitely easier. It’s especially true when you come back to an old project and you need to figure out what everything is.

The screens, and therefore the order that they’re cycled through when you press Ctrl+left arrow or Ctrl+right arrow, are arranged in alphabetical and numerical order, for fast and logical organization. If you want to cheat a bit, you can give a specific order to the list by putting a number in front of each screen’s name (such as 1-Default, 2-Animation, and so on).

To create a new screen, left-click the plus icon next to the current screen name in the Info editor’s header. Upon clicking this icon, Blender produces a duplicate of your existing screen layout. From here, you can make the changes to create your own custom layout, such as a materials editing layout or a multi-monitor layout with a separate window for each of your monitors.

You can also delete screens (including the default ones that ship with Blender, so be careful) by clicking the button with the X icon to the right of the Screen datablock. When you’re happy with changes you’ve made and you want to have these screens available (or not available, if you’ve removed screens) each time you start Blender, save your settings by going to File→Save Startup File or using the Ctrl+U hotkey.

If you make an area a Properties editor, Blender defaults to using the same vertical orientation for the editor that’s used in the Default screen layout. However, in an area that’s wider than it is tall, this can look stretched and weird. You can manually switch between a horizontal and vertical Properties editor by right-clicking a blank spot in the editor and choosing between a horizontal and vertical orientation.

Before creating a new screen that you want to keep around for future use, first return to your default setup by selecting File➪New or pressing Ctrl+N. When you use the Save Startup File feature, Blender saves your ­current settings, layout, and even 3D scenes to a special .blend file called startup.blend that gets loaded each time it starts. So any models you have in the 3D View and any changes you make to other layouts are saved, too. Fortunately, if you’ve made a mistake, you can always return to the default setup by choosing File→Load Factory Settings and recreate your custom layouts from there.

This behavior of saving a special startup.blend file is fine for setting up custom screen layouts, but it can be pretty inconvenient if you’re just making changes in User Preferences (such as custom hotkeys or themes). For those kinds of changes, it’s better to use the Save User Settings button at the bottom of User Preferences (Ctrl+Alt+U). Using this button ensures that your new settings in User Preferences are loaded each time you start Blender, without overwriting your default scene or screen layouts.

When adjusting screen layouts, the menus and buttons in the header can be obscured or hidden if the area is too narrow. This scenario happens particularly often for people who work on computers with small monitors. In this case, you can do three things:

  • Right-click in the header area and enable Header→Collapse Menus.

    The menus are collapsed into a single button with an icon consisting of 3 lines. This frees up a little bit of space, but on smaller monitors, it may not be enough.

  • Hover your mouse cursor over the header region and scroll your mouse wheel.

    If any parts of the header are obscured, you can scroll them in and out of view.

  • For a somewhat more direct method, Blender has another trick up its sleeve: Middle-click the header and drag your mouse left and right. The contents of the header move left and right so that you can bring those obscured buttons into view.