Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

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Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by Acrophobic »

Hi everyone. I've made a simple mock-up for alternative FreeCAD UI. As title said, it utilize dual sidebar layout: one for the normal combo view, one for the toolbox.


Currently FreeCAD heavily uses toolbar for displaying each workbench tools. Thanks to this, depending on the screen size and the active workbench, we could end up with multi layered toolbar. For example, here is Arch workbench in 1366x768 screen with 16px icon, arranged so there are no collapsed button:

small-light-ori.png (162.33 KiB) Viewed 500 times

It's perfectly usable and I actually dig the classic look. However, in my opinion there are several issues with the toolbar based UI:

  1. It's pretty intimidating, especially for newbie.
  2. Depending on workbench, it could be hard to identify the icon. For example is the Fastener workbench where every nuts and bolts look kinda similar.
  3. Most screen are wide, not tall. Thanks to this, the vertical screen estate is more precious than the horizontal, especially in smaller screen.
Alternative UI

My daily job is programmer. While looking at my past works, I realize that various app designers are quite similar with FreeCAD. For example, here is one from Visual Code:

visual-studio-marked.png (93.97 KiB) Viewed 500 times

And here is another one, from QtCreator:

qt-creator-marked.png (168.41 KiB) Viewed 500 times

Those app designers are used worldwide with almost zero complain, so I thought it could work for FreeCAD UI as well. Since QtCreator and FreeCAD both use Qt, I decided to copy QtCreator layout and here is the result in 1920x1080 screen:

big-light-new.png (378.15 KiB) Viewed 500 times

And here is how it looks like in 1366x768 screen:

small-light-new.png (248.33 KiB) Viewed 500 times


  1. Each tools are easily identifiable since each icon now accompanied with its name.
  2. Now the UI use more of the horizontal screen estate than the vertical.
  3. For workbench with many tools (e.g. Fastener), we can use filter in the bottom of the toolbox to reach the correct tool faster.
  4. It (might be?) easy to implement since this UI only use native QTreeView.
  5. It (might be?) able to exist alongside the current toolbar based UI since we only need to create an additional panel.

  1. My background is programmer so this UI layout feels familiar to me. However most of CAD programs that I know are using toolbar or ribbon based UI, so this UI layout might feel strange to the professional CAD users.
  2. You might notice that the Draft Tray is missing from the Arch workbench. This is because Draft Tray afaik is the only toolbar in FreeCAD with text and can't be disabled, so I'm not sure where to put it.
  3. While every tools now easily identified, you might need several scrolls to reach it.
  4. Since the tools icon are now small, it might be eye-straining for some people.

So what do you think? Does it looks weird? Once again I'm just a hobbyist, so feel free to tell me if I've made some wrong assumptions.

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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by obelisk79 »

Overall, I'm not so sure that this optimizes the use of screen space. It at least appears that you actually loose pixels overall in exchange for saving some vertical space.

More than this, which rearranges clutter it is my personal opinion that there should be an effort made to efficiently reduce, or obscure clutter though either combinbing functions where possible or hiding interactive/control elements in such a way that presents what may be needed contextually during the work process.

Overall, your idea isn't bad, but I'm not so sure it would be a clear improvement.

PS: You can already organize toolbars in a vertical orientation in FreeCAD. There is/was a perference pack which does this for you called VertUI, might want to check it out on GitHub.
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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by chrisb »

You forgot the most important contra: less real estate, and that's one of the most precious things in 3D modeling.

When programming you usually work in a not too wide range; it doesn't happen all the time that indentation changes dramatically and long lines can almost always be split in a more or less natural way (unless you use extreeeeeemely long identifiers).

With 3D models such line breaking is not possible. A sketch cannot continue somewhere, it is as wide and as high as it is.
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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by onekk »

IMHO I could copy what @chris has said.


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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by qewer33 »

I personally think that this is awesome! IMO it doesn't really loose that much screen real estate and the fact that the command names are visible is a real plus for certain workflows.

I understand it certainly isn't for everyone but having this as an optional alternative layout to the traditional toolbar system would be a great UI imporvement IMO.
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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by MisterMaker »

This could work if it uses auto fold out option, like if you mouse your mouse to the left side of the screen and it pops out. And then auto fold-in if you click something.
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Re: Another UI Take: Dual Sidebar Layout

Post by men132 »

I personally think that you should remove the text, or at least an option to remove it. For newcomers, the text would be useful, but most users don't need it.
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