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There it goes, my inspiration that is, out of the window, and I lost it trying to change who knows what shortcut key... again.

As a professional in video, animation, 3d and audio I have used many many applications over the years, and find Affinity package a real refreshing leap forward. However, I must admit that the preferences window across all three Affinity apps (Photo, Designer and Publisher) is one of the most useless I have ever encountered. I am not afraid to switch and learn applications and am ready to customize the new ones I learn to my own best practices, and the preferences window is my friend or it should be, but Affinity's is not at all. Please let me try to explain what I find is wrong with and suggest some changes which I did not think a lot about, but seem much simpler to use. Let's start:

1. The preferences window uses a unique visual paradigm, completely different from any other dialogue I have encountered in the rest of the application. It has a header with Back/forward buttons, "home" button (with an odd icon and a drop-down menu) and search bar. No other panel, toolbar, manager, assistant or any other window in Affinity uses this paradigm or at least my humble knowledge of the app does not bring any into the mind. I doubt that this is good. For instance having tabs, like some other windows would do the trick no need for back/forward buttons, no need for home button, no need for drop-down menu, just 7 simple instantly accessable tabs.

2. search bar is a sneaky red herring! It is in fact dangerously useless! I'd like to change a shortcut for brush size in pixel persona? typing any of these terms does not help me to find where to do it. It seems that this search bar is good for searching only a couple of dozen words which does not make any sense at all, either you make every single preference item that can be change searchable or get rid of the search bar because the way it is now is frustratingly useless.

3. I will not go in depth on my thoughts about "General", "Color", "Performance", "User Interface" and "Tools" pages as I do see some benefit of "bite sized" preferences pages even if some items on them seem to belong to another page, and the number of these pages could actually be decreased. (for instance half of the "Tools" preferences could easily belong to "User Interface" tab)

4. Checkboxes, since they have really powerful results would benefit from tooltip help with a more verbose description of what they do.

5. "Miscellaneous" could easily be renamed to "factory resets" or something on that line, as that is what it does.

6. And now I come to my nemesis, the "Keyboard Shortcuts" page. Where to start?!

a) there is a search bar on the upper right, that is as we said a sneaky trap, and a red herring. It does not help us here, and will take us "home" probably finding nothing of interest.

b) we need to use these two fiddly drop-downs. The first one could easily be replaced with beautiful Draw, Pixel and Export icons cutting the number of actions for picking persona to edit to only one click (or even better none.. read on). The second one is really unintuitive as its items partially overlap in different personas. It took me a while to get the idea that this second one is contextual to the first one (as the list changes "behind the curtain")... I got it only after learning my way a bit around the app so I recognised that some items belong to some personas.

c)  a quick overview of other buttons and check boxes in this upper region of Keyboard Shortcuts page;

"Apply to all" -what? to all what? I had to dig through the manual to see what it does, and all it would take to fix it is to call it "apply shortcut changes to all personas" without this information there is no way to know that there actually are some connections possible between personas. As if the for instance, brush size in pixel and draw persona must be separate.

"Ignore Modifier—Lets you create shortcuts using a single letter designation instead of using keyboard modifiers." says the manual, and I still do not get it. Does it allow me to pres only the letter in application without modifier keys and get what I want? No, as Ctrl+S is stil "save" and "Ctrl+Shift+S" is stil Save as. Does it filter out the input of Modifier keys while assigning new shortcuts? No. So what does it do? Maybe a better explanation in manual would help, and a more verbose checkbox title or tooltip.

"Load/Save" what? it loads and saves what? a file obviously, but what does that file contain? All shortcuts, or only those in focus? Maybe "Load Shortcut configuration" or something on that line would be better. to be continued...

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...continued

"Reset" what? does it reset the shortcuts in focus or all? the manual says all customized, but a first time user, trying to find its way around the app will have to dig, and all it takes is that button to say "Reset all shortcuts to factory defaults" (or something on that line)

"Clear all shortcuts" ok this one is self explanatory.

7. the shortcut list itself...

a) c'mon, it's a list and it is restricted to show only 8 lines at a time it is wider than it is tall, and the window cannot be resized to see all items on the list :-D that's silly. I need to constantly scroll up and down this miniature list although I could dedicate a whole monitor for it, as I am unable to search for an item on it because the frickin' search bar is bonkers.

b) If I pick a new key that overlaps with existing combo, I get great little yellow icon telling me so, mouseover will give me the info, great. And now I need to go back to those two fiddly drop-downs fo find my way to the duplicate if I want to change it, why not give me an opportunity to solve this conflict here and now, by doublee clicking on the yellow icon or something.

Here is my suggestion for solving the Keyboard Shortcut preferences mess. Why not making a table with horizontally foldable categories of shortcuts (foldable like "Assets" sub categories) these categories would be "File", "Edit", "Text" etc.. First column would stay the same, that is, the description, Second column would show Draw persona shortcuts, third Pixel persona, fourth Export persona. It would make the features that are parallel across personas obvious, those that are non-existent in a certain persona would be "grayed out"  And make the preferences window resizable, please. That way we could edit our shortcuts many times more quickly, and enjoy the switch to Affinity apps much more.

Please, pardon my ignorance, as I am not a professional UI designer but a frustrated user. I have written this overly long post to try and make Affinity better. I have lost precious time and artistic inspiration because of the design of this window and decided to spend some more time, trying my best to alleviate the problem somehow.

Please try and read it with an open heart, as it was written in the best of intention.

 

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Yes… <reads more paragraphs> Yes <reads more> Still yes <more> OMG yes! <reads to the end> Yup, agree with everything you wrote.

I asked for an upgrade to the search function back in 2016, still got my fingers crossed.

But as you say, the whole Preferences dialogue needs an overhaul.


Win10 Home x64   |   AMD Ryzen 7 2700X @ 3.7GHz   |   16 GB RAM   |   1TB SSD   |   nVidia GTX 1660   |   Huion 1060 Plus

How I make GIFs >>> ScreenToGIF (Windows only, Open Source, Portable, ~600kB)

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Version 1.7 still has just as hideous Preferences window as before. Such a shame, all those nice new features' shortcuts hidden under a black magic wall that the "Keyboard Shortcuts" window is. Using it hurts like my fingers are broken. For a graphical design app this is embarrassing. Take a look at Reaper digital audio workstation app for instance how "search" should work. The program might be ugly but it works and is 100 times more intuitive and quicker to set up.

Excuse my strong language, but for someone working in several 3D, game engine, audio, graphical and painting apps daily switching them back and forth (think 5-6 daily) setting up shortcuts easily is absolutely important. Being able to set up most of shortcuts the same in all graphics apps quickly for me is the first base and Affinity leaves bitter taste at the very start.

People do not think of features of an app in terms of categories but as tools or features. Affinity pleases don't make us search for them via two mutually dependant dropdowns like it is 1990. It is 2019 for god's sake, filter the list while I'm typing into search bar at least. or as in Blender 3d allow me to set a new shortcut immediately in the program with right-click on the button on the main UI.

Please, please, please!

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33 minutes ago, Nikola Kovac said:

Take a look at Reaper digital audio workstation app for instance how "search" should work.

REAPER is an excellent example.

As is XYplorer file manager, which has a searchable list of 100s if not 1000s of actions.

I've said it elsewhere, but it bears repeating, we must be able to search both for actions, and existing keypresses.

And, be able to jump instantly to the opposite half of any conflicting shortcut, so that it can be resolved.


Win10 Home x64   |   AMD Ryzen 7 2700X @ 3.7GHz   |   16 GB RAM   |   1TB SSD   |   nVidia GTX 1660   |   Huion 1060 Plus

How I make GIFs >>> ScreenToGIF (Windows only, Open Source, Portable, ~600kB)

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On 6/12/2019 at 3:52 AM, angelhdz12 said:

Totally agree. Preferences window is a mess.

One quick fix for efficiency is simply to make a list of categories in a panel at the left which bring up the options for that category on the right, so you can click through them super fast rather than having to go forward and back. "Aammppaa" mentioned Reaper and Blender (2.8 presumably) as examples, and both of these applications (as with Adobe apps) use this type of system. A lot of "preference" options are things I'm changing frequently so faster access would be very helpful.


Windows 7 & 10 64-bit, Dual Xeon workstation(s) 64gb RAM, and single i7 laptop 32gb RAM

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As a Mac user I see that the Affinity Preferences window is "inspired" by macOS System Preferences window,... but not as nearly as polished (are these arrows in fact < and > glyphs?? 

The buttons behave the same.

But I would argue the arrows should instead allow you to "click-through" all sections for fast adjustments when manually synchronising the settings in the three affinity-apps (plus the three betas...) Yeah this could be irritating for the group of Mac-users, which are not familiar with adobes way.

The third, the drop-down/button hybrid is the most useful and should stay the same for fast access.

The search field should go deeper and allow you to directly go to the respective element (or highlight it at least)

 

 

Bildschirmfoto 2019-08-13 um 12.28.31.png


  • Production-System: iMac (21,5-inch, Late 2013), 16GB RAM, 2TB nvme-SSD, running on 10.14.6 Mojave;
  • Display Setup: 27" Thunderbolt Display primary + 21,5" iMac-Display secondary for palettes;
  • Keyboard-Layout: German apple extended keyboard (aluminium);

 

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11 hours ago, woefi said:

As a Mac user I see that the Affinity Preferences window is "inspired" by macOS System Preferences window,... but not as nearly as polished (are these arrows in fact < and > glyphs?? 

 The buttons behave the same.

Agreed - I don't have much trouble navigating it because of that, but there is plenty of room for improvement (for Apple's System Preferences too - they should take a cue from the Control Panel they had back in the days of System 4 through System 6; it was much better overall - for those not familiar: https://www.versionmuseum.com/history-of/classic-mac-os).

"Modern" macOS derives from NextStep, which used a somewhat similar design to the one from System 4-6 (the icons for the individual preference panes are horizontal as opposed to the vertical list of control panels used in System 4-6): http://toastytech.com/guis/openstep.html

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I agree with Nikola and Aammppaa. Preferences is mostly an intellectual mess and takes too many clicks to find the right category. And there are not even that many settings right now. Imagine what will happen as they grow with future versions! Put a simple list of categories on the left that shows the options on the right. One click!

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My selection:

- Make the preferences dialog resizable! (We are not in the era of cathode ray tube monitors anymore, with like 800x600 px resolution, where such a thing made some remote sense...)

- That search field pretty much never found what I was looking for, mostly in the command list, for changing keyshorts.

- Those left/right arrows in the top left work like a browser history, which in this context is pretty useless. It's too hard to remember in which category I was after more than two switches. Would be better if they just stepped through the categories regardless of what was opened last.

 

There might be more pressing issues than this dialog, but it's worth a rework nonetheless. Experimental interfaces are fair and good, as long as they work well.

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21 minutes ago, Mark Ingram said:

For the people that find the Preferences window to be "a mess", what operating system are you on? Just interested to know if you're all Windows users...

Well, I didn't post but liked @Tupaia's post mostly because of this statement:

Quote

Those left/right arrows in the top left work like a browser history, which in this context is pretty useless. It's too hard to remember in which category I was after more than two switches. Would be better if they just stepped through the categories regardless of what was opened last.

Yes, I'm on Windows.

d.


Affinity Designer 1.8.4.693 (beta 1.8.4.693)   |   Affinity Photo 1.8.2.693 (beta 1.8.4.693)   |   Affinity Publisher 1.8.2.693 (beta 1.8.4.687)
Affinity Designer for iPad 1.8.2   |   Affinity Photo for iPad 1.8.2

Windows 10 (1809) 64-bit - Core i7 - 16GB - Intel HD Graphics 4600 & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
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Yes Windows.

The 'mess' isn't a really a visual thing, but a usability issue.

I find the layout slow to navigate and difficult to find the items I am looking for.


Win10 Home x64   |   AMD Ryzen 7 2700X @ 3.7GHz   |   16 GB RAM   |   1TB SSD   |   nVidia GTX 1660   |   Huion 1060 Plus

How I make GIFs >>> ScreenToGIF (Windows only, Open Source, Portable, ~600kB)

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Quote

Those left/right arrows in the top left work like a browser history, which in this context is pretty useless.

I want to explain a little further why I think the preferences window is less than optimal. For me it has turned out to work best to hit CTRL+, to open preferences and then click on one of the icons. To jump to another section I click on the 'overview' icon (the one with the 12 dots) and then on another icon. I completely abandoned to use the arrow buttons.

I think it would be better to have a list of section names at the left side of the preferences window or maybe some icons across the top of the window. This would save one click inbetween section changes (and add additionally a permanent overview of available preference sections). 

I have the paragraph styles window in mind.

d.

 


Affinity Designer 1.8.4.693 (beta 1.8.4.693)   |   Affinity Photo 1.8.2.693 (beta 1.8.4.693)   |   Affinity Publisher 1.8.2.693 (beta 1.8.4.687)
Affinity Designer for iPad 1.8.2   |   Affinity Photo for iPad 1.8.2

Windows 10 (1809) 64-bit - Core i7 - 16GB - Intel HD Graphics 4600 & NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
iPad pro 9.7" + Apple Pencil

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19 hours ago, Mark Ingram said:

For the people that find the Preferences window to be "a mess", what operating system are you on? Just interested to know if you're all Windows users...

I'm on Windows nowadays, but I "grew up" on Macs. I don't consider it a platform thing. It's an intuitive organization and drill-down thing.

That said, though, I do generally find it annoying whenever the interface for a desktop application is designed as if I'm assumed to be working with my thumbs on a cell phone. While driving.

;-)

JET

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5 hours ago, dominik said:

I completely abandoned to use the arrow buttons.

I'm surprised if anyone actually uses those arrow buttons very often, including on Apple's System Preferences.  97.3% of the time they are completely pointless, and when they do help at all, it isn't much.

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Windows, too.

I concur with the others - the dialog is not a mess visually, it looks good. Actually, it's even too 'designy'. A simple vertical design with the categories in a left column and the parameters in the next column would have been more on the spot.

Thanks!

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Agreed with the OP on all counts. Here are some of my observations.

  • The keyboard shortcuts preference screen cannot be resized. This leads to unnecessary scrolling and extra effort to locate an option in the list.
  • Other preference screens, such as Abbreviations and Auto-Correct in Publisher also cannot be resized, leading to similar user frustrations.
  • The search option is almost useless in practice. Entering "Use" highlights four categories, but the actual preference options remain unexposed. A much more usable method would be to include a simple dropdown list that lists the found properties, and when clicked immediately opens the intended preference screen, as well as highlighting it. Allow the user to use the up and down cursor keys to navigate the found entries in this dropdown list.
  • Hitting the Enter key in the search field should not close the Preferences window.
  • Hitting the Enter key at any time closes the Preferences dialog. Frustrating to the user, because the user may not have noticed that they mis-clicked an input field, still continue typing and hit Enter. Result: dialog closes. Besides, Escape already closes the dialog. The Escape and Enter keys have very different usability connotations in a dialog.
  • In the beginning I kept clicking the "Next" and "Previous" buttons to attempt to paginate through the main option screens. But instead these act like browser buttons, making it frustratingly hard to quickly browse the main preference screens.
    Click a preference category. Can't find the option? Go back to the main preferences entries. Click another. Still not found? Go back, and try again. A chore, in particular when it is unclear where a specific option can be found. If the Next and Previous buttons would allow the user to quickly page between preference categories a lot of wasted time clicking around could be avoided.
    In short allow the user to quickly browse/paginate the main preference screens.
    (And yes, I am aware of how Apple abuses these as well.)
  • Page up and down keys could be used to effectively paginate from one preference category to the next. And/or right and left cursor keys.
  • Miscellaneous screen's top content is center aligned, which is inconsistent with all the other screens. Check boxes should be left aligned instead.
  • Instead of a slow, cumbersome and hidden dropdown list to browse to a specific preference category, list all main preference categories in a list on the left of the main preference dialog. Highlight the one currently browsed. 1) far easier and efficient to navigate, 2) far better indication which settings the user is currently viewing.
    (The currently used category word is hardly noticed due to visual hierarchy problems.
  • Some preference screens are "uber"-filled with options, without proper visual grouping or even adequate vertical space used. The General options is particularly busy with no apparent logical grouping, but other screens are problematic in this respect too. The lack of visual subgrouping of options leads to cognitive overload and confusion on many preference screens.
    For example, the Performance screen puts four distinct subcategories of settings in one densely populated screen, with no visual grouping. 

All in all, the preferences dialog in Affinity is among the worst that I have encountered so far in regards to usability.

I am used to both Mac and Windows in my work.

On 10/30/2019 at 8:18 AM, Mark Ingram said:

For the people that find the Preferences window to be "a mess", what operating system are you on? Just interested to know if you're all Windows users...

Rely foremost on active user testing rather than anything else. What works in one situation, may backfire in another. Avoid blatantly copying GUIs. Besides, the Mac Preferences dialog is far more configurable and evolved user experience than the one in Affinity, which is a shadow of the former.

System-Preferences-search-640x426.jpg

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On 6/16/2019 at 10:01 AM, AndyQ said:

One quick fix for efficiency is simply to make a list of categories in a panel at the left which bring up the options for that category on the right, so you can click through them super fast rather than having to go forward and back. "Aammppaa" mentioned Reaper and Blender (2.8 presumably) as examples, and both of these applications (as with Adobe apps) use this type of system. A lot of "preference" options are things I'm changing frequently so faster access would be very helpful.

Forget arrows and crap, there should be any need to go back and forward through preferences, or "drill down", there's only one level of categories. These aren't necessarily things you'll set once and leave forever, and you may be setting a bunch of preferences across categories frequently. I think my original suggestion, also made by others, stands - a list of categories on the left and the the detail settings on the right. Simple. Click through 'em and see what's in 'em - not go forward ('oops, wrong one"), back, forward, back...ad infinitum. It's a common enough paradigm. Keep a search field for finding specifics and you're done. Put a button for it on the toolbar or top menu or whatever it's called. Lovely. Sweet. Juicy sweet.


Windows 7 & 10 64-bit, Dual Xeon workstation(s) 64gb RAM, and single i7 laptop 32gb RAM

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On 10/30/2019 at 4:18 PM, Mark Ingram said:

For the people that find the Preferences window to be "a mess", what operating system are you on? Just interested to know if you're all Windows users...

Mac, here.

 

Even as a designer who reacts more to optical shapes than to words , I think that icons in preferences are useless.
(You wouldn't want to communicate with your lawyer via emojis...)

My example is oldschool but it would work nevertheless.
Also the new Blender 2.8 preferences work basically that way and can go much deeper. And they are multi-platform 

 1807519999_Bildschirmfoto2019-11-05um12_14_24.thumb.png.61b11463f57a393f35cec284c27b7db8.png2077444796_Bildschirmfoto2019-11-05um12_17_07.png.7a3740f8d16fe431a54cdf38d0f2dbc5.png


  • Production-System: iMac (21,5-inch, Late 2013), 16GB RAM, 2TB nvme-SSD, running on 10.14.6 Mojave;
  • Display Setup: 27" Thunderbolt Display primary + 21,5" iMac-Display secondary for palettes;
  • Keyboard-Layout: German apple extended keyboard (aluminium);

 

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After using APhoto for two years, I just tried for the first time to Search through Keyboard Shortcuts in Preferences. I find that the Search box does nothing except highlight categories on the main Preferences window. By the time I type a single word into the Search box, all the categories are dimmed.

For instance, if I type "Set" everything in Preferences goes dim. Pressing <Enter> causes the Preferences dialog to vanish from the screen. I know there are three Miscellaneous shortcuts defined by "Set ..." but Search doesn't find them nor does it find anything else I search for.

I was dismayed to learn from this thread that APhoto users have been begging for four years for Preferences to be made functional, with no result nor even a promise of a fix. I guess this is yet another one of those things that Serif will or will not work on at some undefined time that will be kept secret from loyal users and former APhoto enthusiasts such as myself.

Putting a non-functioning Search box on a fundamental dialog box reminds me that quality cannot be criticized into software, it has to be designed correctly from the ground up.


Affinity Photo 1.8.3.641, Affinity Publisher 1.8.3.641, Windows 10 Pro x64 version 2004, 
Dell XPS 8930, 16 GB Ram,  Intel Core i7-8700 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070

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9 hours ago, Granddaddy said:

For instance, if I type "Set" everything in Preferences goes dim. Pressing <Enter> causes the Preferences dialog to vanish from the screen. I know there are three Miscellaneous shortcuts defined by "Set ..." but Search doesn't find them nor does it find anything else I search for.

Can you let me know which preference you are referring to? I couldn't find any options with "Set" in them, so as far as I can tell, the search is working as intended. Closing the dialog when Enter is pressed is a bug, we should fix that.

Also, we've heard the complaints about the design of the Preferences dialog, and we'll look at improving it. Unfortunately it's not a high priority item, so it's unlikely to happen quickly.

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Three right here, don't know if there are more since Search doesn't work. 

image.png.19391e9e56da62a089a93b85947584bb.png


Affinity Photo 1.8.3.641, Affinity Publisher 1.8.3.641, Windows 10 Pro x64 version 2004, 
Dell XPS 8930, 16 GB Ram,  Intel Core i7-8700 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070

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