Upgrading a User Interface for both Simplicity and Advanced Functionality
If you’ve used Sagelight for a while, or have been on the discussion board much, you’ll know that so much has been added to Sagelight in the last couple years, that an update to the UI to help all of this new functionality along has been planned for a while.
I am just in the process now of starting on the UI upgrade, which will make many functions much more accessible and useable.
In fact, I would say that Sagelight will be a new editor to many people who already use it an enjoy it because many functions – that already exist – will be more accessible via the new UI.
A good example is the Definition and Focus Controls, as well as the Vibrance and the Light Blender – all very powerful functions, but slightly hidden in the Power Box.
One of the main jobs of the user interface update is to make sure that the UI remains simple and easy-to-use for those who just want to work on their images without getting too much into advanced functionality; also the UI needs to allow those who want to do the more advanced things a way to do it that is just as easy as it is now.
Sagelight has many advanced functions that do an incredible number of things, and the new user interface will help make these available to everyone, even if you don’t know exactly what any given function will do at the time you use it (which, for me, has always been the best way to experiment and have fun: by just using functions and seeing what they do!).
I want your feedback
Since this user-interface update is meant to keep it simple but also allow for even easier use of advanced functionality, I would like your feedback. If you don’t consider yourself and advancer user, it would be great to know if you like the new layout and if it still seems pretty simple (or even simpler!).
If you’re an advanced user, I want to know if this helps you with accessing Sagelight functionality even more easily by keeping it in one cohesive interface rather than the current separate windows that come up.
Writing a UI for the user who just wants to keep it simple
One of the main principles of the Sagelight UI has always been to keep it as simple and intuitive as possible. In the main Quick Edit Mode, you can use the basic controls (RGB controls, Saturation, contrast, color, etc.), and then move into the more advanced functions such as the Power Box Controls (Vibrance, Definition, Smart Contrast, Light Blender, etc.).
As new, very powerful functions were added, such as the Light Blender and Power Box Controls, these were separated from the Quick Edit Mode to keep the Quick Edit Mode functions easy to use.
This also meant that some of these advanced functions were a little hidden.
One of the hard things to do with a user interface in a program with many advanced functions is to keep it simple.
The new UI will help do this – it adds a lot more functionality, but in a way where it is more self-explanatory and where it is also more easy to experiment by simply using controls.
Writing a UI for the user who wants all the power Sagelight can give
Many Sagelight functions, such as the Light Blender, HDR, and other functions have a lot of little switches that can drastically change the outcome of your image. Of course, I want to keep these things, because these give you a great amount of control over the editing process.
In the new UI, these will still all be accessible. It’s important to make sure that all of the functionality of Sagelight is available in a construct that doesn’t over simplify things..
Features and Changes in the Upgraded UI
- Collapsible Sections. Each section is now collapsible. Sagelight will come up with the equivalent of the Quick Edit Mode controls extended, with the remainder of the sections (i.e. Light Blender, etc.) collapsed.
- Individual Extendable Sections (i.e. “Pro Mode”). You can extend each section with the down arrow that indicates there are more controls. This is basically the current Pro Mode, but for each section (currently, you are either in Pro Mode or not globally in the Quick Edit Mode).
- Stack History. There is now a ‘Stack History’ Window. I decided to go with the term Stack, since it’s used in the industry (in my opinion, this is not the correct terminology, each Stack is really an entry into the Stack History, as opposed to being a ‘stack’… ). The importance of this is to separate non-destructive editing from destructive editing. Many people think that Sagelight is purely destructive, but this is not nearly the case – it just turns out that Sagelight does so much that it includes destructive editing (ala Photoshop or a Lightroom Plug-In that creates a ‘stack’). Therefore, the ‘stack history’ is each destructive operation, where each control in an isolated function (such as the Quick Edit Mode, etc.) is used non-destructively, just as in Lightroom.
- Collapsible Right-Side Column. There is now a column on the right, which contains the stack history, Histogram, Info Window, Presets, and other things (TBD). This column is collapsible so you only need to have it taking up space when you have a need for it.
- Sagelight Section. This section is in the right-hand column and will take you to various Sagelight places, mostly having to do with examples and Sagelight user’s posts on Flickr. I’ve wanted to show people the amazing work those using Sagelight have done, and this will be a great way to have it inside of Sagelight
- User RGB Curves Inlined. Well, I hated to do it, but I inlined the curves. It looks very nice, actually, and you can also undock the curves for more controls (which will show the current curves window).
- “Apply” is now “Apply Stack”. This is more for clarity – the idea here is to assert that you’ve a) been in a non-destructive editing mode (for all of the naysayers out there who haven’t understodd this about Sagelight) and moving into a one-time destructive operation (such as, for example, going into the HDR – which is the equivalent of a Lightroom Plug-In, etc.).
- Presets Section. This will be filled out over the next couple versions. Initially, this will allow you to save your own preset, and will also have some canned presets that will either perform a Quick Edit, Light Blender, or other operation localized to the Quick Edit Mode; or go off into another mode with some defaults but leave you there. In a subsequent update, these will also include automated scripts to apply the ‘stack’ or ‘stacks’ as one complete operation.
I’ve mentioned before that making things look simple takes much longer than making them look complex, and the new UI design is no different.
It has taken a lot of research to figure out how to best approach making the considerable amount of Sagelight functions accessible and useable.
This user-interface upgrade will do just that, and will expose many more functions in Sagelight to the average Sagelight user, which will give Sagelight much more power even when it already has it.
I am working on this now, and in the meantime will be posting images edited with Sagelight on the blog. Sagelight has become fairly mature in its functions (although there are some to be added, for sure, which will also come along soon), and now that Sagelight has HDR, Bokeh, the Light Blender – not to mention even cell phone cameras can take amazing pictures – it’s time to show Sagelight off for all it can do, which is considerable.
More to follow in the next few days…