I had a go at Blender again tonight, since I’m taking the laptop away and would like a modelling tool to play with on it. XSI would normally be my first choice, but it requires carrying around a dongle that I’d prefer not to lose whilst on my travels. Plus, Blender is a little easier on the system requirements, and I keep meaning to learn it anyway.
The user interface wasn’t quite as daunting as I remember, still a little bonkers but workable if you twist your brain into its shape. However, I quickly hit what on initial investigation appears to be a pretty fundamental problem when using a laptop - the use of both the middle mouse button and numerical pad keys for shortcuts, and less so the use of the right mouse button.
For example, to tumble / pan / zoom around the 3D views you’re supposed to use the middle mouse button, combined with either shift or control. My laptop has no middle mouse button; most laptops don’t. In XSI, they have a similar shortcut approach where the ‘S’ key allows you to pan, zoom and tumble using the 3 mouse buttons, which is very fast but equally unsuited for laptops, but they also have another 3 separate key shortcuts which only require the LMB. I’ve yet to find an equivalent in Blender, anyone know if it exists, or whether the shortcuts can be rebound? Numpad shortcuts are similarly awkward.
I also don’t like the RMB-select paradigm much - it’s very awkward with a trackpad. Yes, I know I can use an external mouse, but I really like using a trackpad (with touch-tap-drag-lock, it can be very fast and easy), it’s much easier on my RSI and I can genuinely use it on my lap rather than needing a desk setup.
Is this an intractable problem - is Blender really so deeply tied to a 3-button mouse setup? Shame if so.