Wish: keep material preview focused on top-level material when editing child content in place

It is awesome to have in-place editing working for material content children, whether material-based or texture-based. Thanks for that.

However, from a user standpoint I think the material preview should remain focused on the current top-level material, rather than switching to preview a texture, or worse, a conceptually non-material content that is necessarily implemented as a material.

The idea being, if I am editing a material, and select a texture, I don’t prefer to see the texture previewed in 2D, but would rather continue to see my material, which of course will also reflect any changes I am making to the texture.

In the case of a non-material content, this is even more desirable. For example, we have a topcoat layer type of node that can be placed over various material substrates, and it would be far preferable, when selecting it to edit its attributes, for the top-level material to continue to be shown. In other cases, the content simply has no visual representation on its own.

Perhaps the last point suggests a need for there to be a fourth “utility” type of content, in addition to the existing texture/environment/material ones, but even in that case, this wish about keeping the top-level material in the preview would still stand.

@andy, can you chime in here?

Are you talking about the optional in-place preview, rather than the main preview in the ME list?

I’m referring to the preview pane (context menu > Show Preview Pane) at the top of the material editor:

So for example, clicking on the “uvgrid” texture link there, rather than the preview switching to show a preview of that texture, it would keep on showing the material.

Interestingly, the reason we added that pane was so that you would be able to visualize the currently selected level…because the list preview does the job of showing you the top level throughout it all. Maybe we need a switch on there…

Interesting, I can see the thinking, but I feel the editor flow suffers from it. I’d probably suggest, were this wish to be implemented, something like a second button next to child content links, or using ctrl+click, to let the user force the child content into the preview pane (or pop it up in a modal editor, not sure which would be preferred).

Thinking more, I believe this is more general than just materials. Let’s say we have a texture graph; what I’m basically suggesting is that we’re primarily interested in the output of that, and will hardly ever care how each child looks on its own.

And to determine what we’re interested in, we only need to know whether it was selected from a list/tree, or if we’re in an in-place edit. So, this is not even specific to a content being top-level or not – if the user selects something from a list/tree, we can take that as indicating what they want to see in the preview pane.

So I guess this can all be reduced to a more general rule: don’t switch preview pane to preview a content when it is edited in place (unless forced, by some mechanism as initially mentioned). I believe this single change would produce the workflow I’m after.

However there are a lot of moving parts to your system, so I can be missing some case where this doesn’t work, but that’s how it looks from here.