Questions & Answers

GUI Choices

+48 votes
asked Apr 23, 2016 in Studio One Feature Requests by glenhendriks (390 points)
edited Apr 24, 2016 by glenhendriks

I have been working on S1 v3 for some time now.

I love the features of S1 v3! But I hate the GUI (sorry). I have not owned S1 v2 before getting v3 but I have recently dowloaded the v2 demo after seeing it's GUI on some youtube videos. I thought I would check it out to see how I would like it.

Now, compared to all the other features, v2 is now limited, but in terms of GUI I found v2 to bee so, so much clearer. Not to many 3d elements, but enough to separate the different areas of the GUI. I found it much quicker to navigate because everything is more concise in terms of separating out the different GUI elements and seeing what belongs to what in a split second.  v3 looks like it should be operated only on a touch screen surface. Different areas and GUI elements are not as clearly defined. 

I know tastes varies a lot, some love this GUI and some hate it. But I have a string sense that Presonus tried to stick to the 'touch screen-style GUI' when there is absolutely no need to for a desktop app.

Why not give us the choice to have that kind of GUI when we indeed are using S1 in a touch screen environment , but have a more clear, concise GUI with 3d elements (much much more like S1 v2) for the desktop app? 

Again, I love all that S1 v3 offers, but the is uninspiring to say the least. Looks do matter to me (and a whole lot of others too) when I am looking at a screen all day when working.

I really hope Presonus will consider this going forward.
Allow me to quote user Piszpan from the Gearslutz board (A lot of what he says voices my dislikings about the GUI as well):


I guess people from Presonus monitor this thread - that's why I'm posting this text here. Before I get to the point, I would like to make two statements:

I. In general, I REALLY appreciate the work of the S1 design team. It is a great program. I don't want to offend or insult anyone - this is meant to be constructive criticism.

II. I always use only calibrated computer monitors. I mean "calibrated" without fancy gadgets like Spyder (used by photo imaging professionals) - I just use the standard tools built into the Intel Graphics software control panel. You can really obtain good results (I mean: maximum possible dynamic range, neutral colour tint and properly displayed mid-tones) just by carefully adjusting the brightness/contrast/gamma for each individual RGB channel. (If anyone is interested, check e.g. this: Monitor Calibration: Is Your Monitor Calibrated?)

Why do I mention this? Because I don't want to hear comments like "maybe you're using a bad display". No, my displays are more than OK and I'm using them in the way they are meant to be used.

Now quickly about my situation: I'm a long time Cubase user. A year or two ago a close friend of mine told me about S1, and since that time (as we both colaborate) I had a chance to look closer at S1. I decided I'd pass V2 and buy V3 when it's out. (OK, in the meantime I got the Artist version, but this doesn't count, as I never used it due to lack of VST support.) So I was waiting eagerly for the premiere of Studio One V3...

I downloaded the demo and have been using it for about a week. And I have to say I am really disappointed - in general by the changes in the GUI.

The simplicity, clarity and and ease/speed of use, that impressed me in V2, have now gone (at least in large part).

1. The Dark Side strikes

I don't want to sound like Brainy Smurf (nor like Grouchy Smurf), but... It has been proved a long time ago, that reading dark letters on light background is much easier for the eyes and less fatiguing than reading bright letters on dark background. So when I installed the V3 demo, I saw nothing but "evil in its purest form". I didn't like it in the first moment and I still don't like it after a week of trying to convince myself to this new colour scheme. I feel distracted and irritated every time just a few minutes after starting a session.

Look at the evolution of website design over the past 15 years. Many sites from the 90's had black background and bright text over it. Today's standard is white or light grey background with black or dark grey characters. There's a reason for this - it's just easier to read. (OK, the exception is web apps for smartphones. People like eye-candies on their smartphones. And we use phones outside, in strong sunlight etc. - bright text can be a good idea then. But... S1 is not a phone app.)

I know that many people like to use their computer displays literally as a light source, when sitting in a dark room - they may "benefit" from the new GUI, as the V2 may seem too "blinding" to them (but it such case most applications and websites blind them as well). I am also aware that many users keep their displays at maximum brightness (+ they keep their video cards at default factory settings, which are usually too bright and too blueish when displayed on LCD/LED monitors). Again, these users may like the V3 colour scheme. But not me, as I have my displays set properly.

OK, some people may have asked for darker GUI. Nevertheless, I can see clearly, that the change is caused rather by the current general trend among DAW developers. Looks like someone in the S1 design team came to the conclusion: "let's make the GUI darker, so it will look as cool as Bitwig (/Logic/whatever)". Hurray, hurray - we have a new version and it looks "just like the other DAW's"!

I admit that there are applications, where having darker GUI is a benefit - mostly those dedicated to image or video editing. In those cases the dark background and menus keep you focused on the image window and help judge the colours and contrast of the material correctly. Apple changed the look of Logic X to unify it with Final Cut Pro - at least that's a somewhat valid reason. But S1 is not an image editor, nor has Presonus an image editor in its product line.

Oh, yes, V3 has a control panel for setting colours now - you could change them if you want. But in practice it turns to be (almost) pointless. More about this later.

2. Goodbye, clarity

S1 V2 has a VERY clever scheme of keeping things organized, which helps you find anything and get the general orientation in the project very quickly.

In V2 the track header column, the inspector (to the left of the screen) and the browser (to the right) are in light grey. And we have a darker background inbetween - the arrangement area. This is a very smart example of color coding, because some general information (I mean: a map of the screen for your brain) is presented to you without even requiring you to read any text. It is like a well designed page in a magazine or on a website.

The V3 GUI dropped this idea and this is one of the reasons I feel it more fatiguing. Everything is in (roughly) the same color - there is more seeking required.

(OK, sure - there's the mentioned control panel for setting colurs. But more about it later.)

In V2 when your mixer was empty (no channels) or had just only a few channels, it was clearly visible without any effort. This was very helpful to judge the advance of a project just by looking at the bright area/dark area ratio in the mixer. Same about the arrangement: the nicely coloured MIDI and audio clips on dark background could be easily seen even from a couple meters away. You could step back and look at the structure of your project - and nothing was distracting you. Now in V3 the default background is in the same colour as the side panels and this is very disorienting. Also, the default automatic colours for the clips are "dirtier" and less standing out from the background, so the side panels focus your attention more than the view of your arrangement! You need to be extra conscius to not take e.g. the track header column as part of your arrangement. It was never a problem in V2.

BTW: The default colour for the first track in V2 was just right. Now it is plain ugly.

In V2 the active loop region was clearly visible in the arrangement window (it had a form of a slightly brighter column of the background) - that was very helpful. In V3, when you e.g. set the loop for the first bar of a song, it looks very confusing - as like the track header column got wider - because there is no border between the track header column and the active loop area, and they have too similar colours. If you change the preset to e.g. "High Noon", you even totally loose the visual information about active loop area in the arranger window (it has then the same colour as the regular background).

3. Limited customization

...In fact so limited, that almost useless. Most of the GUI presets look almost the same - I believe the variance between different user's monitors is much bigger than the variance between the supplied presets. The only 2 presets that reasonably differ from the default settings are "Backlight" and "High Noon".

The whole section entitled "Creative"... is this some kind of a joke? Looks like a work of a creative 3-year-old child. 

The above just ilustrates the problem: You really can't do much with this new "appearance editor". Sure, you can do even some extreme changes, but this doesn't help. Please, observe:

a) The colours of the arrangement window (dark grey in V2) and MIDI note editor (white in V2) are now linked, so there is no way to keep them in the (very good) way it was possible in V2. (I like the V2 approach: editors are in white, so I imagine them being "on top" of the rest, and the arranger window background is dark, beacause it is the "bottom layer" of the whole layout - this imaginary "layer hierarchy" speeds up navigating. Also, when you open the MIDI editor in V2, you can instantly see if there is anything recorded after the clip being edited - if not, you can see dark background to the right, as in arranger; if yes, you can see light grey, which means there's another clip right after this one. There is no such clear visual feedback in V3 - VERY BAD CHANGE.)

b) The method to achieve the lightest grey for the panels is to set their luminance to 100% and contrast to -100%; but the resulting colour is still not as bright as in V2; what's more and even worse, the letters stay white, what makes them very painful to read then; SO, LETTING THE USER MAKE SUCH CHANGES (IN THE GIVEN RANGE) IS POINTLESS.

c) When you change the luminance and contrast of the panels, at some point (e.g. L: 100, C: -50) some elements of the GUI become invisible, like for example Time Zoom sliders.

d) When you choose the "High Noon" preset, you can barely see the vertical white line, that indicates current time position in the arranger window.

e) There is no possibility to make the colour scheme even remotely resemble the V2 variant; what made S1 so unique and was one of its biggest selling points, has been entirely dropped now.

4. Clutter

While there are many little improvements, many other things went bad. Let me list just a few:

a) The colour of an insereted plugin in a mixer channel is the same as the colour of an empty channel (it was "dark on bright" in V2). So it is far harder to see the total usage of plugins (I mean the count of them) in a project when looking at the mixer view.

b) The new channel strip is especially cluttered. Large mute/solo/rec/monitor icons are distracting and compete against the meters - it was far more clever and elegant in V2.

c) When you open the dark grey mixer over the dark grey arrangement window, you need to waste half a second every time, just to learn where is the mixer's top border - 'cause all side panels, mixer and arrangement background have the same colour (and there are too many freaked graphics elements all over the screen, that distract you). Bad colour coding.

d) Plugin editor: THE FIELD WITH THE PRESET NAME IS NOW TOTALLY BURIED. What's more, the "Compare" and "Copy" letters stand out stronger than the presets field, making it even harder to find. Again: I have to lose a second every time, just trying to find where the presets are.

e) V2 used lighter ("semi-transparent") characters to describe parameters and stronger (bolder, more contrast) characters to present values. NOW BOTH DESCRIPTIONS AND VALUES HAVE THE SAME LOOK, WHAT ADDS SIGNIFICANTLY TO THE IMPRESSION OF CLUTTER.

f) I, personally, find the new fonts harder to read. The may look "trendy", but they're a real pain.

So instead of something well thought and elegant (as in V2) we are now offered a GUI that resembles "inflated DOS Norton Commander". So many bad decisions...

5. Awkwardness

The are some other minor changes, that I noticed, that I find not necessary at all, while causing some bad results.

For example, the plug editor window has just a bit higher header now. Unfortunalelly, this is enough to cause a couple of plugins not to fit on screen at the most popular laptop resolution of 1366 x 768 (you e.g. can't see the bottom row of parameters of a plugin) - even the supplied Mai Tai suffers from this. There is really no advantage of this change. V2 was far better tailored in this regard. Again, S1 looses what was one of its strongest points.

Also, in V2 the lower right corner was the area where you were switching between differet views: Edit, Mix, Browse, but also Instruments, Effects, Files etc. (in the browser). It was nice not being forced to do long mouse movements. Now the categories in the browser are at its top, so much longer movements (e.g. click "Browse", then go to the top of the screen to choose a category like "Instruments" or "Effects") are required.

6. Is it only me...?

After the release of V3 I've been reading various blog and forums - posters were generally "excited" by the new look. I am not that excited, unfortunatelly. I was even thinking that maybe I'm a kind of a moaning, grupmy, "Grouchy Smurf".  But I eventually found some forum, where many posters have similar feelings as me. A few quotations:

"I hope, they make the GUI changeable. I liked the light grey one very much."

"One of the reasons I kinda liked Studio One, was the lighter colour ... this dark version is not what I expected ; hopefully there will be some "skinning" options..."

"The UI is very very underwhelming for me not enough contrast, too flat, not enough subtle highlighting and bordering, everything just sorta of runs together and looks washed out..

The midi\audio clips.. why NOT make just make them BRIGHTER on selected.. instead of having a border and washed out color.. its SO bad... or even better.. have Light information over a dark, same colored clip.... a la FL Studio."

"I was asking for a UI update for a long time, but, for me, big step backward. Looks more like a flat, badly designed mobile app."

"I'm with you the Gui is really a big step backward since i liked the old GUI so much and the nice contrast between mixer/tracks and arrangement."

So, as we can see, not everyone is so excited about the new look. Some users pay attention not only to the "cuteness factor" - they are sober enough to evalutate also the ergonomic value of the new GUI.

7. Presonus, hear our voice

Well, I'm not a real user of S1 yet (as I said, the Artist version doesn't count  ). But I wonder how may feel those users, who were convinced by the V2's GUI and invested their money and time in Studio One. Some of them may welcome the new look, but I believe that many others may feel "betrayed".

I think I will wait with my possible purchase of S1 V3 Pro. I'm sure there will be some updates and I hope Presonus will include some option to "restore" the former look. It could be achived in a few ways:

a) better thought colour scheme editor, with more suitable options

b) an additional fixed option: "exact V2 look" ("legacy mode")

c) opening S1 for custom skins.

Any of them would be good to me.

Look at Microsoft and their Windows 8: They were trying to forcibly "convince" people to the Metro GUI. But afer a year or two (and lots of complaints and resistance from the users), MS quietly restored the tried-and-tested desktop in the Win 8.1 update. (And they learned their lesson for Windows 10, which appear to keep the desktop.) Look at Adobe: a couple of years ago they introduced dark GUI in Photshop. But this was only the default setting - you could easily change it to brighter (as in earlier versions) in the preferencies.

Presonus, please fix the GUI - Studio One deserves it."

Thanks for your time.

5 Answers

0 votes
answered Apr 24, 2016 by Skip Jones (164,630 points)

Thank you for the feature request. 

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0 votes
answered Dec 23, 2017 by sjoens (170 points)
edited Dec 23, 2017 by sjoens
Keep current GUI. Add v2 GUI (or likeness) as option. Make GUI files accessible like DP, Reaper, Samplitude, and Mixcraft do so customization is possible. Sonar's GUI wasn't accessible but was extractable with utilities which led to its own Theme Editor.
+1 vote
answered Dec 29, 2017 by LFO (3,370 points)
I completely agree with all this. V3 is great update for everything, except GUI, which is major dissapointment and makes S1 very flat, dull and un-inspiring.

Please, make at least option for V2 look or light version of gui, current customization is pretty much useless, it's more changing color but it doesn't change overall full and flat appearance.
0 votes
answered Jan 28, 2018 by antokovacic (910 points)
I really appreciate the S1 design team, I'm grateful for this excellent DAW, and also greatful for the opportunity to express desires and feature request. That's very professional. But, I must agree with the long post above. S1 v3 GUI is not good as it could be. Summary:
- too dark, greyish and dull; watching it for hours makes me almost feeling depressed
- too flat
- GUI customization options limited and not too much useful
Dark-flat design obviously is a trend, it's "modern", but "modern" is not always better. IMHO, best is the golden middle: not too much fancy 3d, not too much flat. The DAW is a tool for making music, my eyes are watching it for hours every day, so this tool does have to be practical, smooth, comfortable and without any fatigue for eyes. If this goal is achieved, I don't care if its "modern" or not. IMHO, dark-flat, cold-metallic-greyish does not achieve this goal.
+2 votes
answered May 23, 2018 by Coloss (290 points)
Man...i cant even express how much i agree. To me its kind of crazy that so many people are ok with it. I upgraded to ver. 4, but it's still terrible. Those colors just dont work somehow. It looks cheap honestly. Like sb mentioned above, i get almost like depressed. I wish i wouldnt mind, but i do. I need something pleasant to look at to feel creative etc...this is a mood killer for me : /