Make Simple things simple, Complex things complex

I’m a noob to synfig, so I can see things with new eyes that some of the users here might not able to because they are used to the tool. This also means that I’m not experienced enough to understand the tool. With this disclaimer out of the way, I’ll move with the actual criticism of Synfig

Here are some extremely frustrating things about Synfig (despite its beauty in other areas)

  1. Simple things like setting a known width & height is needlessly complex. Its requires people to look at coordinates & perform some math operations outside the tool (for e.g, try setting a width of 32 to a rectangle whose point1 is at 195px, -40.32px & point2 is at 245.573px, -75px & see how needslessly complex this simple operation is)
  2. Moving a rectangle (not resizing) requires asking an expert/looking up documentation atleast for the first time, when in reality this should be the most basic everyone expects
  3. A simple & most useful operation such as relative alignment requires user to open calculator, do some math outside & come back to the tool (or) enable grid & snap to grid & if snapping is leaving artifacts, its requires people to do math (I’m not saying in animation math is not important, but math is only required for people who require mathematical accuracy, not for every animator where look & feel at the correct width is more than good enough)

I know Synfig is open source & also understand that its easy to criticise than it is to actually do it (that too with minimal funding or sometimes not at all), but does not mean the tool have to suck, despite having decent quality engine

I’m sure some (I dare say most of you too) are too frustrated with some of these basic things in Synfig such as relative alignment & also expectation of the tool for your to be a math expert at some level

I know a decent number of people on this forum understand synfig at code level. This is a call to them to make simple things simpler & complex things complex. As it stands today, synfig expects its users to do “Undifferentiated heavy lifting” which the tool can very well do

I dont know much about C/CPP, but since I’m a server side coder in Java, I dont think its that hard to implement these simple things when synfig could solve much more complex problems at code level. If its just a matter of funding, its better to open a bounty on these simple things so that people can contribute to resolving these simple yet frustrating experience with synfig

Please share your views & criticism if any of my views aswell (If I’m dumb enough to have missed something obvious in my criticism). Thanks for your time


Hi and welcome here.
Thank you for your constructive observations.

Most of the problems your enounced are either know or “solved” in the Wiki

For 1 & 2:
Use a Group Layer instead of manipulating directly your rectangle.
Group Layers are widely used in Synfig to solve most of positional issues.
You can move the origin of the group layer using Ctrl+Left Mouse on the the Green Handle

You can see the Canvas’ Properties with F8
For the positionning, Synfig uses units of 60px/unit and the origin in the middle of the canvas.

Mostly the positionning is “fuzzy” a nd relative

For 3: This should be solved with Setting the origin of your Group Layer

By the way, as you can see in the link to the other post you added, you can change the axes origin/positions as needed.

Synfig is using such philosophy for historical and mathematical reason, not always easy, but with a bit of practise (like any software) it becomes easier :slight_smile:


Thanks for your help in addressing the issues. But even with everything you mentioned there is still a fundamental issue with Synfig. The fact that basic things are un-intuitive which forces animators to struggle to get most basic things right. Here I’m talking about simple & obvious things, not complex tranformations

For eg., imagine Power point asking you read/go to a forum to move rectangle. I know it sounds absurd, but somehow its a norm in Synfig

For eg., even with Ctrl+Left Click + Drag, its still a bore & needlessly complex to center align two items

Synfig has a fundamental usability issue. It expects users to go to wiki/ask an expert to do most basic things, which IMO is one of the reasons why its not as popular as it should have been, despite having huge potential

Synfig unit system is another such case of exposing needless complexity to user. As far as I know, for animations targeted for desktops exposing units & physical medium dimension are not all useful (60px = 1unit). If the tool allows user to select the type of medium he is targeting, for most desktop targeted animations, user need not even care about units => there is no need for user to go to documentation/ask an expert & his life is simplified. It a win for user

My original stated goal of “Keep simple things simple” is a fundamental issue with Synfig. I have used Inkscape & Pencil, and Synfig one such tool that makes life needlessly complex

This gap can be fulfilled if Synfig adopts a simple principle. “Make the developer never leave the tool to do his work”. We all know there is no way everything can be done Synfig alone, but if the goal is above, we do best at our end instead of forcing user to go to documentation.

Please let me know if I’m off track on this

PS: My intention is to give constructive feedback, not to chastise anyone or minimise their amazing effort