Can someone explain to me what all these do ?

I been using Blender for years now, and I got to get back to it but...

  • dope sheet
  • timeline
  • action editor
  • NLA
  • graph editor

why is there not just a timeline like...in any other software ?

this is so confusing

thanks for en-lighting me on these features

  • $\begingroup$ blender.stackexchange.com/questions/64904/… $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2021 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ thx, and for the others ? $\endgroup$
    – phil123
    Dec 22, 2021 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ I think that merging the Dope Sheet and the Timeline would make sense and has already been considered, I don't know why it hasn't happened yet, there must be a reason... But NLA and Graph Editor have nothing to see $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Dec 22, 2021 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ why is there a timeline and an action editor ? $\endgroup$
    – phil123
    Dec 22, 2021 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ because they serve different purposes. Timeline is for overall animation. Action editor is for creating small animations that can be used at different places in the timeline via the NLA. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2021 at 18:36

1 Answer 1


None of the animation software I'm familiar with has "just a timeline". Just a timeline works for simple animations, but as soon as you have situations where you want the same animation at different points in time, it is very useful to be able to build up a library of small animations that you can apply at different times.

Blender's mechanism for doing this is through the action editor, and NLA; both of which use the timeline. The timeline serves three purposes:

  1. It is used to "scrub" the animation over time
  2. It serves as the focal point for adding keyframes to simple animations.
  3. It ties actions together in time.

The Dope Sheet serves two purposes, which overlap the timeline but are different.

  1. It gives an overview of the actions in an animation, and is a carry over from pre-computer animation.

  2. It is a container for the action editor, which could be a separate editor but isn't.

The Action Editor is used to create actions that can be reused, like walk cycles, or a character's slow smile emerging.

The NLA is used to put those actions together into a time sequence.

The graph editor, like the time line and the Dope Sheet, serves multiple purposes. In addition to allowing you to edit the curves used by the animation system for interpolation between poses in a pose-to-pose animation; it allows you to edit the curves used by drivers.

I would assume that the timeline is a separate editor rather than a subset of the Dopesheet for historical reasons; but that it remains separate because it is a convenient way of providing simple animation tools without having to introduce the complexity of action editing, or the information overload possible with a Dope sheet.

  • $\begingroup$ great answer, yet I know tons of softwares having only one time line..Aseprite, the old macromedia flash editor...to name afew I recall $\endgroup$
    – phil123
    Dec 23, 2021 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Fair point. I should have qualified that phrase, but I couldn't think of how. Most flipbook style animation apps for mobile devices only have one time line, and I'd completely forgotten them; for example. $\endgroup$ Dec 23, 2021 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's great to have many higher level options in blender, but the UI is "all over the place", it makes not much sense for a new user...or like me, I use blender anims only once in a while $\endgroup$
    – phil123
    Dec 24, 2021 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ It's a problem UI designers have struggled with since the '60s, believe it or not: How to have a simple UI for most users that can be expanded into a complex UI for "advanced"/"power" users. Blender isn't one of the better examples, alas. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2021 at 18:25

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