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Gimp's sidebar has been there for ages, and it's contextual and it has tons of properties and settings you can control from there. It doesn't substitute the menus but it's very practical and modern (at the time as today -- not sure what software adopted the model for the first time, but it's never been abandoned).

I believe our sidebar could be better, less clutered and usable if we adopted something like gimp's one. I don't like buttons that much, personnally, but I believe this could be a good solution for the sidebar. In short, it's not much more than relocating the buttons bar to the side, and taking use of the extra space to add contextual content inline (as opposed to in a dialog). The way it's been implemented, it looks like different things were just thrown there together.

The sidebar offers plenty of vertical space, but it shouldn't use much horizontal space. That's why lists don't fit in it well. We should have buttons for tools and categories of controls in the upper part, and the more thorough properties and choices and options for each category or tool in the bottom part. This is clean, logical, sensible and takes less space. It involves a complete redesign too, but I guess we don't have much choice at this point.

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