Blender 3D is a program that is consistently being improved to become more powerful and user-friendly to 3D artists and hobbyists alike. As part of its open-source nature, Blender also makes available test versions of the software that product test new tools and workflows before adding them to the stable release.
To download a test branch of Blender go to blender.org/download, then scroll down and click the red button labeled Download Blender Experimental. Then in the header of the website, you will see different build types, where selecting branch will take you to the test versions of Blender for new tools. Select the version you want and then download it as you normally would.
Test branches in Blender offer you an early glimpse into what the future has in store for Blender, and can give you the chance to try out a new tool that may have piqued your interest. Of course, you need to be aware of a few things when you consider using text branches.
What Exactly Are Test Branches In Blender?
A test branch is a build of the Blender software that has been compiled for the sole purpose of experimenting with a new tool or workflow for use in Blender. For example, there have been test branches for experimenting with geometry nodes, cycles x, etc.
When you go to download a test branch of Blender, then it will have the tool that it is compiled for labeled in the title of that download, making it easy to find which branch version you want to download.
Locating the test branches for Blender is a bit tricky at first from the Blender website, so let’s walk through how to download the correct version of Blender. Before we do that, a couple of things to note…
First, you do not require any other version of Blender to be installed in order to use the test branch, as it will effectively be its own download. Make sure to save it in a suitable location as having multiple blender versions makes it a bit more difficult when trying to open the correct one.
Second, a test branch is used to experiment with a new tool or workflow, and so you may find that some features of Blender may actually be missing from the test build.
Downloading A Test Branch
To download any version of Blender, you first need to go to the download page on the Blender website, which you can access by typing in blender.org/download in your search bar or by clicking the link here.
At the top of this page, you will see a big blue button that accesses the current up-to-date version of Blender. This is not the version of Blender that we are looking for, so scroll down until you see a red button Labeled download Blender Experimental.
This will take you to the builder page where initially you will have access to the main branch versions of Blender. This will include alpha, beta and candidate releases in the list.
These builds will include new tools that are likely to be used for the next main version of Blender, but before a tool is added to an alpha build it first needs to be compiled in a test build.
To access the test branches from here, go to the header at the top of the web page. There will be two rows here, the first starts with download and the second start with builds.
On the second row we want to select the option labeled as Branch, which will then take us to the test versions for new tools that we are looking to test. Select the version of Blender that you want to try and then download as you would normally.
A word of warning here, you should never download a test branch from anywhere other than the Blender website even if you believe the source can be trusted. You should only download a stable release off-site and even then only from a known source like steam or the windows store.
How Are Test Branches Different To Alpha And Beta Builds Of Blender?
The key difference between a test branch and an alpha build of Blender is what stage they are in the development of that version of the software. The whole purpose behind the test branch is to see if a tool is ready for use in the upcoming version of Blender.
By contrast, alpha and beta builds are compiled to format the new tools into the Blender ecosystem once they are deemed fit for purpose by the developers. This process means that the tools in question is actually expected to be more polished and less prone to crashing than in the test version, although it still won’t be perfect until the final release.
Also, a test branch is effectively the previous version of Blender with the target tool added into the mix, whereas the alpha build is where all the prospective additions are implemented into Blender, to see how it functions with everything included.
Changes to the tool itself are far more likely in a test branch, so downloading that branch on a Tuesday might result in different functions and behaviors added compared to the Monday build.
For the alpha and beta versions, the only real changes here are either to the layout of the new tools in the user interface, or background debugging to polish the tool before release.
Can I Use A Test Branch For Production Work?
In general, it is not recommended to use a test branch for any production or commercial projects. Test builds are not built for stability, as changes are being constantly made while the developers test new features and tools.
As such, these versions of Blender are extremely prone to crashing, resulting in a loss of work if you have not been saving regularly. In particular, using the undo tool is notoriously risky in a test build and can close Blender without warning. This is not ideal when you consider how often the undo tool is required.
Also, the tool itself is still in its development stages, so it may not yet have the functionality that you are looking for and may also cause Blender to crash itself.
When Will The Tools From The Test Branch Be Available In The Main Version?
The standard process is for new tools to be compiled in a test branch of the next version of Blender. For example, if the current version is 2.93 then the test branch will be for 3.0. If all goes well then the new tool will be added to an alpha build of the 3.0 version.
If it gets to this point then the tool will normally make its way to the stable release of that version, especially if it is used in the beta build a few weeks before the main release.
However even if a new tool has a test branch that does not guarantee that tool will reach the main version, as the tool needs to reach a standard of functionality and usability before it can be considered ready for the main release.
Therefore sometimes a new tool might initially be introduced in a test branch for version 3.0 but not reach the main branch until version 3.2 depending on how much work is required in development.
Basically, a test branch does not indicate when a tool will be introduced to the official version of Blender, but an alpha version does.
Thanks For Checking Out Our Article
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