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2021.2 beta image

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Create UI for games and applications with UI Toolkit, now equipped with runtime support in 2021.2

UI Toolkit is a collection of features, resources, and tools for developing graphical user interfaces. First seen in 2019.1 as UI Elements, UI Toolkit introduced a retained mode UI framework that allowed for the development of custom UI for Unity Editor extensions. As of the 2021.2 version, UI Toolkit supports the authoring of runtime UI, so you can use it to create UI for games and applications directly in Unity.

Inspired by web technologies, UI Toolkit mirrors a familiar and intuitive authoring experience to help artists and designers get started faster with dedicated authoring tools like the UI Builder and UI Debugger.

Image of the new UI Toolkit builder and debugger side by side

The latest capabilities of UI Toolkit

Get the power of TextMesh Pro

In 2021.2, UI Toolkit integrates the font rendering technology of TextMesh Pro so users like you can get started without having to install additional plug-ins or packages. This means that UI Toolkit now has advanced styling capabilities and the capacity to render beautiful text cleanly, at any point size and resolution based on your preferences.

Image of the new UI toolkit level up button

Make lightweight transitions with dedicated UI animation

Designers currently need to use complex and rather resource-heavy animation tools to produce UI transitions in their projects. But with the addition of a dedicated UI animation system, state change transitions can be made with ease. This new system even offers a quick and efficient option for you to author reusable transitions that can be applied to other projects and elements. Seeing as transitions often make up the majority of animation in a UI project, you’ll be able to save valuable design time.

Gif showing the new transitions available in the UI toolkit

Use UI Toolkit alongside Unity UI (uGUI)

UI Toolkit is compatible with Unity UI so you can transition existing projects without having to rewrite the entire user interface. This means that you can recreate parts of an existing project with UI Toolkit while leaving the rest in Unity UI, to have them working in conjunction on the same project.

Harness crisp textureless UI rendering capabilities

Set border radius, color, size, and text to create textureless UI directly in UI Toolkit. By not having to create and import images from Photoshop, you can significantly reduce the time wasted transitioning between tools to iterate faster. This means lowering the overall memory footprint and build size to scale more efficiently. We’ve also added a new rendering technique to reduce the need for full-screen anti-aliasing, which delivers higher performance without sacrificing quality.

Image showing the new crisp textureless UI rendering capabilities in the UI Toolkit

When to use UI Toolkit

UI Toolkit is recommended as an alternative to Unity UI for creating screen overlay UI that runs on a wide variety of screen resolutions. It should be considered by those who:

  • Produce work with a significant amount of user interfaces
  • Require familiar authoring workflows for artists and designers
  • Seek textureless UI rendering capabilities

Unity UI is the recommended default solution for users who need UI positioned and lit in a 3D world, as well as VFX with custom shaders and materials, and easy referencing from MonoBehaviours.

How to get started in the Beta

You can get the latest beta from the Unity Hub or on our download page. Remember, the beta is not intended for use in production-stage projects. As always, be sure to back up your existing projects if you plan to use them with the beta. 

That said, we would love to know how Unity 2021.2 works for you. Please visit the Beta forum and UI Toolkit forum to leave us your thoughts and valuable feedback.

July 1, 2021 in Engine & platform | 5 min. read

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