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Best Level Editor For Quake?
just wondering what good editors are for quake.
'nuff said bitches. 
I Still Prefer GTK Radiant 1.5 
Trenchbroom has some weird viewport navigational bugs and doesn't lend itself well to CSG's incredibly planar behavior.

This is just my opinion, but I believe the only reason why everyone likes Trenchbroom is because those same people find 3D-only editors to be of great use in other game engines. These game engines, though, prefer static meshes over complex brush setups, which are without a doubt best edited from an orthographic perspective. 
I tried so many times to figure out GTK Radiant and I have given up on it. TB is something you can make decent maps with and have fun at the same time. 
I've shifted back to GTKR1.5 myself. I used TB since it came out and made many nice scraps with it... but I find that I just prefer the precision feeling of a big 2D view. And CSG Merge combined with the clipping tool makes me work so fast on complex geometry. I think you just end up with more power over brushes in Radiant, and I've become reasonably quick with it through the years.

That is not to say TB is bad, I think it's a great editor and many people use it well. I think it is going great places with the next version as well... which can be an important point, SleepwalkR is going to keep working to make it better. Radiant is never going to get any better as a Quake editor. Which is a shame, because many features in TB are absolutely great and would be very handy in Radiant. I am looking forward to TB2.

Back in the day people would argue about editors, but it always really came down to 'Use which you like best'. Back then it tended to be between Worldcraft 1.6 or BSP... or some weirdo obscure editors like Stoneless. These days, I think TB, Radiant, or some version of Hammer/WC are the only real options, and again, it's really personal preference. 
Hammer 3.3 
It works on pretty much any computer and is easy to set up. It just works. TB is the 2nd option. GTK is third. All of them will do as far as making a level goes but as far as slinging brushes go that's the current order in my book.

Then again my first editor was the first version of Quoole (sp?) so what do I know... 
I Should Add... 
...that the compiling software choice is far more critical than the editor is. 
I've been using Hammer for most of my life so I think it's the most convenient, however Trenchbroom is an excellent editor that makes most things reammy trivial. Problem is it doesn't have 2d views so making complex architecture is quite hard sometimes, and for now it likes to crash for no real reason. 

I have no doubt TB2 will be a huge improvement over TB, which is already great. 
Yeah Yeah 
I'll add 2D views to TB2, shut up already ;-) 
Wonder how your two year younger self would respond after reading that. 
I used to use Worldcraft. As a matter of fact back in the 90s I actually paid for the full registered version, but when Windows 7 first came out I had a lot of problems trying to get Worldcraft to work with it.

I had tried the original QERadiant a few times while trying to make a Quake 3 map and just couldn't get used to how it worked. Hammer was never really for Quake, so I didn't consider it.

Somebody here suggested Netradiant. I tried it and it worked fine on Windows 7. Eventually I got used to using it, so that's where I've been for the last 5 years. It has never crashed in that entire time.

I tried Trenchbroom a year or so ago. There were some quirks but my conclusion was that I'd probably try it on the next map.

In Netradiant I use a three view setup. I spend most of my time in a big 3D window that takes up nearly the entire screen with just a single 2D view and the texture browser on the sides. So I think Trenchbroom's 3D only aspect may be a plus if I can just get used to it, but some things seem to be better done in a 2D view. 
Best Or Worst? 
I use GTKRadiant 1.3.8(wolfet) version because it is something I know inside out and can easily produce architectural shapes in my head in 3d space quickly. I have floating window setup with a one 2d window and 3d camera view. I often have two versions of the editor open because it is really good to cut and paste between maps and use the secondary as a temporary shelf for prefab shapes.

I have a horrible hacked setup to get GTK working with Quake, which I do not recommend to anyone, but it works! Ultimately there is no such thing as the perfect editor, just what is perfect for you at the time. 
Hammer 3.4 
1 - Get Quakeadapter (google it)
2 - Download the .exe for Hammer 3.4 and drop into the Worldcraft DIR.

Note: Installing Worldcraft with Quakeadapter requires it to go into c:\program files\ (not (x86)) 
I'm Using(haha) A Portable Version Of 
Hammer 3.5
and never had a single problem with it, doesn't count an occasional crash here and there 
Rick: Worldcraft 1.6 Works Fine In Win 7 
I had some problems, but found the missing dll on the internet and it fixed the problem. Although it sounds super dodgy to download dlls from the net (and is! I don't recommend it, but I was desperate), it seemed to fix the problem with no obvious ill effects.

I have a Wc 1.6 bundle on google drive here:

you might be better off with Hammer though, since the 3d acceleration is one thing in Wc 1.6 that I couldn't get to work (it works, but then you can't select stuff in the 3d view, so it's useless). 
Oh Yeah 
The other problem was that the setup program doesn't work in win 7, so I extracted it under win XP and copied it over. The above link has the setup removed. I think I switched out the compiler tools for modern ones and added the Quake .map source and a .wad for good measure. 
.. and all its inherent floating point coordinate issues..
But still, really easy to manage for newbies, hence never tested others... 
It's still in an alpha stage, but it's showing tremendous progress as a replacement for Worldcraft/Hammer. 
The main problem with a JH is a camera navigating. I can place a lot of cameras in Hamre to navigate through the whole damn map. 
What Are The Benefits Of 
Hammer 3.5 over 3.3? 
What Are The Benefits Of 
Hammer 3.5 over 3.3? 
I find I get along easiest in Trenchbroom. I wish it had a few extra features (like primitives - aka cylinders), but it's the fastest Quake editor I've ever used.

The 2D views will help for clipping work, so the next version should be fairly amazing.

I'm just impressed every time I sit down with it and I'm banging out room after room and it just feels so fluid. 
Than, I did find that D3 dll years ago and I couldn't get the 3D acceleration to work either. It just seemed kind of slow without it and not being able to select in the 3D windows made it a no-go for me.

I've actually been pretty happy with Netradiant. I've got 5 years experience with it now on this-map-I-can't-seem-to-finish. As I said, if I ever try to make another map I'll probably use Trenchbroom. 
What Are The Benefits Of Hammer 3.5 over 3.3?
I'm not sure what exact the benefit of using hammer over WC3.3. Basically they're just the same thing. It's a matter of personal preference
Once installed ages ago, i'm still able to just copy/paste to the new OS for mapping. And never bothered about some adapters and other shite. 
They're All Pretty Buggy Though 
I used them for years. What's wrong with Jackhammer? Basically the same thing but open sourced and in active development for Quake. 
I Might Try GTKRadiant 1.5 But... 
where do you get the quake 1 gamepack (or quoth?) 
anyone else come across that weird/annoying bug in Hammer where changing an entity's properties (key/value) doesn't actually change it?

I bought Worldcraft back in the day on a cd (to think how my life would be different if I'd never gotten that cd!) and have been using it ever since... now use Hammer. Since I almost always try to make giant areas, whether indoor or outdoor, I'm looking forward to trying a totally different engine/editor in the future.

One of the more interesting things about Q1SP design, that only a few people would really be qualified to speculate on, is how editor capabilities and limitations determine or at least influence a mapping style. 
I hit that one all the time. I typically changed the thing, deselected it, then selected it again to see if it had changed :/

That's a pretty big influence right there - I haven't released anything in years... thank SleepWalkr for TrenchBroom :D 
Another issue with Hammer is that it will not display any more brushes in the 2d views if you get past 10,000 brushes, which is problematic. 
yeah, but you can use visgroups to hide stuff. I guess you might want to see everything at once, but most of the time that limitation causes no real issues as long as you use visgroups.

Dunno if TB has visgroups or something similar, but they are such an awesome feature of WC, and part of what kept me using it for so damn long. 
I would love to do some Quake mapping, I tried Trenchbroom but like previously mentioned, I miss the huge 2d grid for some advanced brushwork.

Sock gave me his hacked GtkRadiant setup but I never got it working properly. It would be awesome if the new 1.6 would offer full Quake support. But that will probably never happen.

Too bad Radiant requires so much effort to get it to work. All the different tools needed for compiles and stuff doesn't help either. Ah, maybe I'm just spoiled. 
For the most part I don't get the obsession with the 2d view. I've managed to make some pretty neat stuff with TB thus far.

There has only been a very small number of times I have missed the 2d view (usually making gigantic brushes) but this has been hugely offset by how easy it is to make stuff in 3d view.

The cons are really massively outweighed by the pros IMO. 
I guess it's just what you are used too. I have a hard time making complex stuff in TB and I can build almost anything with brushes in Radiant. 
2D In Trenchbroom 
When I want to measure stuff I just stick a 128 pixel texture on it.

You have to change your mindset with working with it, but I previously mapped with Worldcraft, which I found had a much easier interface than Radiant.

I understood Radiant and built some stuff in it, but it just seemed like a lot more hassle to do simple stuff than in WC.

And QuArK is possibly the worst editor interface ever.

But I agree you can train yourself to use any editor, and get faster at using it than others. 
Measuring In Trenchbroom 
it's fairly simple guys. Activate the grid, every 64 units is a bold line.

Or when you hold shift it tells you the length of each axis of the brush.

Obviously this is a bit harder with brushes over 1000 units 
Yeah As Well 
But at a glance I find a big block 128 texture is quicker. 
Mapping solely in the 3D viewport in Radiant is pretty straightforward and painless. It's not like TB is the only one doing 3D editing. 
I know it's possible to do some basic brush manipulation and entity creation in Radiant's 3D window, but I don't think I'd call it straight forward and painless. 
Even Quark Has Basic Functions In 3d View 
like vertex manipulation, which cannot be done in 2D views.
Calling Anything About Radiant 'painless' 
You can! Hold n or v or something, JPL knows. Of course this generates garbage though. 
I love how this has turned into a bitching thread

very Quake

well if SOMEONE who just make it so (lol).. 
Yeah Spirit 
n is free vertex mode. Killer. 
@ 44 
Trenchbroom is still the sexiest of editors, just to be clear! :P 
is indeed sexy, but the lack of an orthographic view makes it a no-go for me :(

I'd recommend GTK/NetRadiant. 
As Long It's Freeware 
What I did with Qmap, Qbsp256, Thread, Deathmatchmaker and Qoole will fortunately will be evaluated as my five pence I had left for an editor
I never understood why (it seemed) so few people used this. I tried everything that was out there (back then) and nothing came close. So flexible in its layout, and plenty of features.

But I was an MS fanboy, and BspEditor had that look and feel as far as I was concerned. Maybe it was just because I was using Windows on a PC?

The only thing it lacked was a decent built-in compiler but I wrote a little GUI that I could call direct from BspE and I was as happy as the proverbial sandboy.

I created many maps with BspE and even released about a dozen or so. It was fun. 
had the possibillity to change the editor, bars, colours and screen layout at own choice, which was rather unusual that time! 
Editors With Active Development In 2016 
TrenchBroom (Version 2)
J.A.C.K (formerly "Jackhammer")
Custom Netradiant
GtkRadiant 1.6

Enhanced Tyrutils by ericw
Enhanced BJP tools by rebb 
Something I Never Got 
My introduction to mapping was through the Cube series of games, so I've always tended towards 3D editors and wyswyg etc, which is some of what TB offers, so finding out that it existed was great. I'm pretty new to Quake as well, so TB is the only editor I've ever used.

But still... I feel like I'm really missing something with other editors. I've looked at them, and they just seem so hostile and intimidating. I mean honestly, I look at something like this, J.A.C.K. or whatever it's called now, and I just don't get it. the 3D view is fine, and demonstrates that this is a somewhat detailed area and so on, but the 2D views...

it's such a mess! It's so dense with information, edges, vertices etc. all layered over each other to the point where I just can't decipher it.

What's the thought process that goes into using such an interface? It obviously works for a lot of people over the course of multiple decades, so it's hardly bad... I just don't get it.
I feel like a tool for not understanding, please enlighten me :( 
Keep In Mind 
that when you are making a level in a 4-port editor such as JACK that the vertices make much more sense to you as you have the knowledge of the entire map. There are many tools that assist with the views such as vis-groups and highlighting, cordons, etc.

It really is just what you are comfortable with. I had trouble with TB due to the lack of 2d views because that's what I've always used 
Before Quake we mapped for Doom. 2D was all Doom had and we got used to it.

On the other hand, the overlapping of everything in the 2D views of a Quake map can get confusing. I generally do all the moving around, looking, and selecting in the 3D window. Once a brush or entity is selected I use the 2D view, but sometimes vertex manipulation is easier in the 3D window.

My setup in Netradiant is one big 3D view pane, a tall 2D view pane to the left (I use ctl-tab to switch view direction), and a short texture pane below the 3D pane. 
2D Views 
The 2D views for me in J.A.C.K/Worldcraft/Hammer I only ever look at when I already have selected what I want to manipulate, either move, resize, rotate, or skew. Other than that, no their just a mess of useless lines. Really and truly they only ever need to show what is selected unless you want to see the top view layout of the level.

-Hammer veteran of 12 years 
Cluttered 2d Views 
I normally just select a bunch of busy geometry and press h.

If I want to see it again I press u. 
That Only Works 
in J.A.C.K FYI. 
Can hide/unhide with H and shift+H in Netradiant.

There's also a filter list. You can selectively filter out things like entities, clips, triggers, etc. I wish it had more choices (just lights, only point entities, etc.) but what's there does help. 
put them separately into visgroups and you can hide them, at least in WC/Hammer/JACK. It's a bit of work at first but can speed things up a lot.

If only editing multiple entities at once fast was possible it would be an even better option. 
Why would anybody use hammer or worldcraft over jack(hammer)?

The only reason that I could think of is if you were actively developing for valve games as well as quake. 
...if you learned mapping on one of those editors and don't want to go through the hassle of learning another editor if you don't feel limited by the one you're already used to. After all, Worldcraft started as THE editor of reference for Quake.

This is how people don't feel comfortable using Trenchbroom when it's objectively by far the most intuitive editor I've ever tried. 
I wouldn't bandy that word around lightly. I think there's a definite argument to be made in favour of editors like J.A.C.K, although now that TB has the 2D views as well perhaps not as strong an argument. (Does anyone have experience with that? I never tried them) 
I tried TB2 yesterday and I can tell it may be a more efficient editor than Worldcraft derivatives. Pushing and pulling brushwork in the 3D view is nice. However, I found vertex manipulation to be extremely finicky, though I may just need more experience with the controls. Since TB2 doesn't have primitives like Worldcraft editors, you need to create arched brushes yourself and working with vertices in the 3D view is frustrating at best. I couldn't reliably pull edges/vertices in the direction I wanted and would spend over a minute shaping just one of the four brushes for half of the arch I would need to adequately match the curvature of the texture. It just seems like complicated geometry would be difficult to work with in TB. 
It's a bit of a learned art. I struggled at first to make good shapes with the vertex editor, but once you catch on to the fact that the directions you can pull properly in are affected by your camera angle it becomes a bit easier to use. Trying to push at a severe angle to the camera produces wacky results where the vert just shoots off into the distance...

I will definitely say that building curves is very painful, and primitive support would be appreciated... 
I have been struggling with same thing.. I personally would like to figure out what is going on in every view.

TB[Version 2] has orthogonal view also.. but only reason why those are useful/fast is when using precise steps, and working on basic layouts of your map (but that is just my opinion.

If there is going to be multiple layers of rooms on top of each other everything will get messy and hard to navigate through these orthogonal view.

You can group/put in different layers your entities and brushes, and try to organize your used space. For example layers: "Top Floor" "Mid Floor" etc. but even though TB support using those.. it is really time consuming and not always worth of effort.

In the end you just need slowly get used to what ever feels better for you.. or maybe using other editor for different uses.. I use J.A.C.K and TB together. For example I love J.A.C.K features that can create arches, cylinders and all kind of basic shapes, but everything else I do basically in TB. 
I really should give J.A.C.K. a try for those primitives, I've made some pretty awful circles in TB... 
Yeah TB totally is not for those kind of primitives... hopefully in the future there will some features for those even. 
@Pritchard I didn't say it's the best, I said it's the most intuitive. I also added "that I've ever tried". Of course, other editors probably have stronger points, but they're also much more complex to handle for n00bs. Never tried J.A.C.K. but I tried editors like WC and Radiant back in the day, was put off by their complexity and never got past one blocky empty room. With TB I could build stuff from the get-go in the 3D view without having to memorize the full readme first. That's intuitiveness at its finest IMHO. That said, I'm right here with you regarding primitives. Has anyone made a feature request for those on Github?

@NewHouse You can easily make cylinders in TB with the intersect feature: build a cube, duplicate, rotate, intersect. Rinse and repeat.

@Sevin Study the help file. There are keyboard shortcuts that will make your life much easier, like locking the editing along one axis to prevent the kind of weird behavior you were talking about. 
Yes, TB is very shortcut-focused. I read the readme while I missed around. You can lock movement to one axis only when you've already begun moving, and most of the time it would start on the wrong axis. I don't want to have to keep jiggling my camera so I can get the vertex moving in the right direction. Plus, moving the cam so I can get on the right axis often has the consequence of making it impossible to see where I'm going, so I end up bouncing back and forth between moving my camera and moving the vertices. It's not intuitive to me, but I can see how setting up basic brushwork on the 32+ grid could be greatly streamlined using TB. Maybe using TB for alphas/whiteboxes and then Radiant/WC for betas and later would be a good practice. 
You must be first one ever suggesting something like that.. it doesn't come to my mind at all, because I always though rotating in TB wasn't that trustworthy. And especially when trying to make stylished simplified cylinders that method is trying to achieve more realistic look? 
Trust Issues 
The only CSG operation that I trust is merge. as far as I'm concerned, subtract and intersect are black magic not to be messed with...
It always takes me at least like, 3-4 tries to get subtract to work ;-; 
Getting kind of off topic, but speaking of CSG: why does HL have a CSG build program but Quake doesn't? What does CSG do that BSP doesn't? 
@NewHouse Yes, like this, but without forgetting to intersect your brushes so that no cubes remain... ;) I made pretty nice 24-sided columns in my first test map using this method with the default 15-degree rotation. I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of that. What do you mean by "not that trustworthy"?

@Pritchard According to the doc, CSG subtract and intersect are more reliable in TB than in other editors. The only time I used subtract so far was to make an 8-sided tube with two of those cylinders and it worked like a charm on the first try. 
By trustworthy I mean specific cases where geometry was very complex, then something like that didn't worked back then.. but maybe when working on simplier shapes.. I just have couple bad experiences about it back then, I know there has been a lot of updates etc. but what can you do. Your mind just says stay away from areas that have causes you problems even earlier.

For example I was trying to create almos realistic tree by using these merge, subtract and intersect and it totally broke the geometry, but that was maybe just back then. 
Indeed, a tree is far more complex than a cylinder! A cylinder is only a convex brush, so it has little chance of breaking geometry on its own. 
About TB 
Sevin: I couldn't reliably pull edges/vertices in the direction I wanted and would spend over a minute shaping just one of the four brushes for half of the arch I would need to adequately match the curvature of the texture. It just seems like complicated geometry would be difficult to work with in TB.

I agree that an arch / primitive builder is sorely missing from TB, and it is very high on my list of todos. I would however be interested to hear why it's so hard to move the vertices where you want in TB. I suppose you have figured out that you always move things around on the XY plane, and can switch to vertical movement along the Z axis by holding the ALT key?

Pritchard: the directions you can pull properly in are affected by your camera angle

That's not true at all. In fact, I have made it a point to avoid doing this. The camera angle should not affect how your actions (mouse movements) are interpreted. The fact that vertices shoot off into infinity if you're looking at things at a shallow angle is a direct result of that, it's impossible to avoid. What's the alternative, disable one movement direction when the camera angle is shallow? Which one? At what angle? I toyed with that, and it sucked.

The truth is that using only the 3D view is not as useful as I had originally envisioned. That's why I added the 2D views. If you need better precision, use those.

Sevin: You can lock movement to one axis only when you've already begun moving, and most of the time it would start on the wrong axis.

I don't understand. You can select the axis yourself, it's the one you have moved the farthest distance on. Why is that difficult to handle? I'm asking out of genuine interest - maybe I can improve it?

Sevin: I end up bouncing back and forth between moving my camera and moving the vertices.

But that's how you work in a 3D view. I am not an avid user of 3D modeling tools, but I would think that having to move the camera around a lot is necessary in those tools also. I urge you to read up about and use the camera's orbit mode (hold alt and drag with right mouse button). It makes adjusting the camera angle so much easier because you can control the point of rotation yourself and therefore control what the camera is focused on.

Pritchard: The only CSG operation that I trust is merge. as far as I'm concerned, subtract and intersect are black magic not to be messed with...

Why? As long as your geometry is clean and as long as you're not doing anything crazy, CSG subtract should give you much better results in TB than in other editors. Of course, all within the limits of brush-based geometry that doesn't support CSG in the first place. You have to remember that CSG is always an emulation with geometry that's based on convex polyhedra.

Newhouse: For example I was trying to create almos realistic tree by using these merge, subtract and intersect and it totally broke the geometry, but that was maybe just back then.

For the reasons I gave above, this is a really bad idea, as you have realized by now ;-) 
Make It More Idiot Proof, Please 
One of the things that always gets me with TB's workflow, and no, I don't have any better ideas, is the priority in which brushes are treated. I feel like half the time it's random which brush an operation "chooses". I think it cuts the second brush out of the first brush when I subtract, but for some reason it just doesn't seem natural to me and instead I end up with the brush I wanted to use to cut floating in empty space.

Same with right clicking to move brushes into different groups or entities; I don't think I realised that's how it works until recently. I would try selecting both brushes and then right clicking to use the option, thinking that it didn't matter where I clicked, and that somehow the tool would decide which entity to make the brush a child of based on the order I selected them in (Almost a valid criticism here: Subtract depends on the order of selection, adding brushes to entities does not, a fix would be to put CSG in the right click menu (a bad idea??)). In any case, that basically meant me fumbling around with deselecting, reselecting and all that until i got lucky and happened to right click on the right thing.

And well, before this thread and that circle demonstration I don't think I really understood what intersect did; I mean, I know what the word means, and it seems obvious now, but still... I should really spend an afternoon with the manual.

Merge is nice because it doesn't matter what order you select brushes in or any of that mumbo-jumbo. It just sticks them together, resolving concave gaps in a sensible way that I can understand.

And on vertex movement:
I see where you're coming from, and why there's no easy way around it, but it does still feel out of place to me having a vertex shoot off uncontrollably. I'm not really saying you should fix it, like you say it's just an issue with a 3D camera viewpoint in general.

So yeah, my complaints are basically all just grumblings of a guy who never had to deal with vertices, selection order or CSG in previous editors and is still trying to understand them for the first time...

This has been your daily dose of Pritchard confesses his idiocy� 
I should really spend an afternoon with the manual.

Yes you should. That said, I agree that user actions should depend on as little context as possible. For example, as you noticed, CSG subtract depends on the history of user selections, but the details are arbitrary. Is the first selected brush the minuend or the subtrahend? Even I don't remember, but then I'm not a user.

Fortunately, CSG subtraction is the only action where this is the case. I did it this way because I felt like all other options weren't any better, and this was the least amount of work for me.

If you have concrete ideas on how to make things simpler, let me know on github or over in the TB thread. 
K E Y B O A R D M A G I C K 
However, I found vertex manipulation to be extremely finicky, though I may just need more experience with the controls.

I've developed the habit of using the arrow keys + page up/down to avoid too much mouse movement. Quite like it that way, esp with alt + arrow keys for rotation. Combine that with number keys for grid density.

I find myself wanting those operations in 2D editors now, esp rotation, it really sticks to muscle memory.

One thing that bugs me about mousing verts is that it seems to decide on the plane in viewspace while it does it in worldspace for brushes. I would prefer the latter to be the standard behavior everywhere, less thinking involved, smaller brain volume required.

(hoping these things have fixes and Sleepwalkr yells at me to RTFM) 
it seems to decide on the plane in viewspace while it does it in worldspace for brushes

Both behave in the same way. Which version are you using? 
TrenchBroom 2.0.0 Beta Build 31439f2 RelWithDebInfo

I'll check the latest dev build to see if I have the problem there. 
Just A Heads-up 
I posted some suggestions to improve the axis lock system in the TB thread. 
@ 54 
I'll try to explain, as someone who is most at home with the Worldcraft/Hammer series..

I'll use the 2D view exclusively to create the basic outline of a structure e.g. floor plans. At this early stage, the 2D view is clean and uncluttered and it's easy to see what is going on.

At a more advanced stage, such as in your screenshot, the 3D view takes over. I fly around in it, select brushes in it, adjust textures in it. The 2D view still helps for complicated brushwork, and because Hammer highlights any selected brushes in bright red, they stand out well against the 2D view background clutter. Even so, if I'm resizing a brush or doing vertex manipulation my eyeballs will probably be flicking between the 2D and 3D views to see the results.

In a nutshell, I don't try to make sense of the huge mess of 2D geometry in one go, only the parts being worked on in the moment. Hiding stuff also helps, probably all editors have a way to do this (in Hammer it's visgroups). Having the 3D view open at the same time helps me confirm I'm doing what I think I'm doing. Finally, if I've been working on a given area for some time, building it up from basic brushes, I get to know by heart what each coloured box in the 2D view corresponds to anyway. This is a lot different to opening up someone else's project and trying to make sense of it all for the first time. 
Auto visgroups are another great addition to the Source Hammer. I use auto visgroups all the time to help clean up the 2D views and make what I'm looking at in the 3D view easier to see. That's one of several things I miss from the Source Hammer to Quake/GoldSrc Hammer derivatives. 
I always found quark's handling of 2d view clutter to be elegant. The 2d views are locked together (linked zoom and pan) so the area they are looking at is a cube, and any brushes outside of that cube are drawn greyed out. 
Uh Oh 
Who let the quark kid in here? 
There's Always One 
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