With last week's poll - "What program do you most often use to edit or create graphics?" - we knew we couldn't offer all possible responses, so we encouraged people to send notes to TidBITS Talk about what they use. Response to the poll resulted in an extremely interesting set of information, even after I weeded out redundant messages.
The Winners -- Not surprisingly, the powerful Adobe Photoshop took home the award for most popular among the specific choices we offered in the poll, tallying 40 percent of the vote. Second place was more surprising, with Thorsten Lemke's GraphicConverter picking up 14 percent of the vote. After that, the results were relatively predictable, with Illustrator at around 8 percent, followed by Canvas and FreeHand at 7 percent. AppleWorks (previously known as ClarisWorks), PhotoDeluxe, ImageReady, and Painter all picked up a few votes as well. Surprisingly far down were Corel's offerings, CorelDraw and Photo-Paint, which barely registered at all, although Corel is now making a limited edition package of CorelDraw and Photo-Paint available for free.
The Others -- In many ways, the messages we received about other programs proved more interesting, since they reminded us of programs we hadn't thought of while designing the poll and revealed numerous users of obsolete programs.
We should have added MicroFrontier's image editor Color It and Macromedia's Web graphics-oriented Fireworks to the mix, possibly with MicroFrontier's Enhance (Color It's big brother) and Macromedia's Web-animation tool Flash as well. Color It and Fireworks in particular generated messages from happy users.
A few blasts from the past were equally as well represented by reader messages, though, including the obsolete Canvas 3.5 and the long-defunct ClarisDraw (mentioned in TidBITS-187), SuperPaint (reviewed in TidBITS-112), and IntelliDraw (reviewed in TidBITS-155). Canvas 3.5's loyal following didn't surprise me much since with the ill-fated Canvas 5, Deneba started moving away from 3.5's focus on drawing and painting and has tried to turn Canvas into a professional level vector graphics and image-editing tool. You can read for yourself if they're successful in Matt Neuburg's review of Canvas 7 next week; we ran out of space this week.
Also telling was the outpouring of support for these older programs, which have either been left to die by their companies or supplanted by newer versions. I turn to ClarisWorks when I need to do basic graphics, mostly because basic graphics are all that are within my reach. Perhaps the less you need, the more likely you are to stick with what you know rather than worry about new features.
Other programs that garnered a mention or two include Pierce Software's inexpensive drawing program ShareDraw, the powerful Live Picture vector-based image editing program, the drawing tools built into Microsoft PowerPoint 98, and Nova Development's Print Explosion.
Studio Artist in a Garret -- One unmentioned program that deserves recognition is Synthetik Software's Studio Artist. I stand no chance of being able to do justice with a description of this program, but I've found it fascinating and like no other program besides perhaps Delta Tao's defunct Monet.
Here's how I've used Studio Artist. First, you provide Studio Artist with a source graphic, either a photo, some piece of clip art, or something you sketch. Then you choose a brush style, tell Studio Artist to go into automatic drawing mode, and click a start button. Amazingly, Studio Artist then goes and draws a picture based on your original using the brush style you selected. If you don't like where it's going, you just stop the process, clear the screen, select another style, and start again. For our Christmas cards this year, I sketched the outline of a Christmas tree in ClarisWorks, opened it in Studio Artist, and tried different effects. Once I found one we liked, I placed it on a template in Print Explosion, added some text, and ended up with a reasonable card. To get an idea of what a total neophyte can do with Studio Artist, check out my samples (we ended up using the top left image and adding some color manually with green and red markers, since we don't have a color printer).
Studio Artist can do far more than what I've described, including apply these sorts of effects to every frame in a QuickTime movie. Tapping its full power requires a significant learning curve (at least for people who don't already use high-end graphics programs), but if you've always wanted to apply wild effects to images or movies with a minimum of effort, Studio Artist will do the trick. It's not cheap, at $295 for the CD-ROM with electronic manuals or $330 for a box with printed manuals, but there is a free 11.2 MB demo you can download.