I’ve put this article off for a little while because every time I think about it, something new happens. I’m talking about the epidemic of upgrades for major graphics programs that have swept the Macintosh world. Canvas and FreeHand have followed Illustrator to 3.0 and MacDraw has turned Pro. Add to that a couple of new programs and graphic designers should be confused and delighted for some time.
FreeHand is Illustrator 3.0’s closest competitor and while it hasn’t changed much outwardly, Aldus (or Altsys, it’s unclear who’s responsible for the upgrade since Altsys was the developer) added a number of features that allow electronic artists to use FreeHand in a more structured way. Helping with the structure are a new Layers palette, which helps you create and manage layers of the picture, a Colors palette, which lets you create and name process and spot colors including Pantone colors, and finally a new Styles palette, from which you can save various pieces of information about how an object should look (stroke, fill, etc.) and then apply that style to other objects for a consistent look. Improved text abilities include the ability to convert PostScript Type 1 fonts into editable outlines. Unlike Illustrator 3.0, FreeHand will not need ATM active for text handling features such as wrapping text around an ellipse or creating vertical text.
Deneba’s Canvas somehow avoids comparisons with FreeHand and Illustrator, but may creep into that market with the myriads of new features in version 3.0. Canvas offers a Smart Mouse feature that helps illustrators draw and align objects without having to position the mouse exactly right, an incredibly frustrating task with a dirty mouse. Other functions that bring Canvas into direct competition with FreeHand and Illustrator include converting any PostScript Type 1 font to an editable outline, binding text to objects and curves, fractional leading and kerning, character by character font-scaling, object blending (the program figures out the intermediate steps between pictures of Geraldine Ferraro and a Ferrari), support for Pantone colors, and editing multiple Bezier-curve anchor points. Two handy new features are a bundled four-color separation utility and the ability to search for graphic objects (I’d kill for that one on occasion!). Whew! Canvas has always had a few quirks, but it sounds like Deneba isn’t letting up in the slightest in the feature wars.
Canvas’s main competition, MacDraw, will have a pile of added features when it becomes MacDraw Pro. MacDraw Pro will include impressive word processing capabilities (presumably borrowed from MacWrite II), easy creation and editing of objects using Bezier curves (which, though undeniably powerful, have always escaped me), support for Pantone colors (I’m starting to sound repetitive on that one), 24-bit color support, custom dithering that simulates almost 2000 colors on a standard 8-bit (256 color) monitor, color naming (Joe, Susan, Margie…), and multiple open color palettes. Finally, although Canvas understands a lot of graphic file formats, MacDraw Pro includes Claris’s XTND technology (which Claris ought to be better about licensing along with the necessary filters to third parties), which allow MacDraw Pro to read and write various graphic file formats supported by Claris and third party translators.
If you’ve always thought that electronic art doesn’t quite match up to traditionally created art, a new paint program from the guys who wrote Letraset’s ImageStudio, ColorStudio, and Shapes may change your mind. Tom Hedges and Mark Zimmer of Fractal Software are working on Painter, which will simulate traditional tools such as charcoal, pastels, chalk, and watercolors through the use of pressure-sensitive brushes (and yes, you would need one of Wacom’s pressure-sensitive graphics tablets to take full advantage of the program). As a final perk for graphic designers, Painter comes with several simulated paper grains, and you can create new ones of your own.
Alternately, if you like computer art, Pixar’s new ShowPlace program allows you to create in three dimensions. Somewhat less powerful than Pixar’s MacRenderMan, ShowPlace still sounds impressive. Basically, you take 3D clip art, import it into ShowPlace, add texture and a light source, and the program creates the proper 3D image for you. Bundled with ShowPlace is a clip art library called ClipObjects and a surface library called First Looks, which has textures for wood, metal, stone, and various other patterns. It doesn’t sound as though you can create 3D objects in ShowPlace, but you can export the 3D images in TIFF and PICT format. ShowPlace lists for $695 and should be out right about now.
As well as Illustrator 3.0, which was the first of the version 3.0’s to hit the market, Adobe is working on a new version of Streamline, its tracing software. Streamline can now convert continuous tone images (the sort where there aren’t distinct objects) into line art, and then Streamline can modify that line art with the same sort of effects that Painter has, including charcoal, pastels, woodcut, pen and ink, and woodcut. Other new abilities include creating a MacPaint template for the line art image, selecting only part of an image for conversion, and saving line art images so that selected pieces can be edited independently in a draw program.
Adobe — 415/961-4400
Aldus — 206/628-2320
Claris — 800/544-8554 — 408/727-8227
Deneba Software — 305/594-6965
Fractal Software — 408/688-2496
Pixar — 415/236-4000
Lots of propaganda
MacWEEK — 12-Feb-91, Vol. 5, #6, pg. 36
MacWEEK — 22-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #3, pg. 8
MacWEEK — 08-Jan-91, Vol. 5, #1, pg. 33
InfoWorld — 07-Jan-91, Vol. 13, #1, pg. 30
PC WEEK — 14-Jan-91, Vol. 8, #2, pg. 34
PC WEEK — 07-Jan-91, Vol. 8, #1, pg. 13, 29
MacUser — Mar-91, pg. 41