My girlfriend was asking me about graphics software today. She’d been trying to use Paint Shop Pro as an inexpensive alternative to Adobe Illustrator and, predictably, was disappointed.
The GPL alternatives to Illustrator still lack at least one crucial feature (bitmap pattern fills) but I remembered reading about Serif DrawPlus.Serif is a manufacturer of cheap desktop publishing/graphics software. By cheap, I mean they aim for the $99 price point for their flagship product, then they give away older versions, and, at least sometimes, when you download the older version they offer you a somewhat less-old version for $10 or $20.
So I downloaded DrawPlus 5 and played around with it. It’s a bit basic, but it has all of the fundamentals. After about five minutes of playing around I was able to do some nice effects with text–for example, I was able to add a border to the edge of the letters, add fills, and even add a transparency effect. Cool.
Standard polygon and circle tools are there too, and you can combine multiple shapes into more complex shapes. If you can picture something as boxes and other simple shapes, you can draw a scaleable image of it with this program.
Why yes, I do think I’ll be using this to draw buildings and such for my Lionel layout. How’d you ever guess?
It’s not as powerful as Illustrator, but for a lot of people it’ll do what they need. Someone unfamiliar with vector graphics might be more comfortable with a simpler program like this, then switching to the higher-end software after running up against the simpler program’s limitations. (For years journalism schools taught desktop publishing by teaching students Pagemaker first, then QuarkXPress, since the latter is much less intimidating once one is familiar with the basic concepts.)
Check it out at freeserifsoftware.com. Serif also offers a raster image editor (a la Photoshop) and a desktop publisher under the same plan.