November 06, 2006

Inkscape

I know many of you are waiting for my next blog in my Create a Grading Standard series. I haven't been very motivated to do it because Blogger has been very frustrating lately. Blogger is currently in the process of switching to a new version, and the old Blogger has been unreliable with frequent outages and publishing problems. I have been considering switching to Wordpress or something similar, but the new Blogger promises to have many of the same features. I like my blog name and moving it to something new just seems like too much work. Plus, I want to create tables and drawings to better illustrate what I am attempting to demonstrate. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks I will get on it.

For now, I have to interject with something I discovered just a few days ago called Inkscape. Actually, I have fallen in love with it. Inkscape is an open-source vector drawing program. I have used many drawing programs over the years and this programs fits my needs almost perfectly.

In college and later in employment I used a little program called Micrografix. I still love Micrografix. It was a simple vector drawing program and it was incredibly easy to use. It allowed you to scan a drawing and trace around it. You could select points (or nodes) on a line and change them from curves to sharp points. As a technical designer, I used this program to create all of my technical drawings. I had a library of component parts - sleeves, pant legs, collars. I could mix and match my pieces very quickly. The best part was it was incredibly affordable.

As the internet and technology revolution has sped up, Micrografix was left in the dust. It was acquired by Corel and pretty much abandoned. CorelDraw is very similar, but far more complex. I am sure it is a great program - I currently use PaintshopPro and love it. My mistake was buying CorelDraw Essentials. It is a horrible program. It has similar features as Micrografix, but only the "essential" functions from the better program CorelDraw. Editing points and lines are more difficult. Plus, the program is unstable -- it has crashed on me more times than I can count.

I have used Adobe Illustrator. I like Illustrator, but the program is big. It hogs a lot of memory and takes forever to load. Even though I had Illustrator available at work, I used Micrografix because I could have it open and switch between programs very quickly. Illustrator is loaded with many tools and options that are not necessary for simple line drawings. Plus the $1000 price tag is just too much.

Enter the open source movement. I have been waiting for a better option to come along and Inkscape fits the bill. It is very similar to Micrografix in what it can do. Quick node editing and great free-hand drawing tools. The entire program is a mere 17 megs. It loads quickly and even better, it is free. There are a few things that do bother me about the program. Some of the right-click menus don't make sense. Plus there are not many translations. In other words, you can save your drawing in only a few formats - svg, dxf, and eps. Still, many other drawing programs support those formats. The program has also crashed on me a few times.

Despite the few problems and annoyances, I still like this program. Because the program is open source, it can only get better (and it won't cost a fortune to upgrade!). Corel and Adobe should be very nervous.

Here is a sample (not high art by any means) of a drawing I was able to do within an hour of installing the program. I was able to create simple shapes, create drop shadows, and apply gradients.

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