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The Icon Bar: News and features: Transparency for ArtWorks a reality (updated)

Transparency for ArtWorks a reality (updated)

Posted by Richard Goodwin on 09:10, 4/4/2002 | , ,
I've just received the new transparency module Crystal, yet another invaluable upgrade by ArtWorks über-hacker Martin Würthner.
As you can see from the example images on the right, it appears to be extremely flexible, with straight transparency plus options that essentially give easy options for adding highlights and shadows.
This does come at a price - apart from the £35 cost of the module that is - the rendering of images with transparencies is noticeably slower. Notably slower compared with other ArtWorks documents, but not so slow that it compares badly with some PC products running on faster processors however. A StrongARM RiscPC is recommended though. Transparency rendering can be switched off independently of the usual WYSIWYG viewing options.
Transparency Options
Example image
Example image
The installer not only updates ArtWorks itself, but also any other Computer Concepts software that offers ArtWorks rendering. Impression Publisher, AWViewer, and the CC shared directory were all upgraded on my machine so that ArtWorks files containing transparency should be usable anywhere that regular ones could be before the upgrade. Note that this doesn't mean that the transparency is actually displayed in these external apps (yet).
It's hardly surprising that Cerilica have been pushing their transparency options in a preview of Vantage 1.10 recently, but Martin has beat them to the punch, and I still think ArtWorks is currently a much nicer working environment than Vantage. Although I'll have to take some time to play with this new toy... er, rigorously test this powerful tool, it looks like Martin's pulled off his most ambitious upgrade yet.
MW Software
  Transparency for ArtWorks a reality (updated)
  (11:54 4/4/2002)
  Chris Williams (12:00 4/4/2002)
    Andrew C. Poole (12:42 4/4/2002)
      James Shaw (13:18 4/4/2002)
        Jason Tribbeck (13:39 4/4/2002)
          Richard Goodwin (14:02 4/4/2002)
            Guest (15:35 4/4/2002)
              Richard Goodwin (15:52 4/4/2002)
                Guest (18:41 4/4/2002)
                  Guest (19:49 4/4/2002)
                    Guest (21:27 4/4/2002)
                      James Shaw (08:27 5/4/2002)
                        Guest (08:27 5/4/2002)
                          Guest (13:37 5/4/2002)
                            Chris Williams (16:11 5/4/2002)
                              Guest (22:00 5/4/2002)
                                Guest (09:13 8/4/2002)
[mentat] Message #90588, posted at 11:54, 4/4/2002
Unregistered user If this had been an april fool, I'd have seen right through it.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Chris Williams Message #90589, posted at 12:00, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90588
Unregistered user Oh my good god. I sure hope the Crystal module is ready for Wakefield. I'm speechless :)

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Andrew C. Poole Message #90590, posted at 12:42, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90589
Unregistered user >mentat

<fx: groans>
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
James Shaw Message #90591, posted at 13:18, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90590
Unregistered user So, ermm, what can Xara X do that Artworks cant (this list is getting smaller all the time):
- Bevelling/contouring
- Fancy (and pretty unecessary) fill types
- Graduation profiles/acceleration
- Feathering
- Bitmap tracing

And Artworks has hatching and an advanced polygon tool - I don't think Xara can do that. And I <i>still</i> prefer Artworks' method of drawing and editing lines/shapes.

Hey, I might write an article about this...
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Jason Tribbeck Message #90592, posted at 13:39, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90591
Unregistered user What's the difference between XaraX's editing and Artworks editing, btw?

I'm now more used to Xara's editing, but haven't used Artworks for an awful long time...
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Richard Goodwin Message #90593, posted at 14:02, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90592
Unregistered user Why wait for Wakefield? Crystal is available right now.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90594, posted at 15:35, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90593
Unregistered user Cerilica Vantage already had flat transparency option (like Crystal one) in ver. 1.00.
Now with ver. 1.10 they offer, among other new features, dynamic transparency, which is quite different. Anyway, ArtWorks and Vantage cannot be compared using these arguments, because one of the most important features for professional work, which is colour management, is totally absent in ArtWorks while Vantage TRUISM is in many way superior than other systems present in professional packages like Adobe's Illustrator 10.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Richard Goodwin Message #90595, posted at 15:52, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90594
Unregistered user So endeth the advert :)

The Vantage 1.10 preview seems to be about 50% advert for transparency, so the timing is worthy of comment.

The fact remains though that the two cannot be compared because a lot of people simply can't use Vantage at all - either because it doesn't work on their system, or because even simple editing features are yet to be implemented.

I have both, but ArtWorks is the first (and indeed only real) choice for my work in website design. I simply don't care how accurate the colours might theoretically be in Vantage if I can't even create simple shapes!
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90596, posted at 18:41, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90595
Unregistered user It would be nice if we had new hardware to run these packages on. My SA PC seems slower every day !



  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90597, posted at 19:49, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90596
Unregistered user I've tried Vantage 1.0 and it's just terrible - unstable and hard to use.

I was playing around with XaraX again last night - I knocked up a few shapes, gave them graduated fills from a colour to transparent, then blended them together and the blurred drop shadow I had added even adjusted to the blend properly!

It was not exactly realtime on my 256Mb Duron 750 with a 32Mb Radeon, but as fast as my 130Mb SA-288 with ViewFinder2 easily, and that's without transparency.

ArtWorks is coming along nicely now with all of the upgrades, and it's not far behind XaraX in features, and indeed surpasses it in ease-of-use (but that may be down to RISC OS4 vs. Win98SE).
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90598, posted at 21:27, 4/4/2002, in reply to message #90597
Unregistered user I'm glad somebody agrees with me - Vantage breaks pretty much *every* rule of good user interface design, and goes against lots of RISC OSisms too - ArtWorks is a joy to use, although I mainly use Xara these days. (Things to add to the Xara can, ArtWorks can't list: Extremely quick, much more stable, better rendering engine, better font handling and selection, and I could still think of a few more if given time.)

On the whole, however, I'm extremely happy to see Martin do all this good work - and for once in the RISC OS world, people appear to be appreciating it!

Even if ArtWorks isn't the quickest, most stable thing in the book, it makes Vantage look like Windows 3.1. What a massive opportunity Cerilica have missed.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
James Shaw Message #90599, posted at 08:27, 5/4/2002, in reply to message #90598
Unregistered user I would like to comment on some of the points so far.

I have used Artworks and Xara X extensively, and have found both applications to be incredibly fast and very stable. Xara X, running on my 233Mhz/128Mb PC is the fastest program I have seen running on my PC. Artworks on my 33Mhz A5000 also performs very well. It is very close to real time. However, becuase Artworks is designed to run on older machines, its advanced multi-part redrawing allows you to drag windows around and Artworks redraws over several WIMP polls. I think this is the only program I have seen do this.

Guest commented: "I've tried Vantage 1.0 and it's just terrible - unstable and hard to use."

I agree that the version I have played with, version 1 I believe, is incredibly unstable. I was playing around making shapes. I gave a shape a graduated fill and tried to edit its acceleration/profile and - eeek! - it crashed completely! I found its button bar was awkward to use. Perhaps Cerilica should concentrate on core editing features before they do there fancy transparency, fancy fills and fancy inks. It is essential that redraw and basic user-interaction is as close to 100% as possible. I am really annoyed when Artworks and Xara X leave messy bits around the screen.

I disagree strong with the Guest's last point: "it makes Vantage look like Windows 3.1". Vantage has the potential to be an amazing Killer App. Despite its slightly non-standard user-interface and instability, it has an incredible feature set which I have not seen in any other program for a similar price.

James Shaw
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90600, posted at 08:27, 5/4/2002, in reply to message #90599
Unregistered user I think Cerilica have taken the approach used with Sitewriter, re. the interface. Vantage is for a professional environment, which is likely to use Windows or Mac OS environments. Without seeing the software myself, I guess that Vantage is using similar conventions.

However, Cerilica can't get away with it that easily. Sitewriter was later revised (I think) to offer a choice between RISC OS conventions, and its own quirky ones. Perhaps Vantage should offer this? That way, both markets (RISC OS and non-RISC OS) are happy.

And congrats Martin on your plugin - another great step for graphics on RISC OS.

Steve Scott
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90601, posted at 13:37, 5/4/2002, in reply to message #90600
Unregistered user I am left wondering a bit where the 'non-RISC OS' interface comments Vantage has just received has come from. What is so 'non-RISC OS'? Just as with ArtWorks when it was released 10 years ago, Vantage has subtly updated some of the finer points of RISC OS UI without leaving users wondering where standard menus' etc had vanished to. (In my opinion, after so many years of neglect, the RISC OS UI can be spruced up a bit without destroying its core values.)

Great care had been taken over Vantage's UI. From major aspects such as adhering to the last Acorn UI guide to smaller things like 'soft scrolling' of the Choices window. However, the major reasoning behind Vantage's UI is the use of minimal window space. This makes the package easy to us on even an 800x600 display whereas all other design packages (on all platforms) have floating windows hell. It is the page that must be seen in order to design, no the fancy tool buttons.

I am also a bit perplexed by Richard's comments "Martin has beat them to the punch". Vantage had transparencies built into the system from the outset. Early Beta copies had dynamic transparencies displaying in 1999. ArtWorks has just caught up. We are now in the process of revealing more possibilities with Vantage's rendering system; such a huge step forward that more realistic images are now possible in vector design (see Vantage's 1.10 preview images).

But advanced transparencies were only ever a part of our more secretly developed 1.10 upgrade. We have revealed a few other nuggets such a the Photoshop and SVG export as well as sprite alpha blending and soft drop shadows. Even more exciting components lay in wait as well as fixes and enhancements to an already very extensive and innovative system.

Enough of the sales spiel. I have to congratulate Martin for maintaining ArtWorks and bringing along this new feature; nice add-on. It also underscores how relatively spoilt RISC OS users are when it comes to vector graphics packages; from Drawworks to Vantage. There is a package for every level of user - and as is a benefit of RISC OS, users can mix and match the best parts of every package available (Vantage, Ovation, Impression, ArtWorks, etc.) to create a great design.

Nick : nick@cerilica.com

(speaking personally)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Chris Williams Message #90602, posted at 16:11, 5/4/2002, in reply to message #90601
Unregistered user I agree with Nick, there's now a lot of good art and design software available for RISC OS, once you take into account of the size of the platform. At uni, the likes of Artworks, OvationPro, Photodesk and RISC OS itself have all earnt a lot of respect from my PC friends.

I've just ordered the Crystal module online with co-comp and received it in an email- it works a treat, this is exactly what I've been wanting in Artworks for a long time now. I take my hat off to Martin, he's worth his weight in gold. The same goes to every other active developer too, I guess.

  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90603, posted at 22:00, 5/4/2002, in reply to message #90602
Unregistered user I read the comment above the one above, and thought "this is somebody from Cerilica talking." And so it was. Vantage's UI is awful in almost every respect. Having spoken to Nick at various shows, it is claimed that the toolbar is "uncluttered" which I find deeply amusing. It may be a very powerful rendering engine, but Nemo has a lot to learn about UI design (and even simple bug testing.) The smooth scrolling choices window, for example, is a silly waste of time, which is also *less* functional than the style-guide recommended style. This can be cast upon lots of other aspects of the UI. There are three things stopping me from buying Vantage right this minute, and hopefully two of them really will be fixed, as they're unarguable:

1) It's *SLOW* - it really does look like something written in BASIC (which parts of it are.)

2) It's *UNSTABLE* - at the RO2001 show, I crashed in at least 5 times in as many minutes, and I'm told even the latest version is like this.

3) The UI is not what I'd call nice in the slightest.

Points 1 and 2 I would really hope are fixed, and if they are, I might just consider buying it, but currently, the UI feels so unapproachable and inefficent, the learning curve for it is so steep, using less capible software (such as ArtWorks and Xara) produces the good results in a much reduced timespan.

Who's responsible for the UI, anyway? Nick, the artist, or Nemo the programmer? (In the ideal world, neither of them should be designing UIs)
  ^[ Log in to reply ]
Guest Message #90604, posted at 09:13, 8/4/2002, in reply to message #90603
Unregistered user Simon@Cerilica.com

A number of people (or the same person a few times ;-) have criticised Vantage's user interface. This is news to me. "Terrible" isn't very helpful though - exactly what do people find difficult? I can't fix problems if people don't tell me about them.

As for breaking "pretty much 'every' rule of good user interface design" - that's demonstrably wrong. So come on, let us know in detail. So far the only specific complaint is the scrolling choices window, which somebody called "less functional"? Laughs.
  ^[ Log in to reply ]

The Icon Bar: News and features: Transparency for ArtWorks a reality (updated)