Canvas 7

In the world of Macintosh graphics, Adobe is king. It has been innovative and creative, producing category- defining products. Granted, Adobe has not been above buying out the competition. The choice for vector-graphics applications was limited to FreeHand or Illustrator – or at least, that’s how it looked to the uninitiated. In fact, Deneba Canvas was already shipping, but struggling to get a foothold in the market. The latest version of Canvas offers a huge range of capabilities, and steps on the toes of Adobe, Macromedia and, even, Quark. If you are used to easily definable programs, like Illustrator or Photoshop, Canvas is a tad confusing. Like Photoshop, it uses filters and effects to create and edit bitmapped images. Like Illustrator, it also uses vector tools to create various graphics and charts. Text and general page layout is also possible. Canvas can perform tasks not possible in any other single application. Great attention has been paid to solving any problems that could hold up workflow. For example, if you use a dozen effects on some text, and then notice a typo, you can still edit the text without messing up the effects. Do that in any other application and you’d be looking at hours of extra work. This is handy for Web-site design, allowing for quick changes to menus and buttons quickly. On the subject of Web design, Canvas makes it easy to create Web sites with rollover buttons, sliced GIFs and optimized file sizes. Photoshop 5.5 can do this, and a number of other dedicated Web-design packages, but it is handled simply by Canvas. Animated GIFs are also straightforward to design. Over 1,000 fonts are included in the standard package. For users who didn’t spend years in art school, there are additional tools for making-professional looking documents. For instance, all clip art and fonts are catalogued in a book – there’s no need to trawl through CDs. Canvas has tons of clip art – usually designers don’t rely on the often-twee selection of clip-art images. But, a quick flip through the book showed a modern collection of helpful images. Most are colour and Web graphics, including buttons and backgrounds. The best features of Canvas 7 are its sprite effects. These can be applied to any vector, bitmap or text object. It’s not just text that can be edited after applying filters, any object can be changed. You can add effects to an image, and then go back and edit the image itself – preserving its filters or effects. The magnify effect is great. Create a circle, and then apply a magnification of 200 per cent to it. Put that circle over part of a technical drawing and, presto!, you have an enlarged detail of the drawing. Doing this with any other application would be time consuming – Canvas does it in 30 seconds. However, Canvas isn’t very stable. My computer isn’t rock-steady at the best of times, it has to deal with so much new stuff. However, there were compatibility issues. Every time Canvas and Internet Explorer 4.5 were running together, a horrific crash ensued. On other machines this wasn’t the case, but I had to work around the problem by avoiding Explorer.

OUR VERDICT

There are dozens of ways that Canvas could revolutionize the way you work – mostly improvements in workflow and different approaches to graphics problems. The problem is that established designers are reluctant to cross-over to a new program. For new users, Canvas may appear too complex – though by investing a little time learning it, a beginner could become a power-user very quickly. Until there are jobs needing Canvas experts, designers will stay with what they know. No number of features seems to tempt them away from familiar packages. Anybody – professional or otherwise – who needs a graphics application should consider Canvas 7. Just being a Macintosh user makes you different from the crowd, so why follow the crowd in the Mac world. For the money, you won’t get this number of features anywhere else.

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