Although new to the Mac, some of these applications made their debut on the NeXT platform more than a decade ago. Perhaps as a result, the competent, but prosaic, Stone Studio feels less like the latest trend in graphics software, and more like a run-of-the-mill port from another platform. At Stone Studio’s core is Create 10.1, a vector-based drawing program. Though less robust than its version number might imply – both Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia FreeHand offer several times as many features – Create does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Document-level layers serve as master pages, allowing you to add type and graphics to several pages at once. An object can comprise multiple fills and strokes, which in turn can contain a mix of opaque and translucent colours. And, unlike Illustrator and FreeHand, Create lets you animate transformation effects, such as rotation. The program then passes the frames to GIFfun, another program in the suite, that converts the artwork to an animated-GIF file. The process is so fluid, you scarcely notice that you’re moving between applications. One gets the feeling that despite Stone Studio’s exhaustive support for OS X, its creators have little idea what today’s artists expect from a graphics program. Traditional editing and navigation shortcuts go unobserved; the type tool lets you create text but not edit it, and there’s no such thing as a context-sensitive pop-up menu. In short, it makes the already unfamiliar environment of OS X feel more alien than ever. If that doesn’t bother you, then other programs in the suite may appeal to your frontier spirit. For example, PStill allows for the conversion of EPS and PostScript documents into PDFs. These can be viewed inside OS X as easily as raw text. You can even convert Illustrator and FreeHand documents that use standard Type 1 Mac fonts. PackUpAndGo compresses files; TimeEqualsMoney handles job tracking and invoicing; and SliceAndDice can subdivide an image into an HTML table. My favourite, PhotoToWeb, generates a slide show or HTML photo album from a folder of images.
The first design program written exclusively for Mac OS X is likely to seem as foreign to Macintosh users as the new system itself. Even so, the reasonable price and wide range of tools make this an attractive suite for designers on the prowl for native OS X applications.