TweakerSoft VectorDesigner 1.0.4 $70
6th Apr 2008 | 15:38
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VectorDesigner is very Mac-like, its interface being similar to Apple's iWork apps.
This means it's easy to get to grips with for anyone with a modicum of experience with vectors.
Although its approach differs from Illustrator's in several important ways, VectorDesigner's toolset is broadly the same, except important controls are housed in a configurable toolbar, and the Inspector palette takes care of fine-tuning document and shape settings, adding filters and defining layers.
Tools and paths
Using VectorDesigner's tools, you add to your document pre-set shapes, paths and text. The Boolean tool enables you to merge shapes in several different ways, and the Inspector palette provides options for amending an item's position, size, fill, stroke, shadow and opacity.
For newcomers and occasional vector artists, VectorDesigner will feel like a breath of fresh air: the interface is streamlined and intuitive. However, the lack of a direct-selection tool makes editing paths clunky - you select a path, activate the Edit Path tool and amend points one by one.
Also, we found it impossible to cleanly close an organic shape satisfactorily, because you hit [Enter] to terminate a path, rather than linking it to the start point. On the plus side, the shape tools are excellent, floating HUD-style palettes providing access to important options.
Impressive range of features
Working with text proves hit-and-miss in VectorDesigner. Adding text to a path is child's play - select the Text tool, click on a path and start typing - and when you select the path, the text's baseline, spacing and position can be amended via a floating palette.
Oddly, this palette is absent when editing blocks of standalone text, and there doesn't seem to be a way of adjusting leading. Also, most text-based options lack keyboard shortcuts and are buried in a sub-menu.
Elsewhere, VectorDesigner offers a surprising number of bitmap features, enabling you to mix photos with your vectors. Impressive integration of core image effects means numerous filters can be applied non-destructively, and they can subsequently be amended in the Inspector palette's Filters section.
There's also a bitmap-to-vector conversion tool, although this generally produced disappointing results. The most curious add-on, though, is the Flickr palette, which enables you to search Flickr using preset keywords or user-defined colours, although we shudder at the potential for copyright violation.
Starting from scratch
So far we've mostly talked about creating artwork from scratch, and that's because VectorDesigner's import features are woefully lacking.
It can't even import EPS documents for editing, let alone native Illustrator files, which means it's of literally no use for editing existing vector artwork. EPS export is also inconsistent, although exporting creations as flat images works flawlessly.
While its foundations are strong, VectorDesigner has too many drawbacks for pro use. Until its Text tool and import capabilities are fixed, it's best suited to home users wanting to create simple vector artwork.