Review: DrawIt 3

DrawIt is a vector and bitmap program that relies heavily on Mac OS X’s built-in effects and graphic capabilities. For a moment, I thought DrawIt would be a perfect replacement for Adobe Illustrator, but after having reviewed the product, I don’t think you should throw away your copy of Illustrator just yet. Having said that, DrawIt has a couple of nice touches.

It must be awfully difficult to create an illustration program in a world dominated by Adobe. Illustrator CS3 especially offers so many features that blur the line between vector and bitmap program. Think about Live Paint or the capability to embed Photoshop images into Illustrator.
The DrawIt developers have one advantage: Mac OS X comes with a whole set of effects and graphic capabilities ready for the taking. It’s those capabilities that you will find back in DrawIt. For example, the Gloom effect is built-in into Mac OS X. The way DrawIt uses these effects and capabilities is innovative. The application can handle images and vector art.

Every element you put on the canvas is a layer by itself. This offers a lot of flexibility, but also has some disadvantages. One of them being that you must think in a different way than you’re used to when working with Illustrator, or FreeHand when it was still available.

The two really innovative features in DrawIt are its positioning functionality — the best I’ve ever seen in any program that has a drawing component to it — and its Expose feature which serves to isolate a layer from a large bunch of them in a group. Positioning allows you to see exact locations for each layer you select. A number of key combinations will vary the Positioning functionality.

These two features are the most innovative. The weakest parts of DrawIt are its import and export capabilities. Importing an Adobe Illustrator file is not possible, although the DrawIt developers should realise their software does not live in a vacuum. They realise that in the area of image support — even RAw is supported. Unfortunately, here as well, DrawIt relies on Mac OS X, which means formats such as native Illustrator won’t be supported any time soon.

Exporting to EPS or Illustrator isn’t possible, either — here, most Mac OS X built-in formats weren’t in the list (EPS is supported by Mac OS X). The only export formats supported are all image formats (JPEG, PNG, TIFF…) and one oddball: the ICNS file (Mac OS X icon file). You can export single layers, though.

DrawIt has other (in my eye strange) options. For example, you can define placeholders which hold something that resembles dynamic content (text). I deliberately say “resembles” because the dynamic character does not mean you can use a database or even a CSV file to replace the placeholders with actual content. Instead, the value for each placeholder must be filled in in the Snippets sheet.

Except for these rather mild deviations of what is considered mainstream because Illustrator has it, DrawIt more or less lets you work on a file the same way as Illustrator. You can place an image, edit and add effects and have it interact to some degree with the vector art you’re likely to add in DrawIt as well.

Image manipulation was not too slow. However, I did find DrawIt to become slow and ultimately very slow, when drawing vectors and adding shapes to the working window. Is this because every object you add, also adds a a new layer? Is it because the effects engine is slow? I don’t know. What I do know is that my review machine may not be the latest and the greatest, but probably a good representation of what an average designer will use.
At the end of the day, I expected a lot from DrawIt that it simply couldn’t fulfil. In my opinion, DrawIt is nice for the occasional designer who doesn’t rely on his tools for his daily work. For those who do, I think Adobe Illustrator CS3 has the power they need, and DrawIt falls short.

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