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I took Inkscape for a test drive in order to compare it to Adobe Illustrator. Here are my comments I would like to share with this newsgroup. Generally and professionally, I prefer Adobe Illustrator over Inkscape because Illustrator is a more responsive program - faster during some key drawing procedures, however Inkscape should not be ignored as it is available for no cost and is very capable and sufficient as a drawing tool. I was impressed with Inkscape - except for its typesetting features, its lack of being able to use spot colours and its limited PDF export options.
I hardly touched all the Inkscape features in this review - only a few main features which seemed to work sufficiently.
This review is written for someone looking for a vector drawing program to learn and use who may not have a lot of experience with a professional drawings programs such as Adobe Illustrator and who may be looking for a no-cost alternative that is sufficiently acceptable.
Review by Mike
platform: mac computer on OS 10.4
Generally, a very capable and extremely useful program - especially considering there is no cost. Under the "Help" menu, is a link to the online manual which you can download too - but I just read that parts I needed online.
I found the info I was looking for a few days ago when I first tried the program. Initially, I couldn't find a way to convert a point from a smooth point to a corner point. I found this feature in the menu bar. When you use the "edit path my node" tool (second tool in the tool box) you can make this choice (corner or smooth point) from a row of icons along the top of the document window - very obvious but I didn't see that at first. Its a good feature to know to manipulate your shapes to exactly as you would like. With this ability, you can choose to convert your point to a corner point or a smooth point - important to being able to draw any shape you like.
You can also adjust the bezier curve angle on the fly (while you draw) (see last point  at the end of this review) by holding down the shift key or the control key but that would depend on how much users would want to practice this program. The main thing is, that it can be done - just like in Illustrator. Illustrator users would just have to remember a few different key stroke patterns while drawing.
Doesn't seem to be much this program can't do, except for spot colour capability. Compared to Illustrator, I would be curious to know if there was anything critical you can do in Illustrator that you cannot do in Inkscape. Typesetting in Inkscape isn't so great but generally the program is sufficient.
Here are four main points:
1. Inkscape doesn't have spot colour capability
This is probably the biggest disadvantage of Inkscape for professionals. For commercial artists, printing spot colour is a critical capability which enables such things as specifying a pantone colour to a printer. However, for web pages and CMYK artwork, Inkscape is sufficient because web page art is all RGB in colour (no spot colours are used in web page art).
2. No PDF export options.
Inkscape's PDF export features seem to be limited and do not give you many options such as compression options. That is probably the second most noted limitation of Inkscape for professional artists. There may be a work around however. If you export the drawing as postscript and open it in Adobe Acrobat Professional you could set these options here instead. But then you would need to buy Adobe Acrobat Professional - but which is a very useful program - one that is indispensable for managing pdf files quickly. "Web Capture" is one of my favourite features of Adobe Acrobat Professional - can save a website or a web page to pdf for archival purposes. Merging several PDF's into a single document is also a good feature of Adobe Acrobat Professional for general purpose file management.
3. Inkscape is slower than Illustrator. Some Inkscape features are OK but others are slower.
But that might not be a fair comparison because I am testing Inkscape on my ten-year-old 350 MHz Mac G3. But then again, I am also using Illustrator on this same G3 and Illustrator is very fast. I wonder how fast Inkscape would feel on a newer mac?
Overall, these speed issues may not be relevant because for most projects and drawing tasks Inkscape is fast enough.
The slowest feature of Inkscape I find is selecting a typeface if you are setting any type in your document. It takes too long to scroll down your selection of fonts. Could be my computer - or could be Inkscape ot something to do with the fact I have many fonts - but they are all managed by fontbook. I am not sure why selecting a type face seems to take so long to scroll through the list of fonts.
4. Inkscape struggles with type setting.
Typesetting in Inkscape is slow. The critical problem with Inkscape type is that the type in the final Inkscape document (which is natively in the .svg format) will not open in Illustrator. This is not good. I am not sure why and I may possibly be doing something wrong - but I tried this in many ways and there appears to be a problem with the way Inkscape saves type - maybe its just certain fonts (non-type-1?) - not sure. Any Inkscape documents will open in Illustrator but the type will appear in a large black box - major problem. Obviously there is a font translation problem with the way Inkscape saves blocks of type. The solution is to not expect type to work between these two programs (between Inkscape and Illustrator) - but often you don't need to transfer your files between Inkscape and Illustrator and so for these projects this may not be a problem. Another solution is at the final stage of your drawing in Inkscape, convert all the type (if there is any type)to paths ("convert to path" feature) - but this procedure is irreversible - so save a copy of your document first with the fonts not converted to outline. I am sure newer versions of Inkscape will correct this problem eventually. I think there is future hope for Inkscape on this issue.
Here are some other general points I noticed about Inkscape:
The pattern tool (good for wallpaper):
For fun, I tried the pattern tool to try and design a wallpaper pattern. Its pretty cool. You can turn any objects you draw into a wallpaper pattern.
Another way to do wallpaper is to just manually copy and paste in a repeated manner offset by the length of your object until you have enough copies to make a full piece of wallpaper - but that takes longer than simply using the pattern tool.
However, the best tool for generating patterns for wallpaper is probably this tiling feature:
I wouldn't bother reading the whole manual - just the parts you might need to reference while working on a project. The bezier curve section in the manual is good to read:
As mentioned on that page, paths can be created using three ways:
1. the Freehand tool
2. the Bezier
3. the Calligraphy tool
My favourite is the bezier tool. It offers precise control.
The other tools are good too (and probably fun to use) but for precise drawing, I like the Bezier tool myself.
Other users might prefer the other drawing tools (Freehand tool or Calligraphy tool) for faster stroke creation and faster line effects.
Once you draw a shape and close it (click on the first endpoint when placing the last endpoint) (I always recommend closing a shape - but you don't have to) then you can colour the shape any colour you would like or with a shaded gradient or even make it transparent to any degree and overlay it on top of other shapes. Lots of control to do some pretty creative stuff.
I would also recommend organizing your drawing into layers. If...(continued on next post...)
I would also recommend organizing your drawing into layers. If you read the page in the manual section about layers:
that would be really helpful
Its pretty simple and saves a lot of time to have your drawing organized into layers. For example you could have all your foreground shapes on a top layer and all your background designs on a lower layer. Then you can "lock" the background layer so that when you are working on your foreground layer you won't accidentally bump the background objects.
Shift control-L brings up the layer menu. Click on an object and then Shift page-up or shift page down to move that object to a higher or lower level.
Adobe Illustrator is a little faster at this only if you need to move an object many layers higher or many layers lower because in Illustrator you can drag a little dot icon instantly to the layer you want the object to be on but Inkscape only moves an object one layer at a time - but for the most part thats fast enough (Shift control-L is a pretty fast method). Its not a problem and maybe in future versions of Inkscape that might improve.
A good habit is to save your final files in both the native .svg format and then also in the eps format too for better future potential compatibility with other drawing programs. But when working on the Inkscape file work with the .svg format - that is the native format. I was also able to open the resulting Inkscape files in Adobe Illustrator. So the two are interchangeable (which is a critical feature) - except for any type as already mentioned above.
You can also import a photograph which can be a part of your art or used for tracing from - a great feature. For tracing, place the photo on its own layer (first create a new layer and call the layer something like "photo") and then set the photo to about 20% transparency, lock this photo layer (click on its little lock icon in the layer menu) and start tracing. Very nice - just like Illustrator.
Any object can be set to any amount of transparency. Transparency is a control at the bottom left of document window.
I haven't tried this yet but this is also a nice feature:
OK, that concludes my test drive of Inkscape for now. Its been interesting and I might give it a try on an actual job in the future.