Why Windows isn't the only game in town. (graphical user interface) (column)
by Robert Bixby
Last time, after grousing a bit about the many shortcomings of Windows, I left off with the teaser that this month we would talk about graphics programs that don't run under Windows and, consequently, don't require waiting. The good news is that these programs are all faster than Windows. The better news is that a couple of the items discussed here are parts of operating system shells shipped with certain brands of computers, so you may already have the software.
To begin with, the creators of WordPerfect are always trying to repeat the magic in other areas of computing. Whether or not they have succeeded with DrawPerfect (WordPerfect, 1555 North Technology Way, Orem. Utah 84057; 801-225-5000; $495) is up to the marketplace to decide. However, it is a quick, responsive package that comes packed with a collection of superior clip art.
If you're interested in using graphics with WordPerfect, Draw Perfect is perfect for you. Not content to create an adjunct to the most popular DOS word processor in the world, DrawPerfect's originators created a presentation package that can be used to create either stand-alone computer-driven slide shows or graphics to be used within documents. A Windows version of DrawPerfect is planned by the end of the year, but the company will continue to manufacture and support the DOS version.
Harvard Graphics from Software Publishing (1901 Landing Drive, Mountain View, California 94043; 415-962-8910; $495) is primarily a graphing program, but it contains a good drawing module. Unfortunately, the interface is about as confusing as it can be, and many users are stumped when it comes to moving an object on the drawing screen. Clip art seems to be permanently anchored in place unless you can find or figure out the extremely nonintuitive method Harvard Graphics uses to "unstick" it--pressing the backspace key.
AutoSketch (Generic Software, 11911 North Creek Parkway South, Bothell, Washington 98011; 800-223-2521; $249) is a very capable tool for drafting. Its latest release is inexpensive, and clip-art libraries are only above $50 each, list.
GeoDraw is a simple drawing program that comes with GeoWorks Ensemble (GeoWorks, 2150 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley, California 94704; 415-644-0883; $199.99). In its original release GeoDraw doesn't support curves (other than ellipses), but the GEOS operating system does support 24-bit color (for 16.7 million potential colors) and is fully object-oriented.
If anyone would be expected to have a high-powered alternative to Windows graphics packages, it's Digital Research (DRI), whose thunder was stolen early in the game when Microsoft (creator of Windows) released a jazzed-up version of the CP/M operating system for the PC and called it MS-DOS, which essentially wiped out DRI's CP/M.
DRI has come through with Artline 2.0 (Digital Reseach, 70 Garden Court, Monterey, California 93942; 408-649-3896; $595), which runs under a version of runtime GEM.
GEM stands for Graphics Environment Manager. It was an early alternative to Windows that never achieved the same level of popularity. GEM is known principally as the operating system shell for Ventura Publisher version release also has a GEM version).
Artline's kinshop to Ventura Publisher 2.0, one of the most popular high-end desktop publishing products, is a recommedation.
There has been an update of GEM graphics files since the release of Ventura, so you will have to upgrade the software to use bitmap graphics from Artline. (The software for this upgrade is included with Artline, so this is no problem.) Encapsulated PostScript files from Artline can be used without upgrading Ventura, however.
The original Artline was a fine drawing program but little more than that. The current version, by contrast, is at the forefront of the industry in terms of features. It's comparable to Corel Draw, Micrografx Designer, and Arts & Letters Graphic Editor.
What features can you expect? Start with blends (gradual transformations from one shape to another), autotrace, text-along-path, node editing, and fountains. Artline can also create masks and merges, which play tricks with outlines.
Artline has full text capabilities, featuring a wide range of typefaces in sizes from 2 to 500 points. GEM has selector box setting, which are slightly different from Windows', that allow you to enter a value in a text box by sliding a bar up and down a scale with the mouse. This is more efficient than the up and down arrows Windows typically uses for this purpose.
There are some drawbacks with Airline. GEM isn't multitasking, so you have to wait for Artline to complete its entire drawing before you can proceed after a screen refresh. Fortunately, the view menu allows you to turn off fountains, eliminating one of the most time-consuming redraws.