Animation, block brushes, new features galore
Programmer Tom Hudson (DEGAS, CAD 3-D) has outdone himself with DEGAS Elite ($79.95) and deserves another ST Applications medal. This second-generation ST picture processor adds many new features, as well as more power for old functions. By many estimates, DEGAS has been the biggest-selling ST program to date. And I'm sure most DEGAS fans will want to take advantage of the current half-price upgrade offer from Batteries Included.
At first glance, DEGAS Elite operates very much like the original DEGAS. You control your program from a menu screen and you draw on a work screen. The right mouse button toggles between these two. DEGAS Elite still works in the two color resolutions as well as monochrome high resolution, so it can be used with any ST monitor.
But now DEGAS Elite allows as many as 8 separate work screens for individual pictures on a 1040ST. A 520ST has room for up to four screens. You can cut and paste sections of pictures between each other. For example, cut a ball out of picture one and paste it into picture two. Or paste multiple copies of the ball into picture two. Or use the cut-out ball as a brush
The menu screen in DEGAS Elite has something the original DEGAS didn't have-a real GEM menu. Across the top of the screen you'll find the selections Desk, File, Set, Make, and Block. Below the menu is a bar showing available colors for the resolution you're working in. On the left of the screen are command boxes and the right side of the screen shows the current fill pattern, line style, and text shape. Eight numbered boxes along the bottom indicate the current work screen in use.
Almost any feature you can access with the mouse in DEGAS Elite may also be activated with keystrokes. The most important key is still the [UNDO] key, which erases any mistakes before they become permanant.
The current color is shown checked in the palette and also in the text, line, and fill boxes. You can change the current palette color by double-clicking in the palette box, then moving the RGB slider bars-in a pop-up dialog box-up or down until you get the color you want.
You can copy a color from one palette entry to another by click-dragging the desired color over. If you wish to define a smooth range of colors from, for example, red to green, just define these two colors anywhere in the palette, making sure they're separated by at least one color box. Now select one of the colors, and click on the other while holding down the [ALTERNATE] key. DEGAS Elite will automatically calculate the new colors and insert them for you.
Can't figure out how to mix just the color you want? Click on [PICK] from within the color change dialog box and DEGAS Elite pops up a screen which has all 512 possible colors on it. Find the color you want, click on it with the mouse, and DEGAS Elite inserts the new color into your palette.
Remember how the original DEGAS made you cycle through all the fill patterns to locate the one you wanted? DEGAS Elite now lets you scroll forward or backwards through the fill patterns. Don't want to scroll? Double-click in the FILL box, and a dialog box opens up showing all 36 available fill patterns. Want one? Just click on it.
From the menu screen, you may draw a picture using any of the following styles.
BRUSH: Gives you a selection of sixteen (one user-definable) brushes to paint with.
ERASER: Wipes out markings, using the brushes available above.
POINT: Leaves only a single point every time the mouse is clicked.
LINE, K-LINE: Allows you to specify the starting and ending points of a line. In K-LINE, the endpoint becomes the starting point for the next line segment.
POLYGON: Like K-LINE, but the last endpoint is connected to the starting point.
RAYS: Using a definable center-point, draw a line to selected points around the center.
CIRCLE, DISK: Draw either the outline, or a solid circle (or oval) using the current fill pattern/color.
FRAME, BOX: Draw either the outline, or an solid box/square using the current fill pattern/color.
OUTLINE: Use a new color to outline any object.
FILL: Fill any shape with a pattern or solid color.
AIRBRUSH: Create an airbrush drawing effect for shading or blending.
TEXT: Type words right on the picture, using a variety of available fonts.
MIRROR: Your drawing actions will be repeated automatically in other sections of the drawing screen.
SHADOW: Your line drawings or text can have drop-down shadows in any colors/fills available.
SLOWDRAW: Sometimes the mouse is too fast to be precise. Use SLOWDRAW and the mouse movement can be slowed down by a user-definable amount.
SNAP: Align your image to a series of coordination dots which may be a user-definable number of dots apart. For example, you could draw an image which only recognizes every eighth pixel.
SOLID, PATTERN: Allows you to draw using either the currently selected solid color or the current fill pattern.
SMEAR: You can smear the boundary between two different onscreen colors.
CHANGE: Allows you to selectively change only the color pixels you want to, without disturbing the integrity of the screen.
NORMAL, CYCLE: An image can be drawn using either the stock, non-moving color palette. Or you set the palette to cycle through colors-and produce animation effects.
ANIMATE: Here's a good one. Atari's first picture processor, NEOchrome, had a simple color-cycle picture animator. DEGAS Elite, on the other hand, allows as many as four individual color-cycle sequences to be performed simultaneously. The color sequences may even be overlapped, resulting in spectacular special effects. Each sequence has its own direction and speed control. (I experimented with this effect in the flashing lights of my Holiday Inn Great Sign -which we ran as an Antic Disk Bonus this month and last month.)
PLAYING WITH BLOCKS
Normally, you use BRUSH mode to draw with. However, in BLOCK mode, DEGAS Elite allows the manipulation of sections of pictures, called "blocks," in different ways. To capture a block from a picture, press the [ESCAPE] key Crosshair lines show up on the screen. You use these as the cursor to select the upper left and lower right corners of the picture block you wish to cut out.
What if the block you want isn't rectangular? Press [SHIFT] [ESCAPE], and a smaller, thicker crosshair cursor appears. Use this cursor to draw a K-LINE around the section you wish to be the block.
What can you do with a block? Here we find where DEGAS Elite really shines. The primary Block Commands are:
STRETCH: Stretch a block horizontally or vertically (or both). The displayed image will get larger or smaller than it originally was. By holding down [CONTROL], [SHIFT], or [ALTERNATE] you may restrict stretching to keep relative size, allow only horizontal stretching or vertical stretching.
ROTATE: You can rotate any block in either direction in single-degree increments. The resulting angle is displayed along the top of the screen. For example, you may tilt a picture by 14 degrees, if you desire.
H-SKEW, V-SKEW: You can "skew" (slant) a block horizontally or vertically. In other words, you can make an image element "lean over" like the Tower of Pisa.
DISTORT: This is one I like a lot. Picture the block onscreen, surrounded by a rectangle. Using the mouse, click-drag any corner of the rectangle anywhere else on the screen. Do this with any of the corners, then hold down [ALTERNATE] while you click anywhere inside the new polygon. The picture will be stretched and distorted, into the new shape you requested. Great for turning square pictures into pictures viewed "in perspective," among other things.
FORMAT: You can save picture blocks as either IFF files (meaning you can share "clip-art" with Macintosh' and Amiga Computer owners) or save them as Icon Files which will be usable from the Resource Construction Set or any other utilities you may design.
You can also press the cursor keys to flip or reverse the block image.
DEGAS Elite uses the complete GEM interface. Along the top of the menu screen you'll see a GEM menu with these items available.
The FILE menu allows users to set the current disk drive, select a resolution to load the picture in, (you can edit any resolution picture regardless of the resolution you're working in), turn Picture Compression on or off, load a picture, load a color palette, load an image without the palette, save a picture to disk, delete a picture off the disk, erase the picture on the current screen, select the printer configuration file, Print a picture on your printer, or Quit DEGAS Elite completely.
The SET menu contains features which duplicate those available by double-clicking function boxes on the menu screen.
The MAKE menu allows you to choose user-definable shapes for line styles, fill patterns and brush shapes.
DEGAS Elite also comes with a complete Font Editor for creating your own custom character sets-to use with DEGAS Elite. Create your font, then place its name inside the ASSIGN.SYS file so DEGAS Elite can use it.
What else could they possibly put in this package? Well, by pressing the [Fl] through the [F10] keys you can zoom in (ala FATBITS) on any picture, from 3X to 12X in magnification. While in magnify mode, you can still scroll around the main picture, with a small outline showing exactly which part of your picture is magnified. Choose different colors, or a new magnification, while in this mode.
DEGAS Elite will also allow you to to load in pictures created on other computers-even the 62-sector uncompressed format pictures used on the Atari 8-bit models! Speaking of compression, DEGAS Elite will assume you want your pictures saved in a compressed format unless you tell it not to. You can save many more pictures onto a disk with compressed files. But remember, you cannot load a DEGAS Elite compressed picture with the original DEGAS.
Whew! Believe it or not, that's not all. But I've run out of room. To wrap up, DEGAS Elite is one ST program you absolutely must have. And if you already own the first DEGAS, just send in your original disk with half of DEGAS Elite's low $79.95 list price and you'll get the upgrade.
30 Mural Street
Richmond Hill, Ontario
L4B lB5 Canada
$79.95 ($40 with trade-in)