Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 02/28/07 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

A Line forms for Lineform

Sleek Vector Drawing Tools for Mac By Ko Maruyama
Lineform from Freeverse Software claims to be the solution for modern drawing and illustration.  It is.  Winner of a 2006 Apple Design Award, Lineform is not only easy to use, but the interface design makes the application so intuitive, Mac users need no explanation to start illustrating.  Not only is it easy to use, it produces professional illustrations for less than $80.

I am an Adobe Illustrator user.  I wouldn't say "elitist", but until recently, I wasn't convinced that anything could be even remotely close to the Adobe product.  Sure, there are some great little free, open source "toy" aps that allow kids to play on the computer (i.e. Tux Paint), but in my estimation of previous sub-$100 vector editors, "you get what you pay for."  ...With LineForm, you'll get a whole lot more.

These are actual vector graphics, not an imported photo

 Weighing in at under $80, this new drawing application really gives Adobe some serious competition.  It completely blows away anything else in its class.    Adobe Illustrator is almost $500US, and that might be a steep buy-in for someone who wants to make some elegant looking vector graphics.   It has been designed specifically for the Mac.  Although it runs in OS X 10.3.9, there are some remarkable features that take advantage of the Core Image filters when you use Lineform in OS X 10.4.x). 

 The application features layers and groups that allow you to manage your illustration well.  There is no sub-listing of the elements, the "objects" (those shapes drawn on the individual layers) which is a little disappointing.  However, there are other features they haven't left out.  Similarly to high end software, you can group objects, create boolean operations on objects, and generate clipping.

And I've only opened this application 5 minutes ago...

The software may be fairly new (my current build says version 1.2.5, although the built-in updater tells me that version 1.3 is available for download*), but there is already a strong user base forming in the company's general message boards.

Some of the user art found on the Lineform site, from artists Paul Davidson, Peter MYller, and Karen Hughes is truly amazing.

It currently exports as BMP, EPS, JPEG, PDF, PNG, SVG and TIFF (although not layered tiffs - that I can see).  Another nice feature found in Lineform is that the export feature allows you to save either the selected artwork, or the entire document.

The application has been open on my desktop for 15 minutes, and, like any inspiring software, I'm already itching to use it.  The tools are not foreign to pro users (which is equally important to students or novice users who wish to upgrade to other software, or are required to use it in alternate situations). 

It's obvious that Lineform will allow you to create high end vector graphics on a shoestring budget, without sacrificing tools that are found in more expensive packages.  Both novice and seasoned vector graphic illustrators will find something useful and inspiring in the software.  With its clean form, professional looking layout and tool iconography, your clients will never know the software was so inexpensive.   The ability to save raster images at various resolutions is also a very important feature.

I don't think that this will replace Illustrator for any professional designers who already have the Adobe giant.  However, this is near-professional horsepower software for under $80.  It's perfect for the business who wants to add graphics to their annual reports, a new user who wants to start slowly to learn about bezier illustration, or even serious artists who only need a few tools, and don't require the integration of other applications.

A fairly decent help file accompanies the software.

New features in version 1.3 are:
  • - PDF import and editing (Initial Version) (See info below!)
  • - Faster & more robust SVG loading
  • - SVGZ loading support
  • - Alt-drag improved
  • - Faster document loading
  • - Faster to outline conversion
  • - Status bar text clarification
  • - Max zoom level 256000%
  • - Non-zero fill rules
  • - Some fixed bugs, including Japanese degree symbols
Lineform 1.3 includes the initial version of PDF import and editing. First, drop your PDF from the Finder into your Lineform document, and it will import. (Alternatively, you can go to the File menu and use the Import command.) Then in Lineform, make sure that the PDF is selected with the Selection tool, go to the Objects menu and select Parse PDF. (This feature is only available under OS X 10.4 or later.)

Although I'm tempted to give this a 5-star rating, I'm going to save my enthusiasm for when Freeverse taps the Adobe API and is able to import/export (even as an AI8 file), preserving groups and objects.  (But Adobe might buy them out when/if that happens) NOTE: Adobe Illustrator files saved as SVG come in as grouped shapes in Lineform.

You can check out the demo (30-day, save enabled, export disabled), or purchase the software for $79.95 from FREEVERSE.COM, makers of other Mac OS software and games.  You will also find PC games and XBOX news items that they've created there.

Lineform deserves continued attention, and a very strong 4 out of 5 stars.  Although a bit quirky in spots, there is no equal in its price range, and it is quite robust and well-rounded.  I'm sure that Freeverse will continue to expand on the software.  I intend to create some more with this as soon as I.... (click)...

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:Lineform , Freeverse Software , vector art, Adobe Illustrator, cheap vector software, Mac OS


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