Canvas 8, by Deneba Systems
Posted: 23-Mar-2002

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Deneba Systems Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Judd Spitzer Class: MULTIMEDIA

Introduction
Canvas 8 by Deneba Systems is a Graphics design program, one of the premiere vector design programs for the Macintosh. Deneba touts Canvas as a unique cross-platform precision illustration solution that integrates award-winning Sprite technology, photo editing, page layout, presentation, and Web graphics capabilities. Over 100 new features are listed for Canvas 8, a list too long for this review (
click here to see the new features). To summarize some of the features, there is new and improved Bézier curve selection and manipulation tools, new real-time Pixel View of vector art, enhanced context-sensitive pop-up menus, instant drawing tool selection with a single key press, a new Favorite Inks palette, one-click docking bar and window management commands, a web image slicer, new text tools, new effects, new Sequence recorder/player to capture tedious and repetitive tasks into a single command, new Scripting engine, new DenebaShare for sharing digital photos, and more.

Using the Software
I experienced no problems installing the software on Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X. Installation was a breeze. This is a carbon based program that allows users with both Classic Mac OS and Mac OS X to take advantage of this update. The interface does not change between Classic and Aqua interfaces, allowing users to feel comfortable if they are using both systems.


Screen shot of Canvas 8 using Mac OS 9.2.1


One of the first features to become familiar with is the Docking Bar. This is just under the menu bar, and allows users to select frequently used pallets, and place them in any order they choose. There is a large number of pallets to choose from, allowing you to set up for a variety of tasks, such as drawing, or web design. Unfortunately there is no way to save a setup for your particular task. In other words, if you want to transition from web design to drawing, you would be required to set up your tasks manually for both.

The most important aspect of this application is the Vector Graphic Design (VGD) engine. For creating vector objects, you have the option of 3 basic shapes tools: Rectangle/beveled corner tool, Circle/Arc Tools, and line tools. There are some other special shapes, such as multigons, spirals and concentric circles, but you have to search for them within the special objects area. Once an object is created, it is quite easy to manipulate. Canvas offers some great tools to help you work with your objects, such as the pointer selection tools. Here you can grab an object from anywhere and stretch the object out. You can move the object, change points anywhere on the object, or even add color. Many of these tools take the touch of a professional art designer to get things just right, but with a little practice you can create some awesome designs.

Layers feature is another important feature for VGD. This allows you to work on different objects without having to worry about disrupting other objects. More complex objects using special placement to bring everything together make this an essential element of this program.

Beyond Vector Graphics
One great feature of this software is that it allows you to use photo imaging plug-ins. This would include software that you might use with Adobe's Photoshop, or other photo enhancing software. Of course, Canvas does not provide all the features or functionality found in Photoshop, but it does offer much more than your average "mid-range" photo editing software. On the downside, it's current implementation is not as intuitive as one would expect from a Mac program. There are some simple tasks that I attempted, such as removing "red eye" and cropping photos, which I found to be daunting tasks. Photo editing is a great addition, but there is room for improvement.

Canvas includes a presentation feature that is adequate for most tasks. It features layers, some minor special effects, and transition effects between slides. As a stand-alone feature, it is well done. One major draw back is that it is not compatible with Microsoft's Presentation software. Most of the business world is using the Microsoft Office suite, and having this compatibility means you can show your presentation on more desktops.

The web design aspect of Canvas is really a scaled down version of desktop publishing software. The ability to link text fields together, add new pages, and place graphic images throughout the document is well done. Canvas presents tools that are very similar to that of products like Pagemaker for doing page layouts. It does not provide tools that are similar to that of programs like Dreamweaver or Filemaker Homepage. Exporting to HTML in Canvas is much like exporting to HTML in Microsoft Word. Many of us familiar with HTML editors usually don't bother with these basic exporting tools, choosing instead to copy and paste (thereby maintaining control of how we want things to be managed). The ability to edit HTML within the software is what truly provides web design functionality, and like MS Word, Canvas does not deliver in this area.

Summary
Canvas is a solid vector graphics program, with a good grouping of features that centers around graphic design. While Deneba software has made some strides by offering an OS X compatible program and providing a speedy vector engine, the fact that it attempts to be a "jack of all trades" in a single program leaves alot to be desired. Canvas provides vector graphics, web design, page layout design, presentation creation, and image editing all in one. It is unique in the amount of functionality provided in a single program, but it does not deliver on completeness (the classic issue of quantity over quality). Canvas would be better off if Deneba concentrated on improvements to the vector graphics engine, which is what Canvas is known for. Adding a plethora of extras that aren't complete tends to distract from its real strength: vector graphics editing. If you need to do photo editing, you'll still use Photoshop, and if you need to do web design, you'll still use your favorite HTML editor. If you want to do vector graphics editing, then Canvas is a good tool to use.

Pros

  • Mac OS X Compatibility with Classic OS operability
  • Excellent Vector Graphics Design engine
  • Support Photoshop plug-ins for image editing


Cons

  • Not robust for photo editing
  • Poor HTML exporting
  • Lack of compatibility with Microsoft's Presentation

Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice