Vector graphics shoot-out: Illustrator v open-source

Vector graphics shoot-out: Illustrator v open-source

Summary: We wrap up our investigation of vector graphics editors with a look at Adobe's Illustrator, along with a selection of more specialist applications, including Microsoft's Visio and the free, open-source LibreOffice Draw.


Choosing a vector-based editor
Choosing which vector editor to use can be a major decision — particularly if you're a professional graphic artist as opposed to an infrequent user. Industrial-strength vector editors are complex applications, and it may take months, or even years, to gain full proficiency in their use.


Due to its commercial dominance, no graphics professional can ignore Adobe's proprietary products, which have the edge on FOSS in terms of features. In fact, many professionals will run Adobe products on Apple Macs almost as a matter of course. A wide range of third-party specialist plug-ins are available to extend Illustrator's repertoire. On Windows, Illustrator CS6 supports both 32-bit and 64-bit operation, but on Mac 0S X it's 64-bit only. If you are required to check graphics for colour-blindness clarity, then Illustrator may be the only choice.


Although it may have lost ground to Adobe and is now only available for Windows, CorelDRAW, examined in first part of this article, is still an extremely capable vector image editor that should not be overlooked. Sold as part of a graphics suite, purchasers also get seven other graphics applications and utilities in addition to CorelDRAW itself. The enhanced support for file exchange with Adobe products in X6 minimises interoperability problems and makes the CorelDRAW X6 Graphics Suite a viable choice in an Adobe-dominated market.


Like the majority of FOSS creative software, Inkscape lags behind the proprietary products in terms of features. However, it is cross-platform — and, of course, free. Inkscape does not use a native interface on Mac OS X, but runs on the X11 window layer. If you need spot colours, fully developed colour management, CMYK and separations on any platform, then Inkscape is not the best choice. However, print publication is less important these days than it was, and as it's based on the SVG specification, Inkscape is eminently suitable for use as a web graphics creator/editor.

Topics: Open Source, Apps, Reviews, Software

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  • Whoa

    Draw and not Inkscape?
    • Sorry

      I see it on the last page.

      One thing I did a couple of week's back was to animate the sweep of a clock's hands. Drew a clock at midnight in iDraw, exported the SVG file, wrote a program (via DrRacket and racket) to translate time to the attribute that would rotate the hands into position and generated 168 svg files. Then I switched into a Linux VM and used Inkscape to batch convert to png from the command line. Throw the pngs into a video editor program, and done.

      Probably was the hard way to go about it, but, still, it's a way to go and have to give kudos to Inkscape for exposing that conversion api.

      By the way, about Inkscape on Macs, X11 has semi-expelled with Mountain Lion in the way that java was semi-expelled in Lion. If you start a program that needs X11, a dialog box asks if you want to download it. Say yes and it gets installed without any further intervention (other than the admin password request.) What you get is something called XQuartz, which is maintained by a third party. Frankly, I prefer Linux in a VM to the way X11 is implemented in OS X.
      • How did you write the program that did that?

        DannyO_ox98 - Just curious about the program you wrote that matched the time with graphics. Can you give a basic outline or share the code? Just curious.