2011 for Inkscape and Scribus

2011 for Inkscape and Scribus

We already “briefly” discussed how GIMP was doing in 2011, and now it's time for Inkscape and Scribus.

As you probably very well know, GIMP, Inkscape and Scribus are a kind of holy trinity of Linux desktop publishing. Except there's also SwatchBooker and CMYKTool. Perhaps we need a different approach to the matter :)

Inkscape

Something I personally consider to be far more important than some of the new features is The Return of Point Releases. The team hadn't done them for years, and with growing developments cycles it meant that users had to wait a long time for bugfixes to become available.

This year there were two point releases, and a little bird told me that there will be at least 0.48.3 before 0.49 hits the streets.

Now, the new features are a fun topic in case of Inkscape. The 0.49 development cycle was supposed to be just internal cleanups, fixes and work on performance. Whoever had left the door open, let a number of new features crawl inside and get into the fridge.

So the top shelf is occupied by type design features: a number of extensions that simplify preparing new glyphs, and a Measure tool. All that work was done by the team's past GSoC student Felipe Sanches and sponsored by Dave Crossland. It's already in the main development branch.

The lower shelf is full of something that looks pretty much like gradient meshes to me. In fact, that what it is: not only Tavmjong Bah pushed this feature so hard that it is becoming part of SVG 2.0 standard, he also implemented support for it in Inkscape. Kudos, Tav, even though it's still a separate branch that relies on unstable Cairo.

The bottom shelf is occupied by GSoC2011 stuff. Krzysztof Kosiński implemented caching of the rendering which effectively separates rendering of canvas from rendering of all the extra bits like selection cue. That makes thing faster, especially when you try to work on a documents with lots of elements, some of which are bitmaps and other are blurred vector objects. He also merged his GSoC2010 project that adds threaded SVG filters rendering.

Abhishek Sharma worked on making Inkscape write sensible attributes, and that code was merged into main development branch mere few weeks ago. There are some controls for that available in the Preferences dialog (the SVG Output section)

Finally, Fernando Lucches added UI for managing embedded and internal scripts. If you ever tried doing some animation with SVG, you do know how useful it is.

Scripts management

But hey, what about the refrigeratory section? There's always something there. Oh yes, let me tell you about that! :-)

One of the coolest new things are custom predefined filter effects (CPFs) which make applying SVG Filters a lot easier thing to do. Here is an example of the Drop Shadow dialog:

Drop Shadow dialog

All those filters are among the others in the Filters menu.

There's also quite a bit of new extensions, but two most important ones are exporters: FXG is the one important for collaborative work with Adobe users, and the SIF exporter is important for Synfig users.

Or maybe you like the new grayscale display mode? There's going to be a lot of cool new features to play with and abuse in the 0.49 version that was supposed to be b.o.r.i.n.g.

Scribus

Much like with GIMP 2.8, Scribus 1.4.0 wasn't ready in 2011. And even though most of the time was spent on various bugfixes, there is one ultra cool “feature” that's long overdue in the upcoming 1.4.0: undo that works for changes in text frames.

Actions history

I simply cannot stress enough how depressing it was to not be able going back and forth in history regarding all changes.

And do you want to know the other big thing? Look at the screenshot above. Can you spot it? Yep, changes to shapes are all properly recorded now as well. Even with baby steps, Scribus eventually got there. The man's name is Cezary Grabski, hug him.

There are all kinds of smaller things added this year to both 1.4.0 and 1.5.0 branches apart from that. But there are three things I'd like to specifically focus on.

In 2010 there were two projects sponsored by OIF: improving user interface and implementing proper OpenType support. The latter wasn't finished, but the former was, and this year it was merged to unstable 1.5.0 branch. So the Properties Palette, for instance, is a dockable dialog now.

Then there is the new Table tool. We already covered it back in July or so when it was partially ready. You probably remember this clip:

The good news is that Elvis got quite a bit further, and his code was merged into the 1.5.0 branch as well. Long story short, you can now merge cells, type the text in and do things like dragging row borders up and down.

Merging cells in tables

Some bits like splitting cells are still missing, but give the folks a chance to release 1.4.0, and they'll get back to 1.5.0.

The last new thing are massive improvements to gradient and mesh gradient editing, as well as some visual cleanup like e.g. more elegant rendering of guides and frame borders.

Frame borders and guides

I have to take it to Franz and the team: they listened to the critics, and if they apply the same kind of love to other parts of UI, Scribus will recapture attention of quite a lot of people who seem to have left lately.

So, for 2012 I'd like to wish all of us a better graphic design and desktop publishing experience with free software.

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9 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. One thing of Inkscape that I hope can be fixed for the 0.49 release, is the coordinate system: the y axis starts at the bottom left, instead of the top left. If you have tried to create CSS sprites in Inskcape, sure you know the trouble we get when trying to fix the coordinates in the CSS script. Nevertheless, looking forward to next release :)

  2. Alexandre Prokoudine 03 January 2012 at 3:28 am

    There was some preliminary work done to address that, but AFAIK it required changing a lot more things in the internals, so the patch was reverted for 0.48.

  3. You should notice, that Scribus 1.4.0 was realeased at least 1th January 2012 - one day after your post here…

  4. I have noticed :)

  5. Wow, that new Inkscape measure tool looks crazy delicious. Time for an Inkscape refresher.

  6. And out of the Holy Trinity Gimp is the step child, getting no love!. Where is the high color bit support!. It’s 2012. Adobe is on 32 bit color!. Gimp still 8 bit. Need Corel PSP X4 to replace Gimp as part of the trinity on Linux.

  7. Inkscape is the little engine that could. 

    It has one great flaw and that is performance.  Everything from GUI responsiveness to rendering is affected to the point where even the simplest task is tedious.  The user experience is such that it does not matter how brilliant the app could be or what features it could support.  If the performance is such that you have to wait 10 to 20 seconds for redraws on simple outlines or 3 to 4 second for node selection then there is almost no point. 

    Forget about new features - fix performance over everything else and Inkscape will become the bullet train that did rather than the little engine that could.

  8. Alexandre Prokoudine 22 April 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Lance, performance is being improved in upcoming v0.49. There’s some smart caching in place now which does affect responsiveness. E.g. you can safely edit things on top of bitmaps and blurred objects which used to be slow as hell before.

  9. I will most likely be back to examine much more, thanks for your info.