Inkscape is getting on-canvas alignment handles

Inkscape is getting on-canvas alignment handles

Martin Owens started designing a new canvas-centric way to align objects in Inkscape. A preliminary version is available in a public development branch.

Now when you select multiple objects, along with the selection cue and scaling handles you get alignment handles. Clicking those triggers alignment according to settings in the Align/Distribute dialog.

Not only that, clicking and dragging from a handle creates a new guide. Once you release the guide, objects get aligned to it.

How is that better than the existing Align/Distribute dialog? One important reason is that currently you need to move the focus away from the illustration towards the sidebar where the dialog is. With the canvas-centric approach you don't really have to switch focus anymore.

You can watch all of that in a screencast that Martin recorded:

Source code currently lives in a public branch called align-handles. It's expected that the changes will be merged to the main development branch once the design and its implementation are complete.

So far that are still quite a few open questions left, like whether alignment handles should be activated with a shortcut, or whether it's a good idea to use Align/Distribute dialog for setting the target. There's an ongoing discussion about that in the mailing list for Inkscape developers.

Apparently, due to the unfortunate situation with blocker bugs in v0.49, including the one with downscaling in Cairo, we are likely to see even more great features in the next big release — whenever it's out.

Another interesting detail is that better alignment seems to have gained momentum lately. Last year unstable version of Scribus got smart guides (a-la Adobe Illustrator and Visio), and Peter Sikking recently worked on a new design for the Alignment tool in GIMP with his usability students.

Was it useful? There's more:

22 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. That looks amazingly useful! I love it!

  2. Victor Emmanuel 09 July 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Genial, el software libre dominará el mundo.
    Un saludo a todos.

  3. Very nice feature!

    Developer asked for feedback and I’ll vote for last proposed option: allow these new controls in cycle selection mode.

    I guess developer reads LGW ;)

  4. Good work!

    I think a new selection mode might be in order. I’d see myself using the “Shift+S” shortcut more to toggle these modes. Clicking to toggle them is a little dangerous because you might double click and enter a selection mode, losing your selection set. Or you might accientally deselect your objects if you’re working with tiny/obscured objects.

    Making it another mode hurts the discoverability of the feature, though.

    Perhaps a set of toggles in the “Tools Controls Bar” for the Selection Tool that controls which mode (stretch, skew/rotate, align) shows up first would be helpful. You’d eliminate the toggling step if you were doing a lot of aligning. You’d also kind-of advertise the fact that “hey, selection sets have these modes”.

    “Shift+S” is pretty fast, though. So this might not be nessecary. I’m just spit-balling / bike shedding here.

  5. this is madness! and it was about time, Inkscape sure has taken it’s time to develop but no doubt is leader in vector graphics, i like it more than Illustrator

  6. I hope new selection mode might be helpful for my new works. You don’t know how can you helping me lot. I am really appreciate you from my heart !!

  7. oh I do hope GIMP gets some better alignment tool, one that lets me simply snap one rectangular layer to another (say layer1 is at 10,0 from the top left and has with height 100, I want layer2 at 10,100 by just dragging it towards the edge of layer1)

  8. In addition to the normal, simple click based aligned, I was surprised when you wanted to move the alignment position that alignment didn’t happen continuously upon click and drag of the handle.

    My preference is like the guide visibility control. Hit <the key> and the handles appear. Hit is again and the handles are gone.

  9. I wish they could add the option to move the origin of coordinates (x and y axis) to the top left corner… that would be nice to create CSS sprites and translate the offsets easily to the CSS file :)

  10. I hope Martin Owens reads these comments! This feature looks excellent! I really hope this gets merged in for the next release, as it really brings it to a usability level on par with commercial tools.

  11. This is great, I am very much looking forward to using this feature.
    But I firmly believe Mike Bostocks work (bost.ocks.org/mike/) with SVG and web standards is the future of Inkscape. Ubuntu is making a play for tighter alignment with these standards but it can’t all get joined up quick enough for me.

  12. This looks fantastic, very discoverable and much more elegant than the current method.

  13. Great! I love the dragging feature.

    Still, I’m missing a ‘smart guides’ approach, it’s almost the only feature I miss from Illustrator.

    With smart guides you could align as you draw (almost CAD style) and that makes everything much easier.

  14. Thanks everyone for the great feedback! LGW.org, post your awesome blogs to the users mailing list so we can all see :-)

    Jorge - Do you think a kickstarter for smart guides would be an effective way to raise the required capital to get the development done? I remain concerned that normal inkscape users do not have the means to fund inkscape’s development and can only cheer on the sidelines at the moment.

  15. looks quite genius! :)

    i’d speak for the toggle/cycle solution, but Astroman Pete’s suggestion is even better (if i understand him correctly)

    also i don’t know smart guides, but am always up to crowdfund projects (with small amounts) =)

  16. I have done a quick build of this branch for Fedora, if anyone wants to try it out.

    http://repos.fedorapeople.org/repos/ryanlerch/inkscape-align-handles-branch/

  17. Also align not only on vertical or horizontal, but allow diagonal aling !

  18. Can anyone recommend the best tutorial for this type of software? Thanks

  19. This is really useful. Thank you..!

  20. This is something very useful and should be added to next version of Inkscape. I loved it!

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