PrintDesign team releases a preview version

PrintDesign team releases a preview version

sK1 team released the first preview version of PrintDesign, a free vector graphics editor for desktop publishing.

Igor Novikov announced the reload of the project in October 2011, after 6 years of working on sK1. He honestly stated:

Our plans are rather ambitious, but please don't expect immediately useful software. Even big software companies cannot magic a whole new application from scratch in few months, it takes years to get there.

The team planned a lot of changes: a new file format, a new architecture, better performance and file formats support. However despite of initial estimations the team managed to post first news on the progress only in March 2013. Granted, they also started posting project updates on the website and the Facebook page far more frequently as well.

What's more surprising (or maybe not too surprising) is that they revisited their decision from 2011 to use pure GTK+ for the user interface and about a month ago moved to wxWidgets. The point of this preview release is, in fact, to demonstrate that PrintDesign really works on all major platforms and looks native enough.

So how much has changed since March, exactly? Here's a quick video that goes through existing feature set.

Not keen watching videos? Read on.

Tools in PrintDesign

The application got two more activated tools: Polyline and Bezier Curve. They sort of work, if you can live with the fact that you cannot edit what you created, as the Shaper tool (currently with the "Edit mode" tooltip) isn't complete yet.

The idea is that all drawing tools will only create objects, and all editing of existing objects will be done with this Shaper tool. This is different from what you probably know from Inkscape where all tools both create and edit objects, and can even edit gradients assigned to them.

Polyline works a bit like Free Selection tool in GIMP: you can combine straight lines with freehand "drawing" in one go. That's an interesting solution.

Unfortunately there are some annoying buglets and general lack of meat all around: no shortcuts for tools, lacking visual feedback for operations like closing a polyline (typically the starting point gets highlighted when you hover it) and so on.

The team is, however, listening to all the feedback. E.g. they already fixed drawing of proportional objects like squares and perfect circles which I complained about in the video above.

On top of that, the very basic Text tool that was available in March got deactivated, but for a great reason: it's being rewritten to become more usable.

User interface

The most visible change is the new status bar that displays mouse pointer coordinates, describes active selection (e.g. "Ellipse object in selection", "4 objects in selection" etc.), and provides simple access to page navigation.

Some newly added features, such as Page Border plug-in or the Preferences dialog, apparently haven't made it to the new wxWidgets-based version yet. Also, apparently PrintDesign follows the document model by Corel DRAW and has guides implemented as a special kind of a layer which can be seen on a older screenshot of the Layers dialog from the GTK+ based version.

Guides, grids, and origins

Another new user-visible feature is the ruler. Apart from the conventional assistance in creating and deleting guides it also provides a simple way to switch between 3 types of coordinates origin: top left corner (typical for printing), the middle of a page, and Cartesian (bottom left corner). That's a really useful and welcome addition.

There's also a very basic implementation of grids (that is, no major/minor grid lines) with grid lines available as snapping targets. Which brings us to the topic of...

Snapping

Another major new feature is the basic snapping of objects. The team actually went a bit further and implemented the so called smart guides. Basically, PrintDesign creates dynamic guides that align to various features like bounding boxes of other objects around. This is something you probably know from Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Visio (or even the unstable version of Scribus).

Unfortunately the existing implementation is not so useful whenever you are interested in snapping with/to more than just bounding boxes, grid, guides, or page borders. E.g. a node or a rectangle corner cannot be a snapping target. Nor is there a possibility to snap before drawing — something you will miss, if you are an advanced Inkscape user. Hopefully this will be taken care of in due time.

File formats support

This is a somewhat puzzling part. Around May the team ported the support for WMF files from UniConvertor 1.1 to 2.0. However WMF is not available in the preview release.

Moreover, there don't seem to be any other changes regarding support for various file formats. This is most likely because the team is busy working on other features.

Water to elephants!

Two more working tools, pages control, better status bar, guides, grids, basic snapping and configurable coordinates' origin — that's some good progress for about half a year of work, especially if you consider that some newly added features are unavailable due to the recently started UI rewrite.

It appears that users have grown to see sK1/PrintDesign more as a desktop publishing tool, and less as a design tool, althogh separating the two might seem like a horrible idea to many.

It might seem a sensible idea, therefore, to activate SVG importing, complete the editing of curves, re-add the exporting of CMYK PDF, and then to make an alpha release to give people something to produce reliable output with.

But the team sees things differently. In a comment to LGW regarding this Igor stated:

We could plug PDF exporting into PrintDesign now. But this is simply a low-priority task at this point. Until we get the editing and styling of objects to work, there's no point adding advanced importing/exporting, because then we cannot test it interactively. And blind testing is going to take too much time.

The team doesn't provide estimated time of v1.0 arrival yet, and LGW wisely follows the tactics :) We think, however, that you are free to make your own judgment, hence the obligatory download links:

For more regular project updates you can subscribe to sK1's Facebook page.

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17 Comments

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  1. Positively impressed by the clean interface and general aesthetics of the software. Looking forward to a more production ready version :)

  2. Let’s hope that what’s happening in GNU/Linux with the distros -see fragmentation- doesn’t apply here to FLOSS graphic design. It’s a nice program, maybe, and maybe we need a complete rewrite of Inkscape. It’s obvious that every single person could do whatever he wants with his efforts, but hey. Just saying.

  3. Appears clean and nice on Windows, too. Wx Python powered. I praise the creation of “light-weight” vector drawing program, with basic features available, hopefully soon

    I don’t know what are future plans, but curve drawing doesn’t seem very intuitive to me as it is now, and if I’m not wrong it looks like editing the nodes is currently impossible.

    Looks promising as in announcement 2 years ago

  4. Ups, curve drawing seems to work just fine, please disregard my comment about it.

  5. Why They don’t try to do a tiny campaign to fundraising?
    All in all today that is it the trend and at the moment is the only alternative to Inkscape but it is more oriented to the print side so it is welcome for us, I suppose.

  6. wxWidgets, eh?

    Have a look at what can be done in pure GTK3: darktable.org.

    Oh wait, there’s a Windows port…

  7. Alexandre Prokoudine 21 August 2013 at 8:56 am

    @Danielsan, because they already have funding from a private company?

  8. As far as I know it is not pure wxPython based. Guys have created their own wxWidgets python bindings, cause they noticed that wxPython is buggy in critical for the PrintDesing sections.

    I believe is is all about Mac version, since wxPython for Mac is really buggy, and IMHO it is good only for Windows.

    P.S.  wxWidgets 2.9 on Linux is actually wraps GTK+, on Mac - Cocoa and Win32 API on Windows so it should looks native anyway.

  9. @ Alexandre

    I don’t think, the time developing is too large for a company.

  10. @Danielsan
    Alexandre is absolutely right. Developing good financed. This allows team programmers to work full time.

  11. It is wonderful that they provided ubuntu package that is easy to install. Very early preview version in deed, but makes me have very positive feedback about it and can;t wait till I can replace my main graphics tools with this one.

    Good work SK 1 team, Print Design seems really promising!

  12. Seems that PrintDesign has a easy user interface and quite great features. But would an Android version be available? Or any kind of related software? Please do let me know.

  13. The interface and general aesthetics seems clean . Looking forward for it.

  14. Hmm… isn’t this quite similar to Inkscape already, albeit simpler?

  15. Alexandre Prokoudine 18 October 2013 at 10:42 am

    @d.free, yes, they are both vector graphics editors :) But PrintDesign focuses specifically on color separation, support for Pantone and suchlike.

  16. Anyone got a link to 64bit Windows build?
    (need it for Cairo etc. to be able to run current source)

    TIA

  17. Assuming I’m not the only one with 64bit Python on Windows, and lacking such promised build (http://sk1project.org/modules.php?name=Products&product=uniconvertor&op=download) I’m sharing uc2 64bit Python archive here: https://db.tt/UUl2tJox

    If you need it, extract it directly in your Python folder (i.e. “C:\Python27)

    From there it’s trivial to track Printdesign.
    I had no idea that’s one man show…

    Cheers

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