What’s up with Alchemy, the experimental drawing app
If you are into drawing, you might have heard of Alchemy, a very interesting modular application that is all about experimenting and trying out unusual ideas coming out of blue.
There haven't been any releases of Alchemy since early 2010, and I was wondering what's going on with the project. As if reading my mind, a person nicknamed crowline who currently does most of development contacted me, and we had a short conversation.
Alchemy hasn't seen releases in quite a long time. What's going on with the project? Are you the only developer these days?
Yes, currently I am the only one on the main program's code that I know of, though I am not the original developer. Karl DD pretty much wrote the whole program, so when he essentially stopped working on it (I think he just got too busy with his "real" job, etc), it went without any updates for a year or so.
This past summer I decided to dig into the source code to try to add on some features that I, as a user of the software, wished were implemented. When I posted info on some of my work on the forum, Karl was very receptive and gave me SVN commit access. Karl still reviews the features/code as time allows.
What exactly did you implement?
There are 3 main features that I have added so far that are available for testing in SVN or as testing builds on the forum.
Undo. This was originally intentionally left out of the program, and there has been debate on the forum over it's appropriateness. The idea was that an undo feature is contrary to Alchemy's intended purpose of fast paced visual exploration. The other point of view was that the lack of an undo feature caused one to be more reserved/less creative when sketching, lest the sketch get ruined. The solution approved by Karl was to make undo off by default, but available when switched on in the options menu.
Zoom. A simple (currently 4×) zoom that allows jumping in to add detail, but restricts panning and extensive zoom depth to keep the focus on the whole rather than the details.
Swatch Toolbar. This is the biggest new feature, which entirely replaces Alchemy's previous foreground/background color system. It moves the color features into a secondary toolbar.
Some of the features of the new toolbar include:
- saving colors in a swatch,
- shortcuts and big clickable areas to quickly access the swatch colors,
- a new color panel for finding harmonious colors when right-clicking on the current color,
- numerous features in a swatch menu, such as: gpl/ase swatch import/export, random Colourlovers.com swatch import (this is a fun one), and a dialog to modulate aspects of the entire swatch st once.
What's going on in the plug-ins department?
It's an area that has had sporadic development outside of Karl's and my own work. This is an area that is pretty easy for new developers to break into, and there is a number of unofficial modules floating around in the forum that may find their way into a future release.
Rotate module by Alex Vostrov reflects everything that you draw through a point.
Necklace module by ncls renders shapes along geometry with user defined size, angle, density and so on. All the parameters can be controlled dynamically from tablet or in a randomized manner.
Boid Shapes by myself traces the paths of a 3d boid particle system. I shot a screencast to demonstrate it recently:
How far are you from releasing a new version?
I have not discussed an official release with Karl yet, but we should be close. Mostly we need wider testing and UI refinements.
Any unstable builds to try?
Yes, there are builds for Linux and Windows on my server right here.