FOSS drawing on the Mac

Usually I don’t have very serious drawing needs on my Mac. MacWorks/AppleWorks used to be sufficient back in the day, and it still runs on my old iMac, but not on my MacBook and the iMac won’t be around forever. And iWork doesn’t have real drawing capability.

So what to use? I like fairly well — not a lot, the user interface is really pretty bad, but it mostly gets the job done for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

The drawing module stinks, though.

I’ve spent the past hour or so wrestling with the grid, in NeoOffice, a Mac port of version 2.x, and in the Mac version of version 3.x; both behave similarly. First, if you open the grid settings dialog it seems to want you you set a division in inches (or whatever dimension you’ve chosen to use) — and a subdivision in points. Well, not really. Apparently “points” here means not the unit of length but the “number of points” between the major divisions. Note, not the number of subdivisions in a major division but the number of points drawn in between the major division points — so if your major division size is 1″ and you want to subdivide into quarter inches, the number of points is 3, not 4.

Second, the (NeoOffice) documentation tells you you can disable snap to grid by holding down the ctrl key. But that doesn’t work at all — it brings up a contextual menu when you click.

Third, the grid is an option that affects the application, not a property of the document! Or… well, not quite. Change the grid settings, then open an old document, and it has its old grid. But if you go into the options dialog, the latest values of the grid settings are there. If you want to temporarily change the grid and then change it back, good luck — because there seems to be no way to find out what the stored grid settings were.

There are other problems. Click and drag something, and in my experience it sometimes will show an outline of the dragged object, and sometimes — at random — won’t, meaning you’re dragging it blind.

It seems when you copy an object and paste it, it gets pasted exactly on top of the original object — not offset, and certainly not where you last clicked before pasting. If you want the copy to be on the other end of the document from the original, I guess you have to drag it all the way.

In 3.x, though not in NeoOffice 2.x, clicking and dragging an object copies it rather than moving it — or maybe there’s some modifier going on I haven’t figured out, but I was ending up with half a dozen copies of an object while trying to move it.

I can’t find any way to set the color of an object other than scrolling through a long list of color choices.

Gaah.  I contemplated submitting a bug request/feature report or two, but then realized it needs a lot more than two.

There are some other freeware drawing tools available for Linux, but there seems to be nothing else on the Mac side that isn’t an X windows port. And I like the Mac interface better; I use X windows apps all the time, but the interface is particularly significant in drawing applications, and I really feel crippled in X windows drawing software. By contrast, I’ve tried out the demo version of the Mac-native Intaglio and find it a pleasure to use.  The non-crippleware version costs $90, though, and I haven’t seen any other good quality Mac drawing software selling for less than about $70 or so.

I’ll probably bite the bullet and buy Intaglio sooner or later. But I wish FOSS were making a better showing for itself in the Mac drawing applications area.

(And of course, the day after I buy Intaglio, the next version of iWork with a fully functional drawing module will be announced.)


2 thoughts on “FOSS drawing on the Mac

  1. Can I snicker and say “buy a wintel machine?” No, that would be rude. What do you mean by “serious drawing?” To some people, that would mean a tablet-based paint program. Are you doing photoshop-type illustration or CAD-CAM?


  2. Vector drawing, not bitmap painting. What I’m doing now (or rather, was trying to do) is coming up with a front panel for the WSG. Hence the harping on the grid: It’d be nice if things lined up.

    And even if I wanted to run Windoze I wouldn’t buy a machine for it; I’d just run it on my MacBook. Why not, I already run Linux (Ubuntu) on it.


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