capsule review

Stone Studio

Considering that Mac OS X is based in part on OpenStep technologies that Apple acquired from Next, it's not surprising that one of the first software packages created using Apple's Cocoa development environment likewise stems from OpenStep. The package in question, Stone Studio, is a collection of seven print and Web production programs (also available separately) that run the gamut from art creation to client invoicing. Although new to the Mac, some of these applications made their debut on the Next platform more than a decade ago. Perhaps as a result, the competent but prosaic Stone Studio feels less like the latest trend in graphics software and more like a run-of-the-mill port from another platform.

New Ways to Create

At Stone Studio's core is Create 10.1, a vector-based drawing program. Though less robust than its version number might imply -- both Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia FreeHand offer several times as many features -- Create does have a few tricks up its sleeve. Document-level layers serve as master pages, allowing you to add type and graphics to several pages at once. An object can comprise multiple fills and strokes, which in turn can contain a mix of opaque and translucent colors. And unlike Illustrator and FreeHand, Create lets you animate transformation effects, such as movement and rotation. The program then passes the frames to GIFfun, another program in the suite, which converts the artwork to an animated GIF file. The process is so fluid, you scarcely notice that you're moving between applications.

One gets the feeling that despite Stone Studio's exhaustive support for OS X, its creators have little idea what today's artists expect from a graphics program. Traditional editing and navigation shortcuts go unobserved, the type tool lets you create text but not edit it, and there's no such thing as a context-sensitive pop-up menu. In short, it makes the already unfamiliar environment of OS X feel more alien than ever.

Brave New Tools

If that doesn't bother you, then other programs in the suite may appeal to your frontier spirit. For example, PStill lets you convert EPS and PostScript documents into PDFs, which can be viewed inside OS X as easily as raw text. You can even convert Illustrator and FreeHand documents that use standard Type 1 Mac fonts. PackUpAndGo compresses files; TimeEqualsMoney handles job tracking and invoicing; and SliceAndDice can subdivide an image into an HTML table or image map. My favorite, PhotoToWeb, generates a slide show or HTML photo album from a folder of images (see www.macworld.com/2001s/reviews/0713-phototoweb.html ).

Stone Studio's best and worst attribute is its reliance on OS X. If you're already using the new system, Stone Studio gives you not only enough good features to warrant its price, but also a feel for the way native OS X applications behave. Sadly, until a host of OS X-savvy applications, font managers, and drivers appear, OS 9.1 will remain the more practical environment for professional designers.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The first design program written exclusively for Mac OS X is likely to seem as foreign to Macintosh users as the new system itself. Even so, the reasonable price and wide range of tools make this an attractive suite for designers on the prowl for native OS X applications.

Different Strokes: Create 10.1's answer to the eyedropper: load an image into the Colors palette, lift a color from it, and assign it as part of a fill or stroke.
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