Creative professionals looking for Mac OS X-native tools don't have a lot of products to choose from at this point. The list pretty much begins and ends with FreeHand 10 and BBEdit 6.1, which have only started shipping inthe last month.
But that will change in a few weeks, when a free beta for a Carbonized version of Canvas 8 for the Mac becomes available to the public. The beta of Deneba's omnibus application that melds illustration, animation, image editing, page layout, and presentation features sets the stage for a late summer/early fall release of the finished product.
Mac users who can't wait until later this month can get a glimpse of what's in store for Canvas 8 by looking at the recently released Windows version. Deneba President Manny Menendez says the Mac version will have full feature parity with its Windows counterpart. And there are plenty of new features, both small and large.
Some of Canvas's new tools are reminiscent of features in competing products. Canvas 8 will have a Sequence Recorder and Player that sounds like Adobe Photoshop's Actions feature. The Deneba application also adds a Photoshop-reminiscent History palette. Other Canvas 8 additions are more original, including a font menu that identifies typefaces as PostScript or TrueType at a glance.
Automation fans will welcome the fact that you can control Canvas 8 with any OS-compliant scripting language, including Unix-based languages like Perl and AppleScript.
"Basically, the product has been made a lot smarter," Menendez says.
Share the Load
If you collaborate with other Canvas users, you may want to check out DenebaShare, a new drag-and-drop file-sharing system built into the program. To guard your intellectual property, you can control access to files and password-protect shared folders.
"It's really elegant, really slick," Menendez says. "We see it as a big collaboration tool."
Workgroup collaboration seems to be gaining popularity in the creative market -- Adobe has been developing Adobe Studio, an ambitious "virtual workplace," for months. But while Adobe Studio will be a subscription-based service, DenebaShare is free -- provided you've bought Canvas.
These new features will be wrapped in a redesigned interface -- good news for Mac users who've found the Canvas interface to be clumsy and bulky. Menendez concedes that until version 8, "the interface of Canvas had been a hybrid between a Mac and Windows GUI." He touts the redesigned interface as "completely Mac-like."
The OS X Challenge
Menendez says that there are still a few technical issues to be resolved. The company is waiting on OS X versions of third-party I/O filters to complete its work on porting over the application.
"OS X has been a bigger challenge than we expected because OS X is a work in progress even today," Menedez says.
Some existing programming conventions that Deneba programmers took forgranted with the Mac OS aren't to be found in OS X. Menendez says "the immaturity of the development tools" has also been a challenge in bringing Canvas to the new OS. If development applications had been farther along earlier in the development process, Menendez believes, "you would have hundreds more products available."
However, Deneba should be able to resolve all remaining issues in time for Canvas 8 to ship in late summer or early fall, Menendez says. The application will run in both the classic Mac OS as well as OS X. The beta, however, will only be available for OS X.
While pricing has yet to be finalized, Canvas 8 should sell for around $400, with upgrades running from $129 for current users to $250 for owners of Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator.