I’m been a big fan of Canvas since the time I had only a half day to cull through 300 digital photos and produce a brochure for my church. I used
Deneba’s “one-stop” software package for illustration, bitmap editing and document design for the project and have been an avid supporter of Canvas ever since. Now Canvas is even better, thanks to added features and a Carbon treatment that lets Canvas run natively in Mac OS X. All told, Canvas 8 has over 100 new features and enhancements.
One of the most impressive features of Canvas 8 is its fantastic scripting engine that lets you control Canvas 8 through any OS-compliant scripting language, including AppleScript and Unix-based languages like Perl. In fact, using AppleScript, Perl, JScript, or any other programming or scripting language, you can quickly and easily automate downloads, connect with other scriptable applications, or process thousands of files for print or the Web.
There’s a new Sequence Recorder and Player for saving, then applying, complex actions. You can use it to capture multi-step effects and other repetitive tasks, and distill ’em into a single command that can be played back later. You can share Sequences with others — even Windows users, since Canvas is a cross platform solution. The Sequence Recorder/Player feature is akin to Adobe Photoshop’s Actions feature.
Canvas 8 also adds a custom Object Properties definition system that lets you define complex data records linked to Canvas objects. Used in tandem with the new Scripting support, Canvas 8 offers a pretty spiffy system for linking graphics and data.
Deneba has added new and improved Bézier curve selection and manipulation tools to Canvas. There’s a new real-time Pixel View of vector art that lets you visualize vector graphics in real time as if they were rendered at 72 dpi, the standard resolution for Web graphics. As a result, you can see ahead of time how graphics and text will look upon export to the Web. And if you’re preparing work for online viewing, you’ll also appreciate Canvas 8’s new “slicing” tools for cutting large, complex images into smaller, optimized groups.
Context-sensitive pop-up menus have seen a population explosion. The new and improved Canvas sports an instant drawing tool that can be selected with a single key press. Direct Edit Selection allows you to select all curve-edit points of an object in one step. There’s also an option to edit any path point of an object by enclosing it with the Direct Edit Lasso tool, which can speed up your work.
There’s a new Favorite Inks palette and improved color managers. In fact, Ink Managers are now separate from the Ink palettes, which means that the palettes are now fully resizeable both vertically and horizontally. It’s a nice small touch, as is the fact that any ink type — RGB or CMYK Colors, Patterns, Symbols, Gradients, Hatches, and Textures — can now be placed together in the new Favorite Inks palette.
Canvas 8 adds Flash (SWF) export, and PDF export, via a clone PDF library. Two Flash exporting modes are available, depending on what you plan on doing with a particular SWF file. When saving documents in the PDF format, Canvas 8 PDF files are smaller thanks to improved compression of the entire data stream. They’re also more compatible and portable thanks to the new direct embedding of both Type 1 and TrueType fonts. Speaking of fonts, Canvas 8 also boasts a font menu that identifies typefaces as PostScript or TrueType at a glance.
And not the least of the improvements is a redesigned interface. Deneba touts the redesigned interface as “completely Mac-like.” You may or may not agree (after all, even Mac users are arguing what’s truly Mac like with the advent of Mac OS X), but it’s certainly an improvement.
Naturally, the latest version still has one of my favorite Canvas features: SpriteEffects technology, which lets you apply unlimited image editing filters to any combination of objects — text, vectors or bitmaps — while retaining full edibility of the original object. Sprite Effects makes all the image editing filters available at an object level, so users can maintain the original attributes and editing properties of the object, whether it’s vector, bitmap, or text. It gives you the ability to create lenses, which can display effects on the area directly behind them, a fixed area of the document, or an area a constant distance and direction away from the Lens.
My biggest disappointment with Canvas 8 is the lack of one promising feature that is available to Windows users now: DenebaShare, a new drag-and-drop file-sharing system built into the program. DenebaShare is free to registered Canvas users. Plus, you can password protect your files for absolute confidentiality — if you’re running Windows. However, the Mac version of DenebaShare will be available “early in the first quarter of 2002,” according to Deneba.
Also, as in previous versions, Canvas has something of a steep learning curve. You’ll have to read the manual and experiment to become the master of your Canvas domain.
Finally, you can’t save a TIFF file with Canvas. When you do, it tries to launch Classic. Deneba knows about it and have promised they’ll have a new build “soon.”
Some high end users may not be ready to toss out Photoshop, Illustrator, Freehand, Dreamweaver, GoLive, InDesign, Quark XPress, etc., and go entirely with Canvas. Obviously, no one application, no matter how well designed, can pack the combined punch of all those apps. But for many of us, Canvas packs all the punch we need. And now we can run it in Mac OS X.
Canvas 8 for Macintosh costs US$399 (or $349 for an electronic download). Competitive upgrades for owners of qualifying products such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Macromedia FreeHand, and CorelDraw are $249.95 (or $199.95 if you download it). Upgrades from previous versions are $129.95. System requirements call for a Power Mac G3, System 9.0.4 with the CarbonLib extensions installed (or Mac OS X), 64 MB of RAM for Mac OS 9.x and 128 for Mac OS X, 100 MB of free hard disk space, and a 800×600 or higher screen resolution.