I recently wanted to do some quick vector image work, which I haven’t really needed to do in quite a while. I am by no means a graphics person and certainly not a power-user. I just need to do some of the basics occasionally, preferably without getting totally overwhelmed. I limped along for a while when I first got a Mac using my beloved linux apps, Gimp and Inkscape, which I used for years previously, but I really can’t stand using X11 on a Mac; really, it makes me a bit batty. A while ago I ended up buying Pixelmator to replace Gimp and I’ve been pretty happy with it. It satisfies most of my minimal graphics needs, but I never got around to finding a decent vector editor, and sometimes you just need vector. Today I ended up doing a quick search on The Google and asked for recommendations through Twitter. My criteria are pretty simple: under $100, native Mac app, and simple enough for me to get a basic project done without reading a whole damned manual. I ended up downloading four apps to try out:
- DrawIt ($38)
- EazyDraw ($95)
- VectorDesigner ($70)
- ZeusDraw ($90)
My project was to create a simple floor plan of the Copenhagen airport that I want to use as a graphic in a post about getting into Copenhagen – not complicated stuff. It requires drawing lines, some boxes, arrows, and text. One of my requirements is to make a rectangle and then rotate it to an angle to fit along one of my diagonal lines. That doesn’t sound complicated but it ended up be an hurdle in almost all of the apps. I popped open each app, didn’t read any instructions and just tried to get the basics of my floorplan set up to see how it went. I spent about 5-10 minutes per app. No extensive review here, but here are my first impressions, along with the one I ended up buying.
DrawIt is the cheapest of the ones I looked at, so was of course of high interest to me. The toolbar is pretty sparse and just getting started I couldn’t view a grid background on the canvas, which I wanted to help me draw my lines right. Then when I went to draw my outline I couldn’t sort out how to close the path. Finally I saw a check box for that, but I wasted a good amount of time generally drawing spurious paths. Another thing that just sort of confused me was when selecting fill color, there was no option for “none” or “transparent.” If you close the panel for that attribute, then it just turns black. I never did sort out what was going on there. Overall, I just felt like things were set up oddly and therefor very limiting for me. I could probably make it work for me, especially since it is the cheapest, but I really didn’t want to take time trying to figure it all out.
EazyDraw has a pretty ugly website, especially considering this is a graphics app. This is also the most expensive app in the pack. The default interface has lots of things with big icons, but for my level of experience (practically none) it is nice to just see the things I can do and click them. I figured out how to use this one quickly. Definitely felt like I could get up and running and take care of the main kinds of tasks I would need it for.
VectorDesigner was the most recommended app and is priced between the cheapest and more expensive ones. Things went fairly smoothly but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to rotate my rectangle. After glaring at it for a while, I realized that there is a little status bar at the bottom of the workspace which gives you helpful hints on how to do things, in context of what tool you are using. Ah. Not intuitive, but once I saw that, I could see how to rotate (hold the command key down). Would be nice if there were menu items for that stuff since that is where I end up clicking around to figure out what I can do. That said, most things made sense once I spent a few minutes with it and I generally liked the default interface best.
ZeusDraw is up at the top with EazyDraw price-wise. The interface is all greyscale, which I guess some graphicy people may like so that it doesn’t distract from the canvas, but I wasn’t a big fan. I didn’t get far with this one at all. I created the outline for the floorplan and wanted to edit the path points to adjust it a bit. I couldn’t even figure out how to do that, so I never got to the rotating rectangle. Definitely my least favorite of the four.
So, at the end of the day, I chose VectorDesigner. It wasn’t quite as stupid simple for me to get up and running as EazyDraw, but it wasn’t much harder to figure out (especially once I saw that status bar thingy). It is cheaper and I like the interface more than EazyDraw as well. After playing around with it for another 30 minutes or so, I was sold that it was good enough for my needs.