back to article You've come a long way, Inkscape: Open-source Illustrator sneaks up

Inkscape recently released version 0.91 of their eponymous open source vector graphics application. As version numbers go this sub version 1.0 milestone is underwhelming, but – and it’s a big ”but” – it is the result of four plus years hard work that’s paid of by delivering a major leap forward for the would-be Adobe …

  1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Context

    Graphics professionals working on Linux… are as rare as mermaids?

    There are lots of good alternatives to the Adobe products that cost a little money. Anything that takes 4 years to fix 700 bugs is not being used by professionals.

    I'm not a fan of Adobe and happily use alternative products (Photoline is pretty good) but the new pricing model actually makes it easier to pick up casual business. Some professionals will no doubt (rightly) complain about being fleeced by the new model but it does allow for faster release cycles. As soon as it costs more money to use the stuff than you get make from using it you should cancel the subscription.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Context

      Do not get me started on how long is an average (heavily polished for PR purposes) bug squash list in an average Adobe bug-fix. And that is only stuff they decide to publish, not what they fix and do not add to the publically visible list.

      700 issues (as these include features, etc) in 4 years is _NOTHING_ in a major project. In fact it is suspiciosly low.

      1. g e

        Re: Context

        Yup. Given that there's about 260 working days in a year if you never take a day off then 700 bugs killed in 1040 days seems pretty snappy unless they have a very large number of devs.

      2. Martin Owens

        Re: Context

        That's more than 700 bugs (not features) that inkscape 0.48 had, that are now fixed in 0.91

        I fixed a few of them :-)

    2. sisk

      Re: Context

      Graphics professionals working on Linux… are as rare as mermaids?

      You'd be surprised at how many there actually are. If you count web designers then I'm one, and that already makes them more common than mermaids.

      Anything that takes 4 years to fix 700 bugs is not being used by professionals.

      In this particular case, you are most decidedly wrong. Inkscape IS being used by professionals and has been for several years now. Last time I checked it was second only to Illustrator in professional usage for vector graphics.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: Context

        Don't forget about graphics professionals on Windows using gimp and inkscape. In Web development, Gimp and Inkscape are lifesavers. I moved off photoshop and corel draw years ago and never looked back. Tried illustrator once didn't like it.

        It's convenient to be able to use the same toolset on Windows and Linux.

        Just for the stats, I'm not a mermaid.

  2. W. Anderson

    While I have very little or no experience of consequence in the graphics arts field, I appreciate the clarity and coherence of your article in describing the progress made with Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) applications like Inkscape and GIMP, particularly since I provide consulting services in FOSS technology and related business services to small business and organizations for over past 15 years, many times to those using graphics arts in their operations.

    I am encouraged, and hope that more FOSS users participate in helping these graphics and other applications reach even higher level of and professionalism.

    1. SolidSquid

      Honestly GIMP isn't a great example of a FOSS project, the developers have had issues with the idea of implementing features which people mention are present in Photoshop because they don't like being compared, even if the feature is a good one (single window mode for example), and have made some fairly bizarre changes which make sense in terms of logic but not usability (can't save as a jpeg or png anymore, have to export as one which means you still get the "You haven't saved" warnings)

      Krita, MyPaint, Blender and Inkscape have made far more rapid progress towards usability because of their willingness to interact with the users and bring them in for advice (Blender has their movie projects, Krita and MyPaint have a professional illustrator as part of the team to give input on usability)

      1. PleebSmash

        Baloney. It has single window mode, and exporting as JPG/PNG/etc. rather than saving encourages the use of the XCF format which is the equivalent of Photoshop's PSD. That's about a 15 second learning curve.

        It amazes me how many people are ready to talk smack about GIMP citing the dumbest examples of why it is "bad", "bizarre", or "doesn't listen to users".

      2. John Deeb

        SolidSquid: "can't save as a jpeg or png anymore"

        Because technically that's not a "save", the format and purpose of png or jpg being nothing near that of xcf with its layer, channel and path information.

        Alternative is getting pop-ups like Libre Office about warning changing format blah blah every time you save.

      3. teknopaul Silver badge

        Blind copying of other software featuers is risky. Patents exist.

        In terms of FOSS projects GIMP is one of the best. Its 20 years old.

        Replacing Save as [insert lossy format here] with Export to [lossy format] makes perfect sense to those that grok that png and jpeg formats involve loosing data.

  3. slightly-pedantic

    open source video editor

    I eventually found an open source video editor to suit my needs in an unexpected place. It turns out that you can use the video editing functions in Blender and achieve quite a bit. However the ui is a little challenging!

    1. frank ly

      Re: open source video editor

      What about Kdenlive (KDE non-linear video editor)? Does anyone have any experience of it and how does it compare to better known and more widely used applications?

      1. Chemist

        Re: open source video editor

        "What about Kdenlive (KDE non-linear video editor)?"

        I've used it for years, since ~2012 I've used it for 1080/50p video and i find it excellent (esp. for free) - I've not used anything except Linux for years so I can't comment on Windows/Mac as hardware is now so much faster tthan when I used editors on Windows for SD video. I found kdenlive used to crash before ~2012 but that is now a thing of the past. I think it's one of the best for Linux and easier than Cinelerra to pickup.

        I use inkscape for laying out PCB (all manually) but I find its line width and spacing accuracy first rate certainly SOIC, and even TQFP are possible just using laser toner to copper transfers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: open source video editor

          OpenShot? It's currently being rewritten after receiving funding via KickStarter.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: open source video editor

          OpenShot? It's currently being rewritten after funding was reached via KickStarter. However, the original is still very capable.

      2. sisk

        Re: open source video editor

        What about Kdenlive

        It's hard to beat its capabilities and performance without dropping several thousand dollars on a proprietary program. At least I've not found anything that compares. It even beats Premiere in my opinion.

    2. brassedoff

      Re: open source video editor

      For video editing, Openshot is also worth a look. I prefer it to kdenlive

    3. Robigus

      Re: open source video editor

      Kdenlive is a belter.

      My kids have used it for their band videos: I'm very impressed with it.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqw_A1_VhEU

      and

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p07pKe36xnA

      The ability to create a project (an intro for example) and embed the project in the main project has been really useful.

      With an OS plugin, Inkscape fed a vinyl cutter we had for decorating items belonging to some big UK names, after tracing their logos from bitmaps. Cracking application.

      1. Cliff

        Re: open source video editor

        Lightworks made a big thing of going open source some years back - so why isn't it forked for the h.264 export? I'm not convinced it's as open as it claims.

        It is a blooming great NLE though, although AVID is still my first love.

  4. captain_ken

    inkscape featues

    Can I underline text yet, or do I still have to create a separate line and position it somewhere near?

    1. phil dude
      Boffin

      Re: inkscape featues

      I believe underline is a property of the text, like bold for example.

      P.

      1. captain_ken
        FAIL

        Re: inkscape featues

        Oh? Go on then give it a go, and export me a nice pdf of the result when you're done just to be sure.

    2. DN4

      Re: inkscape featues

      You can set text-decoration attribute to underline in the built-in XML editor. Not convenient but frankly I cannot see discouraging people from underlining text as a bad thing...

      1. captain_ken

        Re: inkscape featues

        This is true, it can be added in the xml and Inkscape will then display it, unfortunately, very few programs that support svg will follow through with that and it does not correspond to underlined output when saved out to PDF or similar to send off to my print department.

        As another professional who works with Inkscape, I'm pretty sure telling my clients that I've decided that they cannot have underlined text because it's "discouraged" would not go down well. I really do like using Inkscape however lacking something so basic is the painful reason we have to pay for corel draw "spit spit". Open source stuff often has the issue of people working on exciting features and code, no-one is made to do the dull stuff and so it sometimes gets left behind. I'm the same, I often help out with open source projects, I never take on the boring code!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also check out Dia. It's another open source package that was originally aimed at Linux users, but like Inkscape and GIMP it's also available for Windows and OS-X. Dia is a great alternative to Visio and OmniGraffle, although the web based LucidChart seems to be getting very popular as well.

  6. cmannett85

    I use InkScape almost daily for designing icons and doing UI mockups. I like it. That is all.

  7. John Crisp

    We (in Promotional Merchandise) dumped Adobe around the time of CS, and at the time we were way ahead of most our trade suppliers who barely used software at all.

    Like so many packages you have to think about what you really need, and 99.99999% of the time Inkscape could do what we required. The other .00001% or so we worked around

    Things I missed

    Pantones palettes....

    Opening ai files easily

    Easy text manipulation on curves etc

    We also made life easier for ourselves by adopting vector based EPS as a standard file format and enforced that with clients. If it was bitmap (jpgs in Word !!!!) then change it or pay for someone to convert it.

    These days we accept EPS or PDF.

    Yes Illustrator was a lovely piece of kit, with a great UI. But was it worth that much more?

    With no competition, of course. But with Inkscape there, absolutely not.

  8. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    I still miss Freehand.

    ...Just sayin'.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: I still miss Freehand.

      When I first started working in vector-based design and illustration, I used FreeHand, way back when it was still made by Aldus (remember them?). My first few attempts to learn Illustrator were more than a bit painful, whereas I was up and creating decent work in FreeHand in a day.

      Around the early '90s, Illustrator's finally got to where I could learn it without feeling as if I were beating myself upside the head with a baseball bat. I switched from FreeHand just before they were sucked into Macromedia (and, in turn, sucked into Adobe and snuffed).

    2. Havin_it

      Re: I still miss Freehand.

      No time to miss it, I'm still using it! The Macromedia incarnation, in a VM, that is. I learned vector art on it (really top-flight documentation), and it's served me well for years.

      Sadly I do find it's getting less reliable importing newer Illustrator files these days, so I'm trying to replace it with a combo of Inkscape and Scribus for pre-press work. Inkscape is still a bit flakey, but it's improved a lot: its trace tool, for one, is nicer to use than Freehand's these days. It's also a really good showcase app for FOSS: I always install it for family and friends when I'm sprucing up their Windows machines, and have had many fun hours (fun for both parties, I'm relieved to say) letting them loose on it.

      Would be nice if it spoke CMYK, but there's always Scribus and good old Photoshop (7.0!) for that.

  9. Mike Flugennock
    Meh

    Replace Illustrator? In your dreams

    I've sworn by Illustrator since the late '80s although I -- like many others -- am more than a little bugged by Adobe's subscription-based profit grab. When upgrading my equipment a year or so ago, I spent a little extra time and was able to rustle up a real, physical copy of CS6, which I plan to stick with until I retire -- which, to my relief, isn't that far off.

    Just for the hell of it, I tried out the OSX version of Inkscape on my MacBook Pro, and god damn, what a friggin' mess. It wouldn't import my Illustrator files cleanly, and the interface looks like a mid '90s version of Corel Draw for Windows 3.1.

    Feature-weak, makes a big mess out of my Illustrator files, and a butt-ugly interface on top of it.

    M'eh.

    1. lightweight

      Re: Replace Illustrator? In your dreams

      If you rate an open source app on its ability to open the proprietary files created by a proprietary application, then yes, you'll find shortcomings. But let's remember, those shortcomings - from a user's point of view - are Adobe's fault for not publishing the specs of its files, not the fault of Inkscape developers who have had to painstakingly reverse engineer the .ai file formats to achieve any sort of compatibility. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Illustrator_Artwork

      I think you'll find that Adobe doesn't *like* open source apps being able to open its files as well as its proprietary software can... so (as MS has done for over a decade) it changes the formats subtly from time to time to break compatibility as soon as the open source developers reverse engineer the formats well enough.

  10. another_vulture

    SVG

    I'm not a graphics professional, I chose Inkscape for my occasional 2D work because its native format is SVG, and SVG is a truly open standard. This allows for useful extensions. For example, there is an extension to emit gcode files to drive CNC machines.

    Also, since SVG is human readable, you can generally debug any strange behavior if you really need to, and modern browsers can handle SVG directly.

    I'm more interested in Inkscape as a replacement for Visio than as an Illustrator replacement. The SVG format can of course handle this easily, but the Inkscape developers seem to focus more on art than CAD.

  11. conscience

    Top Tips

    These comments are as useful as the articles sometimes, especially with all the tips for Linux applications. As a 'nix noob who's currently looking for alternatives I find it very useful. Thanks.

  12. Andrew Hodgkinson

    If you're on OS X...

    ...then Affinity show you just what a powerhouse closed source can be (I'm going to get *so* many downvotes for this) and just how good software really can be when it targets carefully, and integrates deeply with a specific operating system.

    https://affinity.serif.com

    As for "I haven't found anything in Photoshop that Gimp can't do", try > 8bpc images. Unless you're on the 2.9 beta, Gimp *still* can't do deep colour after years and years of waiting.

  13. A Ghost

    I first came across Inkscape

    a couple of years ago on Linux. Making up desktops for PCLinuxOS and BodhiLinux.

    Did some other stuff too. It's a great little program and fairly easy to learn.

    I have the portable version of it that runs on Windows7. Works great!

  14. Clive Harris

    A lot of shops refuse to handle non-photoshop images

    A friend of mine, who ran a photography business, came across this problem a few years back.The places he went to get his images printed out refused to touch image files which were not prepared with Photoshop. They cited various technical problems, but the real reason is that they get special deals on their own software in return for making life difficult for customers who use anything else. Of course, it's virtually impossible to prove any of this...

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I've been using Inkscape for years. I'm very pleased to see the speed improvements, but for most of my work the basics are all I've needed. I've built up a set of template files for shapes/icons I commonly want, and these days often just stitch the bits together with a few extra bits & bobs.

  16. Alexander Hanff 1

    Been using Inkscape longer than I can remember - love it just installed 0.91 last week and it really is an improvement even though I loved the previous version.

  17. ChubbyBehemoth

    Long time Inkscape fan

    The latest version 0.91 is the result of a four year bug hunt and conversion from C to C++, any new functionality was all linked to that effort and the result is nothing short of amazing. Try find other software that managed to increase its functionality in such a period. And this was all done by volunteers, rather than day job programmers. Respect where respect is due.

    The last stable version was 0.48 and the version 0.91 was chosen to reflect the amount of finish this latest version has to come near the 1.0 mark. Officially it is still a Beta, but as many users can contest to the quality of this Beta is such that is is fully functional and usable in a production setting.

    Though Inkscape is very good for web design, when it comes to print, there are some serious problems to overcome yet. CMYK is still marginally supported and you'll have to use Scribus (which was missing in the review) to print to press. Scribus however doesn't support SVG filters, so a lot of detail is lost in translation and most work will have to be converted to Bitmap to make it print the way you designed. Kind of a preprocess RIP which in these days of big harddisk isn't the greatest issue, but still an annoying extra step in the work flow.

    If web design is your thing, Inkscape will be more than capable to do anything you'd want with added benefit that SVG is a web standard these days as part of HTML5, even supported by MS. You can even make your wire frame and use that directly for your production models if you'd like. With some javascript, you can easily find the groups, get their BBox properties and use that to produce the right sizes for your DIV. SVG has a complete DOM representation so anyone used to poking around in that can do whatever they like with it.

    True,.. if you come from an Adobe background, you'll really have to get used to the interface which wouldn't be a problem for Coreldraw users.Methods were much more like the latter than Illustrator, which I always found to be a gruel to work with anyway. In general though, once you get the hang of the quirks that Inkscape has, you'll find your production speed increase with some 25% compared to Illustrator, just because the functions are more logical and easy to access. Unless you hit big files with tonnes of nodes that is. Inkscape still lags on the memory management.

    That the GIMP forces you to export work to my idea is very good, though I wonder if they shouldn't have you let safe a copy a XCF at the same time to prevent people from their own stupidity. To my idea if you safe work into a lossy format it should be an export and not like Adobe does lard it with metadata to make it functional in their Suite apps. A discussion on this issue is ongoing in the Inkscape developers channel and word is not out yet.

    For anyone with an interest in using FOSS software alternatives in graphics design, I can recommend using Inkscape (vector), Gimp (bitmap), Libreoffice (Draw has very good PDF import and SVG export of that, with SVG font support, though that sadly is deprecated in SVG 2.0), Scribus (Indesign alternative), Blender (for your 3d objects and video editing).

    All in all though, Inkscape surely can be considered a serious alternative for 80% of the work done in Illustrator for an unbeatable price. And it works on Windows, MacOS and Linux.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    opensource 3D CAD ..?

    is there any open-source alternative for Solidworks or Solid Edge ?

    1. sb56637

      Re: opensource 3D CAD ..?

      freecadweb.org

  19. Jonathan Richards 1
    Facepalm

    Up to the minute reporting

    > Inkscape recently released version 0.91 of their eponymous open source vector graphics application.

    Ummm...

    jonathan@Odin:~$ inkscape --version

    Inkscape 0.91 r (Feb 12 2015)

    Version 0.91 release was announced on January 30th. It was as recent as 2015, though, to be fair.

  20. Rambo Tribble

    If you're taking an Inkscape graphic to a PDF, I'd suggest throwing it into Scribus for adding details like underlined text.

  21. kwilco

    The world is bigger than professional graphics

    IT, graphics, etc. professionals always seem to forget that the world is MUCH bigger than your numbers. Translation: there are a lot of people out there using graphics and other software that are not "professionals" in your narrow sense. I am an instructional designer and I use both Inkscape and GIMP extensively in my work - most of it is pretty basic but no less essential. So what if Inkscape doesn't have all the (mostly unused) features of photoshop? Know whut I'm sayin?

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