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Vector app alternatives

A Decent FreeHand Alternative And Then Some...

Post and discuss about other good vector graphics applications.

A Decent FreeHand Alternative And Then Some...

Postby Tom Fulery » Tue Jul 29, 2014 10:40 am

Given the Mac's graphics power, the lack of a pro vector graphics & page layout alternative to Illustrator for Macs is a disgrace. Gravit sounds promising, but like with Stagestack, I'm not holding my breath.

For me, the beauty of Freehand was professional vector graphics & page layout in one program, making it ultra versatile & efficient for design & layout work.

So I've been looking for a decent (or even an indecent) FreeHand alternative ever since my MacBook Pro kicked the bucket last year. I've tried all the Mac vector apps, but after FreeHand, they're all hopelessly limited. While Inkscape (free & open-source) is sufficient for most pro-level vector work, it's needs XQuartz on Macs & isn't intended for page layout. Illustrator & Indesign are both far beyond the reach of most people; even many pros.

But a few months ago I tested an app called Eazydraw, a technical design program. At first I dismissed it as just a technical drawing app. But technical design & graphic design are very similar, & after looking at it more closely, I'm fairly impressed with its versatility. While it lacks many of FreeHand's advanced graphics features, its high-precision SVG functions give it serious vector muscle & its nice page layout functions make it not only versatile, but actually a fairly good FreeHand alternative for the vast majority of users who don't need industrial CYMK capability.

Like Freehand, Eazydraw does complex vector design & layout in one app. Like Freehand, every aspect of a project can be displayed & precisely controlled with settings. The interface is well-organized & highly customizable. It has multiple pages & the page margin can be expanded into a large scratch area similar to FreeHand's. Text-editing is smooth & stable & text-wrap works flawlessly. It imports & exports many formats.

Just a few minor additions like font menu preview, wider page separators & a bit better graphics capability would not only make Eazydraw an exceptional design & layout program, but also the best Freehand alternative I've seen yet for all those who don't need industrial CYMK capability yet want solid vector design & layout in one app.

Freehand users may find Eazydraw a bit mystifying at first, but its usefulness far outweighs its drawbacks. The worst thing about Eazydraw is also the best: a large array of tools & menu options that can seem complex until you get the hang of them. The Convert Menu, for instance, contains dozens of different vector conversion types. And some functions, like Boolean ops & Composition Effects, seem rather nonstandard. But this is a deep program & well worth the effort to learn.

Those interested in any kind of technical design will find a wealth of useful tools & features (I easily drew up a floor plan for a remodel project), but these can also mostly be ignored. The 370 page user manual is very comprehensive. As for CYMK, EazyDraw offers two levels of CYMK prepress function.

Eazydraw's creator, Dave Mattson, is very helpful & open to suggestion. Late one night, as I was wrestling with some minor problem, I emailed Eazydraw support. A few minutes later Mattson himself replied with the solution. (That's what I call customer service!) While Eazydraw lacks many of FreeHand's marvelous graphics features, Mattson seems to be moving Eazydraw more & more into the graphics area. I imagine he wouldn't mind interest & input from FreeHand users.

As I write, version 4 is available on the App Store for the unbelievable price of $15; a pittance for such an extensive & useful vector app. Version 5 is also available for $29. The current version 6 adds improved points-editing, new brushes & increased tablet support, among other things, & sells for $95. Not unreasonable, compared with the competition.

While it isn't FreeHand by a long shot, it wouldn't take much to make Eazydraw a reasonable FreeHand alternative (as well as a reasonably-priced Illustrator alternative) for most people who don't need commercial publishing capability. As it is, it will do (for me at least) until something better comes along.

Together with Inkscape & Gimp, Eazydraw enables me to do most of what Illustrator & Photoshop do (and more besides) for a total cost of $25! Less than a one-month Illustrator 'subscription'!

Pros: Serious vector design & layout in one program
Many menu options, tools & palettes
Versatile, full-featured technical design capability
High precision
Detailed display & settings for every aspect of a project
Imports/exports PDF, EPS, SVG, DXF, CSV, Keynote, PNG, JPG, TIF, GIF, BMP, ICO
Multiple pages with expandable page margin/scratch area
Good text editing features, including text-flow, around, inside or along objects & paths
Highly customizable, including keyboard shortcuts
Uses Apple's versatile Color Picker
Full screen mode for those who want it
Extremely stable

Some nonstandard vector functions & terminology
Lacks many of Freehand's advanced graphics tools
No font menu preview; uses Apple's Font Panel
No hyphenation (currently)
A few minor bugs
Last edited by Tom Fulery on Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
Tom Fulery
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Re: This decent FreeHand alternative is a steal!

Postby FFH Mark » Wed Jul 30, 2014 2:34 pm

Excellent review! Very indepth and solid comparisons to FreeHand. As I wrote on another post about Affinity Designer, how are the draw and selection/delete tools comparable to FreeHand?

My biggest challenge with Adobe Illustrator is the non-intuitve approach to drawing and selecting anchor points. My curves are never as clean in AI and as my art gets more complex. Selecting objects via the Layers Panel is a nightmare. This is why I still draw in FreeHand and export to IIlustrator for it excellent effects. If Eazydraw handles any of these features more like FreeHand than Illustrator, it is worth trying out.

Btw, I notice you don't have a link to EasyDraw's site or is it only on Mac App Store?
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FFH Mark
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