Lineform vs ZeusDraw

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by KeithPratt, Mar 8, 2007.

  1. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    I'm in a quandary...

    I downloaded the trail of each but they've run out and I haven't decided. (Incidentally, Lineform still runs in demo mode despite the thirty days being up, but Zeus doesn't.)

    I liked that Lineform had layers, and liked its Quartz effects. But I preferred the way you could draw multiple brush strokes in Zeus without having to re-select the brush tool each time, as you would in Lineform.

    I did find that it was difficult to frame a drawing in Zeus (ie, printing and saving as a pdf) as the canvas seemed infinite and without any page margins. In Lineform the canvas was the page. But I did like the way you could easily make brushes from any objects in Zeus...

    Anyone have any opinions on either?
  2. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    All righty, I gave each of these a quick spin because I was curious. If I had to choose between these two programs, Lineform would win hands down.

    I didn't encounter the brush problem you mentioned. I sampled the recently released version 1.3, is that the same version you tried?

    Both programs seem to have basic tablet support, at least pen pressure is there (hidden pref for Lineform but it seems solid). That's a Good Thing, especially for software in this price range.

    Zeusdraw seems to have only a background and a foreground layer, while Lineform has real layers. No contest there.

    The Lineform brush tool works very smoothly, it beats the pants off Zeusdraw (and even Illustrator) in that department. It's actually pleasant to draw freehand strokes in this thing.

    Selection in Lineform is a little quirky, and by that I mean more a tiny bit unconventional than hard or broken. I could get used to the single- vs. double-click thing, and there are traditional Illustrator-style icons for that if it feels too weird.

    I found Zeusdraw selection to be just plain icky: it's not immediately obvious that smaller objects are really selected, you need to select all of an object if you want to use drag to select, and you apparently can't do selecting incidentally from within e.g. the pen corners tool. Way too modal.

    Lineform can load and save as SVG, giving it some real interoperability with other software (Illustrator in particular). The open support is somewhat incomplete at the moment, and I couldn't test saving because it's disabled in the trial mode, but opening did at least preserve the vector information if not the correct painting details. Zeusdraw, on the other hand, can only place foreign vector images without any editing capability.

    Looking at the release histories, Lineform is seeing much more active development. That would give me some confidence that missing or incomplete features will get some attention.

    On the (nearly empty) Zeusdraw support forum, I did see a reply from the developer to someone asking about the print range problem. A workaround is offered there.


    Neither of these programs will be causing any sleep loss for anyone at Adobe, but that's no surprise considering the price tag difference.

    Before you pay for either of these, I'd suggest giving the free Inkscape a try. It's a somewhat more mature product, maybe not as slick as Lineform, but it has a good toolset. Under OS X, Inkscape doesn't do pen pressure, but that only matters if you're using a tablet. It does, however, have very good SVG support and can save as PostScript (which Preview can painlessly PDFify), so your software options are open in the future.
  3. jbesard macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2007
    I looked at both ZeusDraw and Lineform. They both have (different) strong points and weak points. I eventually chose ZeusDraw because of the brushes. Lineform's brushes (like many of Illustrator's) work by warping a drawing of a brush along the path. If you make a bunch of brush marks with the same "artistic stroke", they all look the same. I think that's kind of boring. ZeusDraw's outline brushes have a controllable amount of randomness that you can set so the result isn't always the same. The brushes in the "brush library" make strokes with texture that can be much more interesting. Not quite like Painter, but almost. Other points about the brushes:

    You can see at least an approximation of what the brush stroke is going to look like as you are drawing. I don't like the path first, brush stroke when you're done method of operation, especial when I use the tablet.

    (Big point for me) You can make and save your own brushes.

    Other things that influenced my choice:

    It works really well with the tablet - for most things I don't have to put the pen down and go to the keyboard.

    The text objects don't use text boxes. I make posters for people sometimes and I found the textbox arrangement on Lineform very awkward.

    The in place editing of gradients is pretty neat as well as being able to drag and drop gradient chips.

    The snap to path, snap to point and snap to angle stuff makes some kind sof drawing much easier.

    Lineform's pen tool works like every other pen tool I've ever tried. ZeusDraw's works differently - you enter the anchor points and wing points as you go along by clicking and you can go back and move any of them in the middle of inputing a path. At first I was a bit put-off but by this, but after using it a bit I'd never go back to the other way.

    I like the way the viewing tools are done, especially having a "view undo" where you can go back to previous views.

    As for some of the things that you mentioned:

    Yeah the canvas is infinite, but if you don't like it, you can turn on the printing page boundaries. It's under the view menu.

    I'm puzzled by this. Did you actually take some time to really explore either program in your "quick spin"? Line form seems to work by drawing a polyline as you move the mouse or pen and then replacing it with a Bezier path. If you move the pointer rapidly you get an obvious, non-smooth polygon. ZeusDraw seems to work the same way - except that you have the choice of turning the smoothing on or off and choosing the amount of smoothing. Did you turn the smoothing on when you tried ZeusDraw? I couldn't see any difference in the responsiveness between the two programs.

    Not sure what you mean - the command key changes the tool back to selection arrow while it is held down and so does the rh mouse button. I have the button on my wacom set to be the rh mouse button for this.

    Inkscape ? The last time I tried it, it was like most other open source desktop apps - too many cooks playing with the soup. Lots of features, many of which are odd or don't quite work. Plus X programs look really crude after Aqua.
  4. iMeowbot macrumors G3


    Aug 30, 2003
    Yes, I checked every feature I would care about.

    I saw a VERY pronounced problem with this in the ZeusDraw program, and the smoothing hack provided was far too simplistic to be of any real value. I encountered no such awkwardness with Lineform.

    Yes, with the aforementioned poor output.

    See, that's exactly the awkward modality, an antique command-based approach. It doesn't do The Right Thing based on context.

    It gets the job done, the interface is predictable and reasonably up to date for an X11 app, and its input and output follow industry standards. It has working features that are normally only found in apps much more expensive than the others under discussion here.

    A pretty face doesn't much matter if the software doesn't get the job done, and both the paid programs under discussion are, in all honesty, inadequate for any sort of serious use.
  5. jbesard macrumors newbie

    Mar 11, 2007
    There must be some sort of unhappiness with between your machine and the version of ZeusDraw that you have. I see no discernible difference between the freehand line in Lineform and the one in ZeusDraw with the smoothing turned on to a modest amount.. (And, no, I am not blind, unskilled in drawing nor unfamiliar with the usual range of drawing programs.) Perhaps you should report it as a bug if it has a really bad result on your system.

    BTW, "hack" is a rather prejudicial and, in this case, incorrect term. What it is doing is fitting a chain of Bezier curves to a polyline gathered from mouse events. This is what Lineform and most programs do other do. It is merely offering, in addition, the ability to adjust the tightness of the fit or turn it off altogether.

    With InkScape, if I draw a rectangle it leaves it selected with some resize handles. But what if I want to draw rectangle starting at the previous one's corner? I can't - as soon as I try to start drawing, it resizes the previous one. I have to go and click on the background to deselect it before I draw the next one. That is the trouble with stuff like this - it can get too smart for it's own good and starts stepping on my feet. I assure you I find this behavior as annoying as you would find using the rh button or command key to select from within the rectangle tool. What have we learned? This isn't math. There is no "Right Thing". There is the "Thing That I Like" or the "Think That You Like". As a gentle suggestion, perhaps you could learn to say "In my opinion..." or "I like..."

    Not if you want to pressure sensitive drawing with a tablet.

    It has lots of features. It's free. For me it has an ugly, cluttered UI (someone should point out to them that having a rainbow of colors staring at you isn't a good idea for a graphic arts program). It suffers from too much "I want to put _my_ feature in there." Who really needs [an apparently non-working] fretboard design feature in a drawing app? But if it works for you, great.
  6. KeithPratt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks for your input. I was kind of hoping someone would favour Zeus, as it was the one I had a better feeling about using. Now I'll let you get back to your argument.

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