Four drawing programs

Freedom for the Mouse

Users can confidently ignore the tool in the first level of the tool palette if they are planning to draw multiple lines one after another: It only ever adds one segment. The program then immediately switches to the selection tool. You can only really draw with the tools offered by the Curve drop-down. The freehand and Bezier curve tools are located here. Although the latter provides usable results, freehand sketches without using the smoothing algorithm will only work if you have a very steady hand. A function for retroactive simplifying is also missing.

The ellipses and rectangles offered in the palettes really only draw full circles and ellipses or polygons without curves. Users need to delve into the Basic Shapes sub-palette, which offers flexible templates for arcs and circle segments or rounded rectangles.

The object connectors for flowcharts or other shapes connected using lines are a highlight (Figure 5). Inkscape includes similar ties that follow the connected objects when moved, but they are much more flexible in Draw. Users can add their own docks to the predefined sticking points.

Figure 5: Draw's object connectors are a highlight. If the template docking points do not match, users can place their own sticking points anywhere.

sK1

Those who do not enjoy the feature abundance in Inkscape or the drawing components in the office packages should take a look at the minimalist sK1 [4]. The development of the program, licensed under LGPL, may have stagnated for a few years, and the successor program may not yet be stable, but the developers did release a bug fix in February 2015. Packages for the current 0.9.3 version are available on the homepage.

The program interface is clear and tidy. sK1 offers a limited but sufficient feature set for simple sketching, including circles and ellipses, rectangles, text, Bezier curves, and straight lines. The small program only enables single-colored, transparent (if desired) fillings. An optional cross-hair cursor quickly and accurately aligns objects (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Single-colored ellipses, rectangles, straight lines, and Bezier curves: That is sK1's range of functions – usually enough for simple sketching.

The Control key limits the ellipses and rectangle tool to circles or squares. Objects with integer aspect ratios are not created directly, but instead are formed in a second step using the Scale and Mirror tool in the Transformation subsection of the Plugin Browser, which is shown when you click on the icon at the far right of the toolbar. There, you will find functions for turning, rotating, tilting, and more.

Users can type measurements for the height and width of an object and the start and end values for an arc directly into the fields in the symbol toolbar provided. sK1 draws simple arcs or pie sections; segments that finish in a straight line are available, as are open and closed angled variants. The Swap angles function proves to be practical when creating pie charts. The matching part missing from the full circle is created from a segment's duplicate.

Artistic Freedom?

The spacebar also switches between the active drawing tool and the selection tool in sK1. A further click on a previously selected object switches between move and tilt modes. Users have multiple options for aligning objects in a drawing. The left button in the status bar at the bottom of the window ensures that objects lock to the grid. Users can drag guidelines from the rulers into the drawing area. The button to the right of the grid icon makes it magnetic. However, guidelines tilted at an angle, as in Inkscape, are not available.

Instead, sK1 provides a function for magnetizing objects, so they snap onto the edges, midpoints, or control points of other elements when drawing or moving. Users can simply reference other objects as temporary guidelines. This functionality is perfectly sufficient for simple sketches and drawings, and the interface is not cluttered with too many buttons as in Inkscape.

One click defines the control points for Bezier curves; subsequent dragging defines the control tangents associated with the last point and thus the curve shape. sK1 cannot directly insert corners (points with different right and left curve tangents) when drawing. You need to retroactively change an initially symmetrical control point for this. Unfortunately, sK1 does not close curves accurately; instead, curves always have a second point – no matter how accurate your mouse is. It is only possible to merge the two points in edit mode to smooth out the curve. The test team also searched in vain for a freehand tool.

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