It’s about time I mentioned a couple of rather excellent software products I’ve stumbled across in recent months.

First up there’s Inkscape, an open source vector graphics editor. Think GIMP, but for vector rather than raster graphics. I originally discovered it out of necessity while designing wedding invitations and table plans for my wedding last year. Having initially designed them in GIMP, I soon discovered that bitmapped fonts didn’t work too well once sent to the printers.

The fantastic guys over at GoWise didn’t let that phase them and worked closely with me to sort out the quality issues. If you’re looking for affordable and high quality printing I can’t recommend them highly enough – top chaps. After that, though, I decided it was time to equip myself with proper vector software. Unable to afford Adobe Illustrator I thought I’d have a rummage about to see if there was a vector-equivalent of GIMP: which led me to Inkscape.

Now, just as GIMP isn’t real competition to Photoshop if you have the money, I expect Inkscape isn’t direct competition to Illustrator either. BUT, if you’re just a dabbling amateur and have no intention of going further, the likes of Illustrator and Photoshop are ridiculously overpowered and overpriced. That’s where Inkscape comes in – it really does show just how marvellous open source software can be, and proved invaluable when creating the remaining wedding stationery.

Perhaps of more interest is that I’m now using it to illustrate the Arms Race comic. While GIMP or Painter might be a more obvious choice for hand-drawn, conetnt, I really like the precision of ink art in Inkscape. I’ll probably blog in more detail about the process soon.

Meanwhile, Stu Maschwitz wrote last year about Mac writing software called Scrivener. At the time it was Mac-only so I paid it no heed, but it’s now out for PC and is an absolute marvel. Being specifically designed for long-form writing, it’s proving an essential tool while I edit Evinden (I still haven’t decided on a title).

I’d found that the manuscript in Word was almost entirely impossible to wrangle from an editing perspective: there was no easy way to get a sense of the novel’s overall structure and pacing. Scrivenener on the other hand is designed precisely for this, splitting the manuscript up into sensible chunks with superb navigational and editing controls. There are some powerhouse features, but the benefits mainly come from hundreds of little minor tweaks and ideas that make the general process of editing a joy rather than a technical hassle.

If you’re writing something big, do check it out.


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