Hi y’all . I have been working with Illustrator for the last 5 years and with Corel Draw for most of my computer-literate life. I’d like to draw attention on Inkscape, an Open-Source (= free of charge) vector graphics editor which has reached maturity some time over a year ago.
Most of my work is done on vector graphics editors. Recently, I moved to a new position, and found my CS3 installation to be very slow when saving files (that’s partly because the latest AI uses a dual path method), and files would often get corrupted. I mostly design interfaces such as dials, so a parametrical interface comes handy.
I had used Inkscape on my Linux computer at home, mostly for casual artworks; but I never contemplated using it at work. The dissatisfaction with Illustrator was such that I decided to give it a go.
For starters, Inkscape is a cross-platform application: you can run it on Windows, OSX or for those enclined, Linux and FreeBSD. As some may have noticed, the latest versions of Illustrator handle the SVG (standard vector graphics) format natively. Before the aquisition of Macromedia, Adobe heavily collaborated with the World Wide Web Consortium to lay the foundations of SVG. Inkscape natively uses this SVG format (an XML-based cousin of AI and PDF), so it can seamlessly open SVG’s saved in Illustrator.
Obviously, Illustrator is a very complete software, and there would be no point in comparing Inkscape with it unless you take Inkscape for what it is: a lightweight SVG editor. My installation weights a 117 MB, which is roughly a quarter of Illustrator’s 452 MB, and it saves multi-layer works in nanoseconds compared to Illustrator.
Still, I have found Inkscape to be suitable for corporate identity design, layout development, presentations and single-page publishing. It makes use of all the SVG format features. Latest versions of Inkscape have decent export filters to PDF, which is essential for print or the Web.
Illustrator features alpha transparency, but it can only be applied to the whole of an object. Inkscape uses that same alpha transparency, but it also allows to fade a gradients from a full color to a transparent color (see explanation). Gradient management is also much more sophisticated than Illustrator, and all gradients are automatically saved in a library, which makes it easy applying them to other objects.Grid and Guide management is also easier to tweak.
Right now, Illustrator is a little bit weak with aligning text to paths, but they are working on it. If you want to give it a try, you can find the list of binary installation files, which run in most languages.