Harvard Draw. (illustration-design software) (Evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
Not content with dominating the DOS charting and presentation market with its venerable Harvard Graphics, Software Publishing enters the illustration-design arena with a Windows program slated to go head to head with CorelDRAW!, Micrografx Designer, and Arts & Letters. The name of the contender is Harvard Draw, and it's loaded with exceptional features that would put it in the final round of any competition. The only question is whether there's room in the ring for yet another new face.
In the beta release seen at COMPUTE this fall, the product lacked some of the more interesting effects of CorelDRAW! such as extruding and perspective, but it had layers like Designer. It could make circular copies (generating multiple copies in a circle, rotating each so that they face a common axis) and rectangular copies (producing copies in perfectly place columns and rows).
An onscreen help line provides the options associated with each icon as it's selected. (For example, clicking on the oval icon reveals a line that tells you to press Shift to generate the oval from the center rather than the corner of its selection rectangle and to press Ctrl to constrain the oval to a true circle.)
This is a nice feature for beginners that can easily be turned off when you become familiar with the special options. The program also provides an onscreen palette.
The Harvard Draw autotrace is as friendly as Micrografx Designer's and very fast. It borrowed that tiresome "sands through the hourglass" mouse cursor from CorelDRAW! for use while the program is busy.
One of the innovations in this product is the scripting language, which allows you to write and edit drawings with a text editor. Simply copy the text file into the Windows Clipboard from a text editor while Harvard Draw is running, and the commands read a little bit like remedial PostScript: opendraw; set fillnone; setoutlinecmyk 0,0,0, 100; and so forth.
Harvard Draw also features a form of envelope editing that allows you fit text to more than one curve, group, combine, cut holes, paste copies of an object to a path, blend shapes and colors, perform shaped gradient fills (like a rectangle, a 12-pointed star, and several others), mix color on a CMYK or an RGB model, fill an open path, automatically generate regular polygons, choose from a 16-level undo, get context-sensitive help, and more.
The most exciting news is that a new team of programmers is working in the area of design software, which means that new ideas will come even faster and the competition will be even more fierce. Although Harvard Draw seems to lack a few of the features that make the big three (Corel, Micrografx, or Arts & Letters) distinct, it will probably answer the design needs of most of the people looking into it kind of software. If I were shopping for a design package, I wouldn't settle on one of the big three until I had seen Harvard Draw in action.