IntelliDraw 1.0. (computer graphics software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by William Harrel
What do you get when you combine a draw program with rudimentary CAD and presentation features? IntelliDraw, the exciting new Aldus addition to the Windows draw-program market. But IntelliDraw is not just another vector graphics program. Sure, it sports a standard draw-program interface with Bezier drawing and editing, but it's also equipped with sophisticated technical drawing and simple animation.
Whether you need to create simple drawings to embellish reports or draw up plans to redesign the office floor plan, IntelliDraw will make your job easier and more fun.
It's a snap to install the program: Just fire up the installation program, and you're done. It is not, however, as easy to learn. IntelliDraw is powerful; you'll have to spend some time with it to master all of its rich, innovative features. Some of the pain of learning the program is assuaged with a well-done 90-minute training video that covers almost all the important features. After watching it, I understood IntelliDraw's sheer power and couldn't wait to get started. If you're serious about mastering it, however, you'll want to watch the video more than once--it covers a lot of territory.
Like most high-end draw programs, IntelliDraw supports multiple layer control, or layering. This feature lets you place objects or groups of objects on separate layers so that you can show and hide them or work on them separately. Layering is a must when you are creating complex drawings. A palette of action buttons lets you lock objects on a page or link them to other objects as well as group and ungroup objects. The action buttons let you perform a number of functions simply; other programs require you to wade through endless dialog boxes to achieve the same results.
Unlike other draw programs, IntelliDraw lets you add as many pages to a project as you like, which is handy for creating multiple views of the same drawing for proposals and reports or for creating animations with the program's Flip Book option. And, memory permitting, you can work on an unlimited number of documents at once.
IntelliDraw's Toolbox is full of easy-to-use drawing tools, such as the Connector tool, which allows you to draw lines that automatically snap to and connect objects. Connections can be locked, stretched, rotated, or drawn at right angles. The program also introduces two new drawing tools, the Symmetrigon and Connectigon. The Symmetrigon creates symmetric objects with a variable number of reflection points. In other words, if you set the reflection points to 4, when you draw in one direction, the object mirrors at three other points. There's no easier way to draw multireflected shapes, such as stars or pinwheels. The Connectigon is a polygon tool that automatically connects points of the object being drawn to points on other objects, allowing you to create complex shapes from multiple polygons. When stretched, attached polygons move together so you can sculpture shapes.
Another impressive feature is Auto Align. A pair of crosshairs follows your mouse as you draw, like automatic intersecting rulers. The crosshairs act as guides and run the length of the document window, allowing you to align the object being drawn to other objects. Auto Align also lets you arrange existing objects in relation to one another. When two or more objects are exactly centered, the guides form a cross over them. Unlike other draw programs (which use grids and an alignment dialog box to accomplish this), IntelliDraw doesn't make you turn off Auto Align to place objects freelly; or do you have to open a dialog box to align them. The crosshairs constantly inform you where an object is in relation to other objects in your drawing.
Keep Aligned locks objects into position in relation to other objects. Aligned, linked, and connected objects keep their relationship to their counterparts, no matter how you manipulate separate objects in the drawing. If, for example, you move a wall in a floor plan, the other walls, hallways, and doors stay connected and resize accordingly. This ability to automatically redraw connected objects makes IntelliDraw ideal for drawing simple CADlike diagrams, and layering allows you to get relatively complex. You can even assign measurement lines and figures that automatically adjust themselves when you resize elements in the drawing.
Yet another slick feature is the user-defined symbol library, to which you can add and delete objects. You can also edit symbols once they're defined. Symbols are linked. If you use the same symbol several times throughout your document, you can edit it once in the symbol library, and IntelliDraw will update every occurrence in the document. This is not. however, DDE or OLE and will not work across several drawings.
There's also a collection of intelligent clip art. You can add drawers to file cabinets or change the shapes of trees simply by double-clicking on them. For example, you can change a pine to an oak with a couple of mouse clicks. Change a chair into a sofa by stretching it. No--you don't get a distorted, elongated chair, as you do with other clip art. This intelligent clip art actually converts the chair to a sofa.
Of course, IntelliDraw isn't perfect. Primarily because of the program's power, it's not always easy to locate functions. Many functions are original to IntelliDraw, such as creating duplicates (complete with connections) by pressing Ctrl and dragging with your mouse. Therefore many functions aren't necessarily familiar or intuitive. Unfortunately, there are some common functions equally difficult to locate--how IntelliDraw fits text on a path, for instance. Most programs have a simple command for this function. But IntelliDraw requires several steps that entail ungrouping a text block and then choosing a couple of other commands to achieve the same effect. In fact, this particular function was so obscure that I had to call Aldus for help. There is, however, a floating Info window (similar to some other programs' status line) that not only tells you the name of the tool or menu item the mouse cursor is pointing to, but which also suggests what you can use the item for.
An important drawback to mention is IntelliDraw's lack of support for color separations. Creating camera-ready art for multicolored documents could be a problem. You can, however, print separate layers, which will give you spot color separations.
Since IntelliDraw is supported by Silicon Beach, a subsidiary of Aldus, the technical support policy is different from the support policies of other Aldus products, such as PageMaker and Freehand. The company's usual support policy is 90 days free and then paid support through subscription or a 900 number. IntelliDraw support, however, is free for an unlimited period. This is good news because this program will take you some time to learn.
Color separation and complexity issues aside, IntelliDraw is a great, innovative draw program, especially for just $299. It fits neatly into most applications, except for commercial prepress. And there's an identical Mac equivalent, so it's easy to distribute drawings across platforms or on a network. IntelliDraw is a solid performer. Spend some time to grasp its power, and it will pay you back double.