Doodle-mation. (graphics software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
What do you get when you combine pen, paper, and a wandering imagination? Doodles, of course. That almost subconscious art form practiced daily by millions of people--on napkins, phone books, or whatever happens to be handy. More than just errant scribbling, doodling can be both creative and therapeutic. Now doodle-starved Windows users have an artistic outlet with Doodle-mation, Screen Magic's engaging new software toy.
The product is essentially a high-tech melding of two venerable childhood favorites, Etch A Sketch and Spirograph. The major differences, of course, are its brilliant VGA graphics (compatible with 16 colors, but 256 colors are preferred) and stunning computer-assisted animation. The creation process is remarkably easy: Place one or more geometric shapes on the doodle canvas, and define a movement path, shape behavior, and color scheme. Then hit the Go button and watch your creation burst to life. The 12 preset shapes are completely scalable, allowing you to bend, stretch, and shrink them to create new curves and angles. Movement paths are also quite versatile, including stationary, straight, circular, spiral, bounce, and magnetic (attracted to the mouse pointer). You can even draw freehand paths for the shapes to follow.
Behavior controls give your doodles animated pizazz--both beautiful and bizarre--as they hum along their merry paths. User-defined effects include animation speed, rotation, growth, and spacing between shapes. Much of the fun is simply experimenting with different combinations of object shapes, paths, and animation techniques. Even more stunning effects can be found in the color control panel, featuring two styles of color mixing (blend and sheen) and color cycling (backwave and Vegas). Other options include background, shape outline, and fill colors. Turn the color fill to transparent and change solid shapes to wireframe. All behavior and color settings can be adjusted on the fly.
Did you devise the ultimate doodle art? Save your creation to disk (with all settings intact) or convert it into a Windows screen saver. A built-in screen capture utility also lets you save snapshots of doodle screens as bitmap graphics, for gallery viewing or use as Windows wallpaper.
Though well designed, the program has a few limitations and missing features that merit serious consideration for a sequel. Most obvious is the lack of a stay-on-top, resizable doodle pad. As is, the program demands your full attention and occupies nothing less than a full-screen window. Doodling, by definition, is a multitasking activity, usually done while preoccupied with something else. Another curious oversight: You're allowed only one doodle screen saver at a time.
Fast, fun, and completely frivolous, Doodle-mation is a nearly perfect definition of software toy. With the help of your computer's 32-bit brain, stream of consciousness artwork has never looked so good.