ISSUE 434: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE
Adobe's graphical competition can't come close
to Illustrator and PhotoShop for the Macintosh - Feb 17 1998
Recently, we took a look at the new release by
Ottawa-based Corel of its Corel Draw graphics suite, version
8. The package offers a pro-level illustration program, along with
photo enhancement and 3-D graphics programs, in a single package with
fonts, clip art and photos, and miscellaneous utilities making it a
graphics studio in a box.
Despite Corel Draw's power, extensive feature set and
attractive price, however, the graphics community -- professional
artists and designers -- tends to steer clear of the package,
maintaining a relationship with a pair of products from Adobe Corp.:
Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop. These are sold separately, each
costing about as much as the entire Corel Draw suite.
Most of the graphics community remains a stronghold of
Apple Macintosh users. The very first Macs came
bundled with MacPaint software. It was primitive by today's standards,
but the first easy way to create pictures on a computer screen. And the
whole direction of the Mac -- the first popular graphical operating
system -- seemed designed to appeal to a right-brained, artistic
temperament. With the release a few years later of Aldus
PageMaker, desktop publishing brought Macintoshes into corporate design
departments, cementing the pairing of Macintosh computers and graphics
Nothing since then has really shaken this
relationship. Windows computers have become easier to use, and most of
the main Mac software products have been released in Windows versions.
Despite that, most people working professionally with graphics and
design continue to work on Macs.
There are good reasons for their loyalty. While
software such as Adobe's Illustrator and PhotoShop, MacroMedia
Freehand and QuarkXpress are available on both platforms, on
the Mac they are the centres of an entire culture. Many of the add-ons
and extensions that add capabilities to the core programs are still
only released for the Mac. Hardware products such as accelerators, sold
specifically to speed up PhotoShop operations, are Mac-platform only.
And when PC users want to get the finished products
printed onto high-resolution output, they may find themselves treated
as second-class citizens. Service bureaus tend to have more experience
working with Macintosh output, and in some cases are wary of working
with PC files. They've had problems in the past with Windows TrueType
fonts and Corel Draw files, and are more comfortable with the
Postscript fonts and files brought in by the Mac crowd.
Adobe Illustrator, for example, saves its files
directly to Postscript -- the page description language used by most
high-end printers. As a result, its files are pretty much guaranteed to
work as advertised. Like translating poetry to another language, when
Corel Draw files are translated to Postscript, the results are not
always as pretty.
Despite having a lead in owning the hearts and minds
of graphics professionals, Adobe hasn't been taking the market for
granted. Its core programs, PhotoShop and Illustrator, have both been
upgraded in the past year or so and now feature virtually identical Mac
and Windows versions, sporting an interface shared with Adobe's
PageMaker desktop publishing program.
PhotoShop, updated last winter to version 4, now
features layers, allowing users to work on a graphic as if it was
built-up on multiple transparencies. This way, artists can make changes
to individual layers without altering the parts of the graphic
underneath. The changes can then be viewed in a preview before the
actual picture is modified.
And the single saved file contains the older versions
as well, making it easy to revert to an older version if you're
dissatisfied with your changes. An Actions palette lets you record your
work, to automate repetitive activities.
The new version features a more logical tool and menu
layout, and isn't too proud to steal features from its competitors,
such as Corel's fly-out menus, showing variants on tools. By catching
up with features first offered by programs such as Corel PhotoPaint and
MacroMedia xRes, PhotoShop is able to maintain its position defining
the product category.
It's a similar situation with Illustrator, which was
graced with a recent upgrade to version 7.
Vancouver's Steve Bain explains his continued
preference for Illustrator by pointing out that it has completely
integrated the keyboard. There's a shortcut for just about everything.
And the shortcuts are shared with the other Adobe products, making it
more likely that customers who have learned one of the programs will
feel comfortable with the others -- and uncomfortable using the
With support for layers, powerful text support, and
easy importing of PhotoShop bitmap pictures, Illustrator has caught up
with features offered by competitors MacroMedia Freehand and Corel
Draw, in a package that's familiar to a generation of PhotoShop users.
And its output remains preferred for service bureau printing.
The result must be frustrating for the competition.
Seemingly regardless of what they produce, Adobe's PhotoShop and
Illustrator remain the defining tools for graphics professionals, just
as the Macintosh remains the platform of choice.*