Thoughts on Microsoft Acrylic

I started playing with Acrylic a bit today and I’m amazed (bet you didn’t see that one coming).

For the purpose of reference, so you know where I’m coming from, here’s some background:

  • I started doing graphics work with Paint Shop Pro back in the day and I eventually moved onto Adobe Photoshop 5.5.
  • Since then, I’ve only upgraded to Photoshop 6.0, so I haven’t had much experience with the newer CS versions of PS.
  • I’ve used Illustrator a bit, but mostly to draw my lineart, and not for any serious graphic design.
  • I have a copy of Corel Painter 8 or 9, but I never got into it
    because it was sooooo poorly optimized that I’m not sure how anyone
    seriously used it.  Likewise, doing freehand artwork in
    Illustrator 9 is insane.  At 300dpi, an 8×10 image takes nearly 5
    minutes to save (and I’m on a 2.4 Ghz Pentium IV with 1280 MB of RAM).
  • I’ve also worked with Corel Draw and Flash.
  • I haven’t been doing as much artwork lately.

Okay, with that out of the way, I’d like to say that I’m pleasantly
surprised by Acrylic (I remember reading a lot of bad first impressions
very early on).  Some observations first:

  • First of all, it seems to combine many of the tools into one as
    it allows for the creation of pixel (bitmap) and vector layers so that
    you can work with both types of objects in one document. 
    Previously, at least with PS6, this was not possible.
  • It’s much more finely optimized than Illustrator or Painter.  No slowdown at all (and I’m currently on my laptop).
  • Some of the new UI paradigms are great; I’m quite fond of
    the “combo-lock” style toggles and the easy to access sliders (in PS6,
    a lot of the sliders are hidden/context sensitive).
  • To go with the above, many graphic artists are going to have to
    do a bit of retraining.  I mean, gosh, I feel like the Adobe PS
    interface is so ingrained in my mind that I find it a bit hard to
    adjust…I feel kinda lost :-S.
  • Acrylic allows to to completely customize the hotkeys!  Excellent!
  • Unlike the Adobe products I’ve used in the past, this, even in such an early stage, ships with tons of predefined brushes.
  • Wow, I love the way it allows you to toggle the width of a vector
    brush stroke.  I think I’m in love.  Illustrator was such a
    pain in the ass in this respect.
  • There’s an XAML exporter as well (as a seperate install). 
    I’ll have to try that out later and see how it works.  I’m
    actually quite curious how the vector and bitmap objects will map to
  • I don’t know that I’m so fond of the way the layers are
    represented.  Unlike in PS, where layers are in their own window,
    the layers are represented with a subwindow of the main document.
  • Where is the history?
  • There is no “Save for Web” option as far as I can tell…

I’ll keep updating this post as I play around with it a bit more. 
I think I’m going to move one of my current projects into Acrylic
instead.  So, my biggest question now is: Microsoft, how much is
all this gonna cost?  If they price it around PS, work on a some
minor UI oddities (embossed icons? I dunno), and add a web optimization
interface, I think they have a winner on their hands as it seems, at
least on initial inspection, to be quite a good product.

Now what I really want to get my hands on is Sparkle.

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