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Inkscape Version 0.92 is Released (inkscape.org)
402 points by p4bl0 on Jan 4, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 204 comments

I've always found Inkscape surprisingly easy to use in comparison to other open source tools (like for Gimp for example).

I use it for almost all my diagramming needs (scientific publications/documentation). Closed source tools are almost certainly better in one or more respects. But it's certainly good enough for me, and it makes me feel happy and secure to be using an open source tool.

Same here. As a quite graphically-challenged person, Inkscape is the only tool I feel reasonably comfortable using, and can produce passable results with. Most of the other graphics tools I have tried confused me to no end. In Inkscape, maybe the UI isn't as beautiful and flashy as in other tools, but it's very understandable and the amount and arrangement of tools feels logical to me.

I can't speak for people who don't suck at design, probably for them Inkscape falls quite short, but for me it was a godsend (despite the presence of some bugs, namely copying and pasting to/from different instances used to be a lottery, let's see if it's better in this version). Kudos to the team.

My experience is with Inkscape is quite different; it certainly doesn't feel intuitive to me.

I find myself unable to grasp the way all the avaialbe tools are expected to be used together, even after following the basic shapes tutorials; and I always seem to have the wrong thing selected, or the wrong tool active, or the wrong properties panel opened. And I still can't make sense of the differences between "object" and "path".

Maybe you can help me. When I want to change the way the current selected tool works, how do I know whether I have to change the options in the above contextual menu bar, or those in one of those dozens of hidden panels (that I can't manage to open again when I dismiss them)? How does one change more than one color in a gradient? And how does one create a shape with radial symmetries? (I found about tiling and the symmetry tab, but I couldn't make sense of it) I've been unable to complete any of those tasks.

Here's a crash concept guide to Inkscape for you.

* A "path" is a collection of nodes connected by Bezier splines; nodes can connect them smoothly or in a cusp.

* A path has an outline (with color, line thickness, etc) and a fill (none, a flat color, or a gradient).

* An "object" is either a path, a constrained path (like a rectangle or a circle / arc), a bitmap, or a text, or a group of these. You can nest groups arbitrarily.

Key tools:

* Pointer, the arrow, shortcut F1. This is your main tool. Used to select, move, rotate, stretch objects. Shift-click to select multiple objects. Click-drag to select objects within a rectangle. Ctrl+click to select inside a group. Alt+click to select things under the object on top. Space bar switches between this tool and your other tools.

* Node pointer, the triangle, shortcut F2. Used to edit paths. Click-drag on a path to change curvature, or click on nodes to move / edit them, or ctrl+click to add a node, or drag the spline handles. Does different things to rectangles, circles, stars, by moving their control points.

* Rectangle (F4) and circle (F5) are good starting points for most things.

* Line / polygon drawing tool (Shift+F6). Click on places where you want nodes, press Enter to finish. Press F2 to move nodes and make segments curved.

* Curve drawing tool (F6). Click-drag to draw a freehand curve. Ctrl+L to smooth down the curve.

* Text tool (F8). Click where you want your text, type. When frustrated, press Esc, click the text, Shift+Ctrl+T, edit the text in a convenient dialog.

Most useful keyboard:

* Cursor keys: move the selected object(s) by a small amount.

* Shift+Ctrl+F: fill / stroke dialog (if clicking on colors is not precise enough).

* Ctrl+D: duplicate the current object.

* Ctrl+G: group selected objects, or ungroup a selected group.

* PgUp / Pgdn: move the object up / down in Z-order.

* Shift+Ctrl+A: align and distribute things.

* Shift+Ctrl+M: precisely transform things.

* Space: Switch back to pointer from your current tool.

* Press space, click+drag: scroll the window.

Context menus, accessible by right click, are your friends.

Re symmetries: look at the star tool (press asterisk). Explore clones: clone an object with Shift+D, mirror it with H or V, then try editing the original object. Shift+D brings you from a clone to the original.

How is this all intuitive to me? Well, I started with Corel Draw 3 ca. 1992, and most concepts and shortcuts still apply.

Decades of using CorelDRAW have made it impossible for me to use Illustrator. So Inkscape has been a godsend!

Same for me. Corel on win 3.11. ;) InDesign is a good option for vector drawing. (Perhaps I have to change some keystrokes interiorized during the flash era)

Helpful! I probably won't do much more than use Inkscape for sketches with that helpful perspective box tool and the ability to work at low resolution and rescale, but it's good to have a reference like this.

wow thank you for writing all that.

Cool! Thank you, that will be useful.

It is impossible IME to use Inkscape unless you run through all the tutorials. The interface is not usefully discoverable. You have to understand the app's model of things, and that's opaque at best. I think it's worth learning though.

I learned Inkscape years ago by firing it up and going through Wikipedia images that needed to be converted to vector graphics[1]. I could pick images as simple (or hard) as I was comfortable with, and Wikipedia benefited.


A very simple tutorial for new users who never saw a vector drawing program would definitely be nice.

You definitely have to understand the app's model of things; this applies to every app, including things like notepad.exe. Users just happen have some prior exposure to certain models.

Clicking on toolbar buttons and reading the menu items, plus a little experimentation, also helps.

The first tutorial does teach you a lot :-)

FWIW I learned to use Inkscape quite productively without any tutorials. That was five to ten years ago though.

This was my experience as well. I did have working knowledge with similar tools though.

It is necessary to understand the basic concepts of vector drawing and memorize the shortcuts. What worked on me years ago, and made possible to switch from Illustrator to Inkscape (it was an happy transition) was this book at Flossmanuals http://write.flossmanuals.net/inkscape/about-inkscape/

Not as difficult as any vector drawing app (Corel/freehand/illustrator/sketch)

Are you using a new version of it? The tool configurations migrated all into the toolbar, and when they require some extra panel, there's a button for opening them there too.

That's fixed. But last time I used it the gradient dialog was still bad (there's an "edit" button on that edit window that only changes one color, you must click on it) and I also could never make sense of symmetries.

I don't like the "intuitive tool" argument because in the case of creative tools, intuition is what you use to actually create something, it is not what you use to know how to use/hold the tool: look at a physical brush, this is the simplest tool, you directly understand with your intuition how to use it, but it can take years to be able to paint something good with it.

Inkscape can be considered as a good professional tool for creative people because it's slogan "Draw Freely" is honored: once you got the basic rules about vector drawing and that you stick with it, you can create something, you won't create something because the tool created it for you by guiding you in a manner that will influence your work too much.

This is how I understand "Draw Freely", that resonate with the GNU/GPL freedom.

You didn't finish your post. You left off the part about how you read the manual and then you were fine.

What part of the 300+ pages? There is such thing as too detailed for a manual, in particular when it lacks a "quick dive-in" section that provides an shallow but wide overview of all the main features.

As I said, I followed several of the shapes and paths tutorials. That still didn't make the tool intuitive. I've just found this [1] "crash course" that might have just the right level of detail; it would be great if something like that was linked from Inkscape's help menu with a neon-flashing "start here!" button.

[1] http://www.chrishilbig.com/a-crash-course-in-inkscape/

I'd have thought he meant the Help menu pages, that are themselves Inkscape files, that run through all the basics. I've found them well made and very useful. Eg Help > Tutorials > Basic.

> My experience is with Inkscape is quite different; it certainly doesn't feel intuitive to me.

You haven't even tried to learn the software and still open your post with a statement like that??

Maybe you should watch some tutorial series on YouTube first?

Having to watch tutorials seems the opposite of "intuitive"

I did. Still doesn't help with making sense with the problems of "what tool is selected?" and "what mode is the tool in?".

Gimp prefers the absolute most surprising and unexpected behavior given all available options. Krita designers should be hired to redesign Gimp. If Krita support image editing slightly better, I'm pretty sure no one would use Gimp again.

Inkscape is excellent at surfacing options. Even a novice can discover how to use it simply by reading options available at any time.

I hear this complaint a lot and it always surprises me. I guess I'm just used to it after using it as my primary raster image editor for more than 15 years.

What is it that's particularly unintuitive?

As a user of Gimp of 10+ years and counting, here's some thing that have bitten me several times:

* The multi-window interface. I know you can change this, but there's no good reason for not being the default since the beginning. God help you if you close the layers window and don't know how to bring it back.

* That you cannot save to any format that it's not XCF, but that you have to export to them.

* The sliders to select tool properties, such as brush width. I can slide them (but not all the way from 100 to 0, that requires 6 slides!), I can use the up-down arrows, and I can type a value. But if I want to slide and I click it wrong, I have to enter a number. So now I have to click somewhere else first, and try again. It's frustrating.

* Overlap in functions between different tools. For instance, the perspective tool and the cage tool.

* Fine-tuning a digital tablet. I doubt anyone knows the difference between "screen", "window", and "deactivated".

* Multi-window interface, yeah, that's the first thing I change whenever I use a freshly installed Gimp. Using i3 with multi-window Gimp is a recipe for frustration.

* Only save XCF and export everything else — I was infuriated by that too at first but when you think about it it actually makes a lot of sense. People hit save with the expectation that they can continue their work later, but "saving" to a PNG (or similar) won't preserve your layers, paths, undo history, etc. That particular design decision has really grown on me even though I still hit Save every now and then when I really want to export.

* Sliders being split and acting non-standard, I'll give you that it takes some getting used to. I don't think it's terrible, but maybe enabling Ctrl for fine tuning or something would be better than splitting the slider in the middle without much except a small and somewhat ambiguous cursor change to indicate it.

* I don't think overlap in tool functions is a Gimp only thing. I would expect that in most software that doesn't exclusively operate on the lowest level possible.

* For tablet/screen mode, that's a part of Gimp that I've never used so I obviously have no idea.

> The sliders to select tool properties, such as brush width. I can slide them (but not all the way from 100 to 0, that requires 6 slides!)

Sliders are split, so the top slides over the full range and the bottom is for fine adjustments.

This is totally not obvious. No visual clue hints at this, except maybe the changing cursor shape, not very helpful.

>God help you if you close the layers window and don't know how to bring it back.

Assuming you even know you need to bring it back! I've had the experience of starting up GIMP for the first time, realizing I want to use it later instead, while trying to close it I close each individual panel first, and then the next time I opened it, it apparently remembered that I had closed all of the panels last time and helpfully didn't open them again. Took me a long time to figure out how I was supposed to do anything because I didn't realize anything was missing. I hope whoever has decided that UIs should be in many accidentally-closable-and-forgettable panels has seen the error of their ways or retired by now. See also: every single IDE...

> The multi-window interface. I know you can change this, but there's no good reason for not being the default since the beginning.

There is. It has bugs.

> God help you if you close the layers window and don't know how to bring it back.

You mean god help those people who don't see the Window menu in the menu bar?

> Overlap in functions between different tools. For instance, the perspective tool and the cage tool.

There is no overlap between those two whatsoever. None. Nada. Zilch.

> doubt anyone knows the difference between "screen", "window", and "deactivated".

Everyone who understands English?

Everyone who understands English knows that "gimp" is an offensive term.

In the Window menu you can now select one-window interface. Works great.

> That you cannot save to any format that it's not XCF, but that you have to export to them.

Every. single. time. I. use. Gimp. I. Open. The. Wrong. Save. Window.

I have a complete lack of understanding of the preference for a single-window interface other than to make GIMP look like Photoshop. I can't stand the single-window interface. Inkscape has been nothing but pain for me to try to use (and I can hand-write SVG just fine, so it isn't a lack of understanding of the format), so I must be on a different wavelength than many.


> God help you if you close the layers window and don't know how to bring it back.

This is true and awful.

Every time I need to use Gimp to make a collage of two screenshots to file a bug report I want to smash my monitor and throw it out of the window.

Gimp workflow/UI just does not stick in my brain. I can get back to using Photoshop after skipping a year and it will feel like I've left yesterday. With Gimp it is always a painful 15-minute struggle to figure out the right combination of controls to press.

I am the opposite. I can work with Gimp effortlessly, but Photoshop is endlessly frustrating. Why can't I access the things I want to do with the right click menu?

Inkscape is actually perfect tool for these tasks. You can also use it to add some annotations while you're at it.

For something that simple, why not use KColourPaint, or some other basic editor?

Last time I tried Gimp (1 year ago), I searched for an option to rotate an image a few degrees. All I found, was rotate by 90 degrees - like in pre-v5 Photoshop. I went back to Paint.net, which is good enough most the times (sadly it's closed source nowadays and gets little updates) - I open use Paint from Win7 too, for really simple things it's very fast.

Not really sure what you are talking about. "rotate" is on the main tool box and exactly how to do it was first google result.

https://docs.gimp.org/en/gimp-tool-rotate.html https://docs.gimp.org/en/gimp-layer-rotate-arbitrary.html

Tools you know will always be faster then ones you don't know but that doesn't help people who don't yet know any of the tools.

That's because image formats are (usually?) constrained to be rectangular. You want to use layer->transform rather than image->transform for what you want (and then probably want to crop so you don't have nothing in the background on the edge).

It's not like the other unintuitive program he learned before and therefore it's bad.

Gimp is never going to change radically, since it has already fixed an user base from people that surprising likes that horrible usability (they are everywhere read some of the comments in this thread), the right thing to do is to leave that software with them. Therefore keeping users with bad usability habits in their own little bubble, that being said, Qt developers could join forces to create a proper open source image editing app that makes sense for MOST users.

In my experience, GIMP-hating seems to have a similar lack of specificity to Linux-hating in general. I generally suspect that people underestimate how much Photoshop has them trained.

> Qt developers could join forces to create a proper open source image editing app that makes sense for MOST users.

Do you also believe in vampires and zombies? :)

Agreed! I actually prefer it to Dia or commercial products for drawing diagrams.

Sometimes, it's even useful for simple 2D CAD (for cutting shapes on a desktop CNC mill), editing PDFs or printing the output of KiCAD's PCB exports to check it for errors.

Truly a secret weapon and certainly my favorite open source graphics program.

>I actually prefer it to Dia or commercial products for drawing diagrams.

Does Inkscape have good routing yet?

I don't think so... but it should be implementable as an extension, I would think.

You can write your own plugins¹ for Inkscape as well. Last year I've had a lot of fun writing a plugin that skews, scales, and rotates objects in Inkscape to create (simple) drawings in the isometric perspective² — have a look at the write-up if you want to find out about basic linear algebraic SVG transformations in Inkscape. SVG is extremely well-suited for such tasks.

1: https://inkscape.org/en/gallery/%3Dextension/

2: http://jeroenhoek.nl/articles/svg-and-isometric-projection.h...

Inkscape is amazing. So is Gimp, Blender and many other. All amazing software. I have just one thing that I wonder, why do they all seem to be lacking in the UI department? They all have UIs that look and feel way more clunky than even the cheaper proprietary alternatives. Not complaining, I like them anyway but maybe a more user friendly UI would open up this amazing tool to a broader audience?

1. It's very very hard to find out what's intuitive, yet powerful to use. Unlike implementing some algorithms, creating a good UI requires feedback from users.

2. It takes a lot of time and you frequently have to start over once you find out that what you thought works well, doesn't work well for others.

3. From anecdotical experience, I'd say that user interface design isn't what open source developers are interested in. It's a distraction from what they actually want to work on.

Personally, I find Inkscapes UI okay to use. Blender and Gimp, on the other hand, are a horrible, unintuitive mess. Whenever I need to do some image manipulation, I try to get by with Irfan View and Inkscape (even for raster graphics) as much as possible, just to avoid having to mess around with Gimp.

In the case of Blender once you get the hang of it, you'll feel more confortable than with other similar tools that do the same. I would say its kinda like vim.

Also why don't you use Krita?

> Also why don't you use Krita?

Because GIMP is for general image & photo manipulation and the product vision for Krita is to be a painting application.

I just fund out about Pinta yesterday - and it's a pretty nice alternative for folks who don't like GIMP UI.

GIMP is a mixed bag though. For the chrome of the application they definitely need more work, better icons, better toolbars, organisation of the UI etc. However, their on-screen tools (selection tool, path tool, gradients...) I find the GIMP UI much superior to all other programs I have tried.

I've been using Gimp for 10+ years, the UI doesn't bother me at all in fact, one could say hit has become intuitive.

No-one ever said Photoshop 3's UI was unintuitive, yet that's what Gimp feels like to me (having used PS from vers 1 through 4)

For an example of a great UI (and a good CAD program) see solvespace: http://solvespace.com/index.pl

It has nowhere near as many features though. I think part of the UI problem is handling a huge number of tools and features like in Inkscape and Blender.

Blender's UI is great, highly productive and ergonomic, the way Vim UI is great.

It does have a learning curve. But the same applies to 3DMax or whatever else you might consider using professionally.

Blender's UI is pretty good, much better than it used to be. It takes some getting used to, but once you learn the keyboard shortcuts, it's pretty quick to navigate.

That said, Andrew Price's improved UI mock-up did look pretty amazing, and I'd love to see something like that.

> Andrew Price's improved UI mock-up did look pretty amazing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWacQrEcMHk if anyone's looking

E: After watching it, I have to say it has a lot of good ideas, although the dynamic ribbon stuff is probably too much (how did I get here, how do I go back?)

Mr. Price did some re-thinking and a follow-up presentation on that same subject, which is also interesting viewing.


Thanks for that. UIs really are not what people thinks, anyone interested in them should watch the video.

I was going to say exactly what you said. Unlike Gimp I love Blender's UI..

I took two attempts to get the hang of Blender but the UI was so alien I gave up. Maybe I'm going to try a 3rd time because Blender is just such a powerful tool, but I'm not doing 3D full time so it's difficult to justify 3+ weeks learning.

For casual 3D work, I've always been a big fan of SketchUp, but there's nothing like it for Linux. A couple years ago I tried to run SketchUp via wine which to my great surprise almost worked, but when I wanted to save my model it crashed :(

For CAD work get solvespace: http://solvespace.com/index.pl

Inkscape now has a design team, started by Xaviju of rethinkscape (see the link in another comment). Do join the fun in the dev mailing list and IRC #inkscape-devel

Unfortunately, rethinkscape was never followed up.


That link you posted is dated 540 days ago. The situation now is that Xaviju met Inkscape devs at the last Libre Graphics Meeting and the forming of the design team was decided.

I don't get your point. We are talking about professional software here, there is no "user friendly" Illustrator or Photoshop either. They all require a heavy use of keyboard shortcuts and have learning curves that a broader audience simply cannot get past and all need input devices that a broader audience simply doesn't posses. It takes equally long time to get productive in any of them. The real difference is not in their UIs, but in features, tools, performance, especially performance, Adobe just has more resources to throw at it, and those things can make you noticeable more productive in the long run.

Why is it good for professional programming languages to value clarity and elegance, but not professional applications?

Andrew Price explains better in his talk about Blender redesing than I could: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aIA2LaB2Iw

Many things in UX design apply to programming languages as well.

"git usability discussions"

That could be a glorious thing.

It's mostly because good UX testing costs a ton of money and these projects are mostly created by pure developers and not designers.

I'll bite.

The same could be said for programming: it costs a lot to produce code. In fact, if you run sloccount on Inkscape you end up with about 470.000 lines of code. Whatever way you slice it: that's a considerable effort. Yet people have contributed that for free.

Does this mean that UX-designers aren't interested in working on open source projects? Or does it mean that it is hard for them to collaborate with open source developers? If so: what are those problems?

The reason I'm wondering this is that if I were a UX designer wanting to make a name for myself, making some piece of open source software UX really good would seem like the best possible way to promote myself.

I think it's a slightly different issue. A UX designer usually does not have the ability to run a project independently from the beginning. A programmer can, even if it results in a crappy UI.

Successful open source projects don't usually start with teams. They start with programmers with an itch to scratch. It's hard to get investment in a group of people. Everyone is always keen at the beginning, but drift away as the realities of the daily grind kick in.

So if you are non-programming UX person, you are dependent on a programmer who might not stick around. Then you are shopping around for programmers (which never show up). If you are a programmer who wants a UX specialist, the one you start with usually wanders off and then you are shopping for a new one (which never shows up).

The result is that programmers develop a culture of building these kinds of apps and UX designers don't. Even if a UX designer shows up late in the process, they now have to fight all the programmers who have gotten used to making the decisions. And one of the perks of running your own project is not having to listen to other people. If you want to do what other people tell you, you can get paid a lot more ;-).

I have a theory. There's a much weaker positive feedback loop. If a commercial product is nicer looking and easier to use, more people will buy it so there's more money to fund development. Management will demand redesigns and improvements because that creates more revenue.

With open source, the feedback loop from users to developers is much weaker because it's not powered by money. It turns out changes in cash flow are a valuable signaling mechanism. I think this is an issue with many aspects of Open Source development, not just UI.

I'm not in any way saying this is an unresolvable issue or that it dooms OS projects, or anything like that. I just think it's a factor.

My two cents:

- UX designers that are actually good at their job seem to rarer than good programmers

- Hence the pool that would or could contribute to FOSS is smaller

- Getting UX changes in is likely something that maintainers don't really like, because it's harder and more time consuming to review (eg. the code you can just look at, but to review a .XML UI you need to apply patches, compile/build, play with it etc.), also UI changes will almost certainly require a bunch of code changes, so if you're changing a ton of lines to "improve UX", then it's not really a great incentive for a maintainer to invest his time into merging that (because it's "just UX").

UX also tends to be opinionated, the guy who wrote the interface originally probably has no issues using it himself, but is probably somewhat opposed-by-default to changing it (works for me™).

Also, if the UX human isn't also a good coder she probably needs to find someone who works with her to make the necessary code changes to support her UX changes, which would be quite challenging in many projects. (Why would I invest a lot of time to work with someone - that I don't know, has no reputation in the project - on something where maintainers will probably not give some sort of "yeah we'll merge that"-waiver?).

- Good UX has a lot to do with consistency. So fixing up an inconsistent project will mean tons of changes, exacerbating all the issues above. It might be as big a change as porting to a different language or framework. How likely is maintainer acceptance for such changes?

So unless there is a process for doing UX in a project, and all the project maintainers back the process, and the process is actually somewhat sane, it's unlikely that it'll work out. This might mean things like having an UX review queue and UX review for new interfaces. Imposing strict UX guides on code/feature contributions might also deter contributions. So you also have to balance these things.

«to review a .XML UI you need to apply patches, compile/build, play with it etc.»

That's also assuming that you have an XML or designer friendly UI toolkit at all. A lot of Open Source is built with GUI toolkits that use essentially 100% code and don't have good designer-friendly tooling (because the programmers were busy scratching other needs first). That definitely narrows a lot of designer input to designers that also can code.

A lot of people give Electron flak, but if there is one benefit to Electron becoming more common in the wild for open source projects, its the relatively much more designer friendliness of HTML/CSS(/SVG/etc) as opposed to classical C++ macros and duct tape UI toolkits.

For that matter, and bringing things a bit more on topic, I'd think Inkscape could be a good application to "dogfood" their own tool and own code a bit further and build more of their UI/UX elements in SVG itself. (Maybe even in a way that others could piggy back off of for future applications.)

"Don't have good designer-friendly tooling (because the programmers were busy scratching other needs first). That definitely narrows a lot of designer input to designers that also can code."

This is essentially the case with GTK+. Glade, though it has potential, is practically useless in it's current state. I've searched far and wide to find a mature project using it - so I can learn how to use it on the next level - and came up empty handed. There is no next level.

As far as it goes with GTK+, the only people designing UIs are programmers. It's all either hard coded in C or Vala (or sometimes C++), or defined in XML using tons of features that aren't implemented in Glade at all, and require an intimate knowledge of the GTK+ API.

As a free software enthusiast trying to work on a GTK+ application, I'll be the first to say, things could be (need to be) much better here! Beyond a couple trivial examples, the reference, and a couple dated books, documentation is extremely scarce. The tooling is incomplete, and it seems that the majority of people working in GTK+ have either grown used to working like this, or moved to another UI stack. Making GTK+ programming more accessible doesn't seem to be a priority (and adding more language bindings, or entirely new languages don't help nearly as much as a couple solid books on GTK+/GTKmm and a first class Glade would).

The only way to really learn the ropes seems to be by meticulously dissecting dozens of free software projects. No one will ever invest their time do this commercially when they can hit the ground running with Qt. It only seems remotely possible for stubborn people who write software as a hobby, and people who have matured to the point they can sell their knowledge. For a UX designer to end up here, they would have developed much more valuable skills in the process.

Two things:

- Consistency. A good UI requires consistency throughout, which requires a good understanding of the entirety of a piece of software, and a willingness to work at a high level. For open source packages there’s rarely a UI standard to hold individual problems up against.

- User testing. UX design doesn’t work in a vacuum, it requires user testing to be effective. This costs a lot of time and effort to organise, and isn’t something you can hack on for a few nights. It’s possible to to A/B testing to gain data of course, but then you have to persuade your friendly developers to implement a testing framework and have some place to store data while waiting for the results to analyse.

The easiest way to get consistency is to have a single person in charge of the UI. It doesn't need to be a UX designer specifically, just someone with a strong sense of style.

For a contrary opinion on the cost of usability testing, see "hallway usability testing" at https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2000/08/09/the-joel-test-12-s...

Part of good UX is consistency and getting that kind of requires a consistent team or an all-knowing overlord. My guess is that's why it's hard to get to and keep a good UX in OSS. Once the UX is good there shouldn't be much work for a designer to do and they're not gonna sit around, not getting paid, just to make sure someone doesn't mess it up, that is boring.

I'll add another potential reason - culture. Many (most) developers grew around open source, or at least interacted with it in significant ways during their (work and/or hobby) career. Many if not most of the tools they (we) use for programming come from open source too. So we're kind of used to this environment of collaboration. You see a project you like and have some spare time, it's natural to contribute.

I doubt UX specialists live in such a culture. I might be wrong, but from my experience with artists and designers, it's much more of an individualistic culture with stronger commercial interest. I.e. "I do it for myself" and then "want my work - pay me".

If that is true, then there's simply much less UX specialists with spare time and interest in open source than there are such developers.

I think the big thing is that most open source software is done on Linux, while most proprietary software is done for Windows and Mac. On Windows and Mac you have only one, native look and feel, to which all apps try to conform. On Linux, every distro looks different, and a big part of users doesn't want GUIs at all, so they consider aspects like look and design secondary. On Mac and Windows most users want GUIs for everything, so it's more important to make those GUIs look and feel good.

Windows doesn't really have a uniform look and feel. It has a sort of ideal at any one time, often led by whatever Microsoft are doing with the next version of Office, but the result is a giant mishmash of things written at different times using completely different toolkits and themes.

I think the big difference is actually that commercial software entities can hire UX people to design their user interactions. Open source projects generally have nobody with that kind of skillset, and if there is any money available it gets spent on core programming because there are masses of bugs to fix and features to implement.

I wonder how we could encourage more designers and testers to contribute to FOSS projects?

The problem is, designers can't implement changes themselves and developers won't work with designers long enough to actually implement new interface. For this you need a VERY motivated developer/designer hybrid and this is very hard to come by.

I know this because I am a developer and have a very good designer friend.

How can this be addressed?

I don't know, but maybe paying a developer to implement new interface.

Why not do some inspirational sketches and videos and see if the ideas actually convinces someone.

Or maybe UX as a separate role only works in hierarchical organisations where you only have to convince a few people that maybe don't care that much, don't have to do the work themselves, and might not enjoy thinking out things on their own, just saying...

Also see what happens with Gnome.

What do you mean? I find it a pleasure to work with the Designers. Even though they are paid by RedHat, as a volunteer contributor I feel I have good discussions with them and am happy to implement proposals. They follow up and seem genuinely happy about your contributions.

Do you mean the conclusion that it was in hindsight regarded as a good step forward?

You do know that we, the GNOME application developers, spend a lot of time supporting both MATE and unity to give people the best experience no matter which shell they use, right? Do you feel excluded by our work?

It'd be better to get people to read "Don't make me think". The concept of doing budget usability testing every month could help a lot of projects.

And with current technologies I'm sure you could set it up to be all remote with volunteers who'd like to help or use the help of their family members.

Find 2 or 3 random people and ask them to do some task while describing their thought process. Get your devs to watch the recording, notice what's not easy to understand in their UI and make it a priority to resolve.

Sometimes it wouldn't hurt if open source applications adopt UI defacto-standards made popular by popular proprietary applications.

Inkscape, Krita and Gimp have a good or at least good enough UI (it took some years). I don't understand why Blender has such a unique UI. It feels more like Unix Motif style app from 1994, something that was used for Jurassic Park. 3D editors and 3D CAD apps got a lot more user friendly - pretty much every 3D editor from 3DMax to UnrealED, Unity Editor and 3D CAD like Soldworks, CATIA, Creo and the open source FreeCAD have a very similar user interface and UX. You don't need a manual, if you know one, you can easily pick up an additional app and learn the details starting from there. I wish Blender would over an alternative mode, with more "traditional" mouse and keyboard mappings and re-arranged toolbar-icons.

In part I think UI is difficult because you can't do it incremently - if you update part of the app to have a better UI then the whole app suffers with lower UX because of the disparity in design and non-consistency in operation.

Meanwhile adding or updating features can be done readily, just stick another menu item on ... which can be eroding the UX gradually.

To add to that the UI that you have becomes familiar and so there's a huge inertia to overcome to make changes. I'm used to The GIMP way of things because it was my first such graphics program that I used heavily - using something like Photoshop/Krita/Corel Draw is hard because of the nuanced different approaches despite them being probably easier for a person approaching them fresh.

It's a difficult thing for a developer to distance themselves from an app to take a fresh view, also difficult to have a plan to make the app harder to use for veteran users in order to make UX gains in the long run.

My 2¢.

Is a cohesive UI basically a dictatorial effort that needs a command-and-control effort from a powerful visionary force to implement? If so, that's not a good match for decentralized open source development.

Or at the least, more effort would need to be put in on the meta layer - how to enable a cohesive UI vision in a decentralized manner.

I'd imagine this is a different challenge than backend coding styles. There is still room for differing backend coding styles as long as certain principles are followed like following APIs, writing tests, etc. A cohesive UI requirement sounds much more stringent.

I think that this is an issue shared by almost all open source projects.

They thrive to include as many feature as possible and have absolutely no UX / design guidance.

Anecdotally, each time I have interacted with open source enthusiasts while working on a our b2c closed source product, they have ended up being very user adverse with little empathy for the fact that the end user has no interest in learning to use the 10000 features they want to dump to them.

Yes, the ui is not user friendly and it alieanates designers who are used to other software. We need more designers in the inkscape, gimp and blender communities.

You could try Paint.NET (http://www.getpaint.net/index.html).

Windows only though.

Paint.NET is for raster images, not vector like Inkscape.

Was about to say there's a Linux version but: https://github.com/shana/paint-mono

It's 10 years ago. I feel old.

There's also Linux alternative if you feel like giving it a go. https://pinta-project.com/

Changing the UI so it's actually better is generally a non-trivial task.

Well said. Changing it is easy, actually making it better is rather tricky.

As an impoverished freelancer I've used Inkscape to create lots of illustration that helped put food on the table. I found it easy to use, only occasionally did I need tutorials for a specific task.

I don't really understand the complaints about Inkscape being unintuitive - tools that have lots of options and do complex things will by nature be less intuitive than tools that do simple things. Sometimes you've just got to learn the software to make use of it. I have lots of experience with both Inkscape and Illustrator and I actually like Inkscape more. Illustrator was perfect to me at one point, and it seems like Adobe just kept tweaking endlessly in ways that were detrimental to the product, rather than enhancing it.

Inkscape is great! Its PDF+Latex exporting functionality makes it perfect for diagrams in papers, exams, and whatnot. The editing tools are also very nice.

It also edits PDFs, which I found pretty cool! I use it to make airline tickets not take up a full sheet of paper. To be honest, if you export the PDF back out, it jumbles some of the fonts a little, but that's mostly OK.

When you export fonts, convert them to vector (it's a checkbox in the export). That way you never have to worry about font rendering.

Not to mention using Inkscape for filling in broken PDF forms…it's a major part of my workflow whenever I have to deal with such PDF files.

It's even better when you combine it with the command line tools. You can design a template on the GUI, and then customize it and export it via a script.

Which command-line tools?

type "inkscape --help"

on your command line. It exports things to formats, and you can query information from files.

Inkscape is amazing -- I've used it on and off for over 6 years, and it's never let me down.

Protip: It's PDF import is amazing.. try it.

The only thing I miss is a workable layers functionality.

PDF import is really useful if you want to avoid hand writing on forms and save an editable copy of what you've typed.

Inkscape is a gem! I'm glad more people seem to know of it than did even 5 years ago. I haven't tried 0.92 yet, but the one problem I have had with it is the macOS version, which requires X11 and has more problems with the window manager than even GIMP. Realistically, it's better to run these programs in a VM on macOS, sadly. On Linux & Windows, it is awesome and I have yet to encounter a circumstance where I couldn't achieve something that could be done in Illustrator.

I find it interesting how people still don't like GIMP. I always suspect people want it to be like Photoshop, but now I don't know. With single window mode, I have virtually no complaints. (beyond the continual lack of CMYK support, which prevents wider adoption)

For those developing Inkscape, I hope you realize that your efforts have helped me professionally, as I have regularly used it to design graphics and icons for web development at my work. Thank you!

There is an unofficial build floating around somewhere of a native MacOS Inkscape written against the Cocoa framework rather than X11. That's the one I use. It's an old version though.

Here it is:



The GTK2 and GTK3 versions work about the same for me. The main issue is that double-clicking and/or select-all in certain text boxes will crash the app. Fortunately, Inkscape saves a backup of your work before crashing.

Inkscape is used in every Finnish gymnasium (high school). This is due to the new computerized matriculation exams: https://digabi.fi/tekniikka/ohjelmistot/inkscape/

Always refreshing to see schools using free software to teach. Students can keep using Inkscape legally for free after graduation.

Similarly when they actually get interested in something and want to play around with it at home. It's just kind of shit when students are pretty much forced to piracy, if they want to learn more about something than is taught in their classes.

I love what Autodesk have done with Fusion 360, they made it free for students and tinkerers. It's a brilliant tool and I wish more software manufacturers got on board with programs like this.

Inkscape is amazing and I mostly used it for creating 2D graphics for game UI. One of the downsides is X server dependency in MacOS. Look and feel don't match the MacOS' standart look and feel. Keyboard handling and focus issues can be annoying time to time. Also some long awaiting issues like disabling antialiasing for exports are considered as low priority[1]. This prevents designer to export crisp images for 8bit style games.

[1] : https://bugs.launchpad.net/inkscape/+bug/947660

There's inkscape-osxmenu for MacOS[1] (though it was not 100% stable back when I used it a couple years ago).

[1]: https://code.launchpad.net/~suv-lp/inkscape/osxmenu



The GTK2 and GTK3 versions work about the same for me. The main issue is that double-clicking and/or select-all in certain text boxes will crash the app. Fortunately, Inkscape saves a backup of your work before crashing.

https://bugs.launchpad.net/inkscape/+bug/180612 you mean^^

The "bug importance" field is detailed here: https://inkscape.org/en/develop/bug-management/#Bug_importan...

Also, .93 will have more options in png export; so it's not impossible that antialiasing options makes it, that bug being in my shortlist of "bugs with potentially easy solutions to try". No promises, though.

If you're looking fantastic Inkscape tutorials, check out Nick Saporito's YouTube channel. Really great stuff for beginners and pros. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEQXp_fcqwPcqrzNtWJ1w9w

Sorry to be that guy, but I always had the impression that Inkscape is way more cumbersome and difficult than it should be. And it seems to me that there is very little progress.

I don't use/need vector graphics editors very much, but I now bought affinity designer. It seems to be way more professional, and is quite affordable (basically in the same price category as Inkscape, at least for me).

I don't know why you are downvoted for your opinion, but totally agree that Inkscape is pretty low quality and buggy as well. On the Mac specifically the experience is so 1990s and un-macOS (yeah I know, it's an X app)

I used it for a while for generating SVG files, ended up writing a script that would optimize the crappy files it generated and reduce them 10 to 20 times in some cases. Oh and then there are these odd floating point drifts (coordinate 10 becomes 10.035 etc.). Seems like one of those pieces of software that would be very difficult or impossible to fix.

If you're using it on OSX with the X11 layer it's kind of awful. But on Linux, or even on Windows I've found it reasonably decent. I found it less annoying to spin up a fedora virtualbox to run it on OSX than to use the X11 layer.

Its also not great on small screen resolutions.

Yes, I also had to create some SVG files during a project for a client and used Inkscape on Windows for that. Then hand-edited all of them, because I wanted to get rid of all the crap before importing them.

I basically just bought Affinity Designer as a knee-jerk reaction because I disliked Inkscape so much.

Inkscape adds a bunch of metadata to it's svg's, but also has a "Simple SVG" save-as option, did you try it ?

I did try it. Apart from metadata there are two other major problems: it generates a lot of unnecessary attributes with their default values, and also the floating point errors I mentioned. The latter can affect the appearance of your graphics on your screen unfortunately, i.e. a vertical line with X=10 is one thing but X=10.035 is another.

Optimized SVG is the one you want.

I find that the latest Adobe Illustrator does a pretty decent job with SVG's but of course Adobe stuff is a matter of taste (and is overpriced too).

there's a branch that gets gtk+ quartz (no X11) support, I'm sure you can find a build, the experience is a lot better.

I have that branch, and makes Inkscape awesome on OSX

It's great on windows. Maybe mac's not their main focus, as it's less than 10% of market share.

Not to mention it's really really slow when you start editing stuff with even simple effects like drop shadow, it's good for some things (like say you get an SVG file and you need to convert fonts to curves with a free app or something like that) but it's very limited and the UI is ghastly (the side panels that open when you edit effects and stuff in particular - huge controls with so much padding and ugly layout). GTK+ is just the worst for these kinds of feature packed UI (it can be OK for material design style UIs where you have few elements and don't mind the empty space, but not densely packed stuff like graphics effect panels and dialogs), GIMP and Inkscape suffer because of it.

It's a GTK+ X11 application on MacOS X. Last time I tried it, it was completely unusable--copy-paste totally non-functional (would paste vector selections as bitmaps).

On Linux, it's vastly more usable, and quite polished for a GTK+ application.

There is no such thing as a polished GTK app. GTK widgets are really bad designed take for instance the `open` or `save` dialogues, only somebody how does not care about usability could come with that. Any application (no exceptions) made in GTK+ can be done better, faster in Qt through a much more polished and robust API. it's ashamed that inkscape is tied with such bad widget toolkit.

After trying to use Inkscape for few days to draw myself vector logo in few versions for my OS projects, I've decided to bite it and get Affinity Designer while it was 20% off at App Store. I've had logo I was pleased in few versions and setup to export in all formats and sizes I've required in two hours. Its not even complex stuff, its basic things like making square with each corner having different radius.

I have been using Gravit.io and their Twitter(template)for custom Tweets it's fast,online & convenient.

How is Affinity Designer, do you run it on Windows?

I'm running it on windows, only had one quick try yet. Looks promising, but didn't do any serious work with it yet.

Inkscape is free, so unless you mean using stolen property, which is not free, there is no comparable vector image editor on the market for that price.

No, I am not talking about stolen property. But a one-time payment of 40€ is close enough to free for me to give it a try. That's why I said basically the same price category, not "the same price".

Or unless you include your time in the total cost of ownership, at which point an efficiently designed UI becomes crucial.

https://github.com/tksh/Pure-Stroke-SVG-Portrait I’m an analog illustrator. This is my first digital artwork made with Inkscape 0.91. Drawing with Inkscape is very interesting for me. If Michelangelo lives in our time, his sketches are made with Inkscape I think.

First of all I love this app <3

But it has a few problems in terms of usability the major one that would be nice to get addressed at some point is GTK. Getting inkscape to run on macos for instance, requires X11 which creates a really bad integration with MacOs itself. The solution is Qt, probably this is one of those initial decisions that Inkscape devs regret everyday.

Gradients is another example about bad usability, try by yourself to add a new step to the gradient without smashing your keyboard/mouse. Turns out the solution is googling it which gives a solution for that, however you will eventually forget about that since it's non-sense (then repeating the same cycle again).

Check out https://code.launchpad.net/~suv-lp/inkscape/osxmenu, it gives a fairly nice interface on OS X (though it seems it hasn't been updated to the latest version yet)

Gtk3 supports macOS natively

The next version (0.93) will use gtk3 and, hopefully, should feel more "native" in mac os x.

Anyone knows if v0.92 now supports hi-dpi screens? Last version didn't and I couldn't find anything in the release notes.

Otherwise a superb product, in particular if you are on Windows or Linux and you can't run Sketch.

That'll require GTK+3 at least. They're still using GTK+2. According to the roadmap it's scheduled for Inkscape 1.4. At the current pace it'll take years to reach 1.4 IMO.

See http://wiki.inkscape.org/wiki/index.php/Roadmap

Actually, we plan to release 0.93 with gtk3. The current devel version (trunk) already dropped all gtk2 code.

GTK+3 and then Wayland... I thought these were both making good progress on branches, but I can't find the developer roadmap anymore.

This graphic of the Inkscape keyboard layout is useful: https://openclipart.org/detail/188861/inkscape-keyboard-layo...

It could use an update though. I like Ⓜ for the on-screen ruler. It's quite useful if you are drawing plans using physical units of measurement (millimetres etc.).

This seems like a good opportunity to ask, is there a clear way to export an svg from inkscape for the web? In a lot of applications (for instance with logos on the web) you want to be able to make a selection, reduce it down to a single path represented by a single d attribute, and then be able to copy that off, or save as a file. I did manage to do it by fiddling around by combining/intersecting different shapes, until the output svg got into the right form, then normalizing that with an online tool. But is there a way to do this more easily in Inkscape?

Ideally you could make a selection, and then go to file > export for web, and get a graphical dialogue to allow you to play around with viewBox and other display attributes. Or is there another open-source program that handles this well? Now that SVG seems to be becoming more and more a first class part of the web, this kind of thing would be very useful.

It's even simpler than that. Ctrl-A (select all), Ctrl-K (Path->Combine).

The catch is that if you're using objects, they will be converted to paths (curves) and you'll lose useful things like fill, rounded corners, gradients... If you think about it, what you're asking only makes sense for very simple drawings - only those can be represented by a single path.

Ah, thanks for confirming, pretty certain that is what I ended up doing. If I recall, this did still have other issues, for instance handling scaling and origin was difficult, and also I think all the points had 10 decimal places unnecessarily. I needed to use web tools to get it into the right shape, although part of this may be that I was getting my head around the difficulties of how SVG works on the web, using viewBox rather than height/width attributes and so on.

There's a handy YouTube video covering various improvements:


I had to pause it quite a bit, but the demonstrations are nice to skim.

While on the topic of Inkscape. I've been wanting to post this for the programmer/gamer crowd. At one point I was able to do vector scans & then go in an fill them. I had a lot of interest from German gamer crowd, whom liked the backdrops. However, Inkscape no longer allowed this. Adobe followed with something similar (plug-in)- D3.js(code).Do to heavy memory use this would make a good isolated app. Here is an example . . http://i.imgur.com/20W2UBd.png?1

Inkscape is one of my favorite tools when I am creating slideshows. Sometimes I rely on Jessyink, when I want to use some zooming slides (like Prezi does), sometimes I use it to create visually complex slides that I include in presentations created with other tools (e.g. title slides to include in beamer, out diagrams in LibreOffice Impress - the later works, but it's so ugly I prefer Inkscape).

What I like most is the abundance of alignment tools Inkscape provides: it is really easy to produce slides that use the space in a well balanced way!

Here is discussion on the effort to move Inkscape to GitHub: https://github.com/inkscape/inkscape/wiki/Migrate-Launchpad-...

Are there any open-source Inkscape "libraries" of, what can only be said to be, clipart out there?

I'm looking for ways to diagram Neural Networks. It would be great if there were some 'NN clipart' from which I could just drag-n-drop stuff.

Search wikipedia.org and openclipart.org.

There's an openclipart.org browser built in, File > Import Clip Art ..., but I'd use your web browser, it's much better UX.

I've given up on using Inkscape on my Mac, but I am stuck with OS X for a while. Are there any other vector graphics programs that are cross platform and not too expensive? I don't want to invest in learning an OS X only tool.

Affinity Designer. I've played with it some but I can't get past a few UI choices that are Just Plain Wrong to someone like me who's spent about fifteen years using Illustrator.

Thanks, I will check that out.

Any suggestions for finding free/non-pirated vector images online?

I end up using images.google.com with the query:

<keyword> ext:svg

This usually finds me good options, many from wikimedia etc, which are under a open license.

Many times, if you only can find free and open images, but in raster format, use something like vector magic to convert them to SVG.. VM usually does an excellent job with basic handholding.

Perhaps one of these?

* Openclipart - https://openclipart.org/

* Iconfinder - https://www.iconfinder.com/

From within Inkscape you can use Import Clip Art… from the File menu to search SVG's on https://openclipart.org.

You can use those http://www.freepik.com/ and its sister site http://www.flaticon.com/

For simple objects (that can be a good start for designing stuff around), The Noun Project is great: https://thenounproject.com/

I once used inkscape to draw collision geometry for a game! Versatile!

I recently began to use inkscape again. I am getting into 3d printing and Inkscape is great for creating .stl/.svg files of text fonts or 2d images.

Looks great but not available for Mac users.

> For Mac OS X, no packages are available -- > our old (X11/XQuartz) packaging was long overdue to be updated to > current standards and is no longer being maintained. If you wish to > compile Inkscape yourself, then of course, the Inkscape source code is > also available from our website.

From https://inkscape.org/en/news/2017/01/04/inkscape-version-092...

Yes, it is:


Uses XQuartz, the platform's X11 emulation.

They didn't release new 0.92 packages for Mac and apparently don't plan to.

Noooo! are you aware of any third party binaries?

.92pre4 is available on macports, so they'll probably make .92 available soon.

There's an inkscape cask for homebrew. You should be able to compile it on your own too.

The cask is 0.91, and uses the .dmg file.

I'll subscribe to their dev mailing list and see about volunteering to get the macOS version out.

No, it is not. That is 0.91, not 0.92.

It also never felt right on Mac. This XQuartz stuff etc. it felt slow in comparison to Linux. Recently I switched to Affinity Designer on a special offer. It also supports very good PDF importing/editing (like Inkscape).

The keyboard shortcuts certainly take some getting used to, and using XQuartz means that it doesn't integrate well into the OS. For instance, Cmd+Tabbing doesn't work when you select the application itself; you have to select the XQuartz instance.

The fact that most of Inkscape's controls are bound to function keys, and that function keys require a modifier by default on macOS doesn't help either.

Still... I greatly prefer Inkscape to Illustrator for the type of work I tend to do in it (creating vectors for a vinyl cutter).

Is it still only 32 bit? The 4 gig ram limitation made some complex processes much slower than they needed to be.

I will see if stability improved. At least in Win32, I got pissed off so many times with crashes and hangs.

Having used Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator at different times, I'd stick with illustrator any day.

Sometime between 0.42 and 0.91 the PDF export for very narrow lines ceased to function correctly.

I have to keep old versions around in order to produce cut lines for my laser.

Very disappoint. Perhaps 0.92 fixes.

Love Inkscape

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