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New ArtWorks, AWRender planned for Wakefield

By Chris Williams. Published: 17th Apr 2006, 17:48:11 | Permalink | Printable

Plus real time graduated effects

Graduated transparency in ArtWorks 2Digital artists making use of the transparency effects in ArtWorks should soon be able to see their work in other applications. MW Software is planning to release version 2 of AWRender, which will include support for displaying transparency effects. AWRender is a module that enables third party software to handle ArtWorks files, and is used by packages such as OvationPro, EasiWriter, TechWriter, and PhotoFiler. The new version is set to arrive in time for the Wakefield show as a chargeable upgrade.

ArtWorks developer Martin Wuerthner said: "The forthcoming version 2 of the AWRender module will finally overcome this problem. AWRender 2 supports the full range of transparency effects offered by ArtWorks 2.5 and allows third-party applications to render all ArtWorks files exactly like ArtWorks itself, including files with advanced transparency effects."

In addition, ArtWorks 2.6 is expected to display graduated fills in real time: as the user drags around the arrow to control the direction and concentration of the blended fill, the software will continuously update the object as the mouse is moved. Martin explained this was now possible given the advances in RISC OS hardware since the launch of ArtWorks in the 1990s. He said: "This makes graduated fill editing much more responsive, and thus more productive."

ArtWorks 2.6 is set to be launched at the forthcoming show, with new developments being demonstrated on A9home and Iyonix hardware.

• Philip Pemberton has created a new wiki devoted to ArtWorks. This is his second attempt to run a Wiki after the previous incarnation was apparently "spammed to death". Now using different wiki software and anti-spam defences, Philip said: "I've got a couple of articles to go up soon, once I find the backup copies from the old wiki.

"What I wanted to do was create a site where Artworks users could share little hints and tutorials, and show off their work. Sort of like the many 'photoshop tutorial warehouse' type sites that seem to be all over the web these days, but aimed at Artworks."


MW Software website

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I don't think I understand the economic model behind this being a chargeable item. Those that have ArtWorks don't need it; do those without AW really receive enough AW documents (that use transparency) to need to buy it?

Or is this a prelude to AWRender becoming a totally chargeable product? But that does not make sense (I think) because the idea behind a free renderer is that everyone can have it, thus fuelling demand for the (not-free) creator program - viz Acrobat, for example. After all, if people can't read documents you send them, isn't that a cue to change the way you send them, which *reduces* the demand for the creator program?

Still, kudos to Martin for providing the choice and I'll watch future developments with interest.

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 17/4/06 10:29PM
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TonyStill: I agree with your point completely. I suppose though, looking at the flipside (ie probably somewhere nearer MW's viewpoint), he's no doubt spent a lot of time working on it, and would like to recoup some money for his efforts (even if small). In a market where most people who need to edit Artworks file own a copy of Artworks itself, your options are really only to extend AW (which he's doing,) or to reach a userbase which doesn't buy AW but is prepared to spend money to support the products.

Where this would open up a market was if there were a reasonable repository of transparency-using, AW-based clipart. TechWriter users would therefore be the obvious purchasers of such a product - so they could use nicer clipart in their documents. Select users would also benefit because you could use ImageFileRender to put Artworks files into, well, anything that supports IFR.

I guess the likeliest source of quality clipart files would be to convert them from other sources. Makes a reasonable market for a conversion tool to Artworks from other vector graphics formats on other platforms then, I guess :-).

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 18/4/06 12:20AM
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Possibly it means that there's a charge for developers who want to provide support for embedded Artworks images? Or else that sentence has been misplaced by a couple of paragraphs, and actually applies to the new version (2.6) of Artworks itself that's discussed lower down....

 is a RISC OS Userchrisj on 18/4/06 12:27AM
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TonyStill: You wrote: "Those that have ArtWorks don't need it" - that is wrong. The AWRender 2 upgrade is mainly targetted at those who have ArtWorks 2. The main point of AWRender 2 is not to *view* documents, rather it is to put documents with transparency into OvationPro, TechWriter, etc. I do not really expect many non-ArtWorks2-owners to buy the AWRender 2 upgrade.

By the way: It is still possible that there will be a new free version of AWViewer that supports transparency, thus allowing everyone to view ArtWorks documents with transparency, but with a version of AWRender that that does not display transparency in other programs (OvationPro, etc.).

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 18/4/06 12:35AM
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In reply to wuerthne:

The trouble is that embedding into other documents will be a less attractive proposition if you cannot be confident that others will be able to view the result correctly.

I can see why you have chosen to distribute it this way, but a model that placed the costs solely on the originator would be preferable - even (IMO) to the originator.

(You would have to change the file format slightly to make this work - or rather, to ensure that documents produced using the existing method did not work - but it could be done.)

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 18/4/06 5:06AM
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But does anyone distribute OvationPro (or EasiWriter or TechWriter) files? OK I know they could, but does anyone do this on a large scale in practice? For myself I just generate PDFs of everything for general distribution. Frobnicate used to be Ovation format (or was it Impression?), but even that is pushing it frankly. Within the community there are probably a few introverted groups sending each other stuff on a personal level (like me and my Dad), but ... well if they use it a lot they can pay the piper. How much is it going to be, anyway?

I think it is desirable that the output degrades gracefully, but that is the extent of my concern. According to [link] , Martin has been upgrading the module for free for some time, and it apparently does.

 is a RISC OS UserLoris on 18/4/06 1:53PM
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gdshaw: With respect to allowing others to view the results, things have not changed too much: Even now, when you embed an ArtWorks file with true colour sprites, JPEGs, text areas or clipping into another document you have to advise any potential recipient of the file to get hold of the latest AWViewer to view it. True, up to now, the latest AWViewer was free (and could even be sent with the file), but displaying embedded ArtWorks files correctly required user intervention by the recipient in any case, now it might require a small payment as well. By the way: There has been a period of time in the past (2002) when the latest renderer was not free either - for some time after I added true colour sprite support, the upgraded renderer was only available as a chargeable upgrade.

I do not think what you brought up is really a big issue because as far as I can see, the vast majority of ArtWorks users are mainly interested in using ArtWorks files in their own documents and few want to give away the resulting files in their native editable formats (e.g., OvationPro) including embedded ArtWorks content.

It is quite likely that sooner or later the new renderer will be released for free anyway - just as it happened in 2002 when the new sprite rendering code was made available for free as part of the 32-bit upgrade - which in itself was a massive effort. So, paying for the renderer upgrade is a bit like a donation scheme where donors have the added incentive of getting the new program immediately, but everyone profits because the software is eventually released for free.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 18/4/06 2:14PM
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Loris: I fully agree with your point about users rarely distributing native documents.

Regarding graceful degradation: Transparency in ArtWorks files has been present for 4 years without there being support for it in the renderer and of course, output degrades gracefully if you have the current/old module in that you simply see the file without transparency. Just like in ArtWorks, by the way, when you switch the transparency display option off.

As for the price: I expect to charge just 10 Pounds for the upgraded renderer and I plan to include the renderer upgrade with the ArtWorks 2.6 upgrade anyway.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 18/4/06 2:24PM
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In reply to wuerthne:

I still can't help feeling that this is a step in the wrong direction when compared with the push for more open data formats that is gaining momentum elsewhere - but you are right that this is more of a theoretical than a practical issue, and I am very encouraged by your comments about what may happen to it in the future. (Certainly you can count me in for the upgrade.)

 is a RISC OS Usergdshaw on 18/4/06 7:09PM
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Thanks to Martin for his comments above. Interesting discussion.

The bottom line is simple. Do we want high calibre programmers like Martin to continue working for our community or not. So a modest charge for a new renderer is a small price to pay to keep these programmers fed and watered:-)

Look forward to seeing you at Wakefield Martin!

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 19/4/06 7:37AM
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I'm quite happy to pay for the renderer module now to justly reward Martin. I don't even mind if it will become free somewhere down the line. Its money well spent.

I've been buying Artworks upgrades for a couple of years, but not had cause to use it much, until the last couple of weeks when I was commissioned to recreate 43 diagrams of rotary engines, taking the small bitmaps from a flash animation and producing high resolution copies for printing in a magazine. For the first couple I had a large bitmap template for and was able to alter using Photodesk, but for the others I'd never have been able to do it in a bitmap package. With only !Draw I'd have been able to do the outlines with a lot of tedious editing, and would have had to export to Photodesk for finishing with shading effects, and it would have taken forever. But with Artworks, it does the lot; really easy to edit outlines, text, hatching fills, realistic shading effects, and exports straight to TIFF - and all so easily, just put the orginal picture on the background layer, and draw the vector objects over the top in the foreground layers. I was straight back in to using it, like I'd never stopped, and quality of the output is stunning. 43 diagrams just aren't enough, I want to do more! B-)

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 19/4/06 9:09AM
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Whilst I can understand Martin wanting to charge for this (it's presumably quite a bit more work, and the RISC OS market isn't exactly lucrative), charging for such things is another small part of the "It's far too expensive for what you get" impression that helps to put people off RISC OS, although that's probably nowhere near the main reason these days.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 19/4/06 12:09PM
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SimonC: Sorry, I cannot follow that reasoning. Whoever wants to go on without paying anything can continue using the renderer everyone has had for the past years, i.e., without transparency support. So, if you had to choose between alternative A and B which one would you choose?

A) Free renderer available, without support for transparency B) Free renderer available, without support for transparency *plus* chargeable renderer available with transparency support

Nobody loses anything, nobody has to pay for anything if he does not want to. Do you really want me to *not* offer this great new piece of software, just because somebody might say "It is too expensive"?

By the way: I think your assessment of the situation is completely wrong: In my experience people leave the market *"because there is nothing to buy"*.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 19/4/06 12:42PM
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In reply to wuerthne:

> In my experience people leave the market > *"because there is nothing to buy"*.

Or the same thing- "because no one is selling anything" What is a market, but a place where people are buying and selling? It is possible that the abundance of free software is harming the RISC OS platform:-)

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 19/4/06 2:38PM
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In reply to the odd one:

1. I'm happy Martin offers the enhanced Renderer - does save me the trouble to opt for bitmaps when using transparency!

2. As for "In my experience people leave the market because there is nothing to buy" I think you should add that it does help if the things on offer are ready there to have and not just announced to happen by some time!

3. As for "It is possible that the abundance of free software is harming the RISC OS platform": I think it is important to have both, commercial and free software so that you don't have to buy everything but for pieces of software I use regularly and I want to use I'm happy to have some committed company looking into them and thus me paying for them. I did have hassles with free software the odd time due to too much delay in upgrading to offer needed features or no update to 32 bit at all.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 19/4/06 3:10PM
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Martin: Just a thought. Is there any chance to include ImageFileConvert support to that, to export Artworks files with transparency as alpha-sprites? Assuming you could use 'transparent paper' (I haven't checked that with Artworks), that would make Artworks quite a powerful tool for producing bitmapped images too.

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 19/4/06 7:42PM
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md0u80c9: No. The main ArtWorks application does have very comprehensive bitmap export facilities and export of alpha sprites is likely to appear in ArtWorks soon, but I cannot see any point in having it in AWRender. I cannot understand why you think that an AWRender extension would "make ArtWorks quite a powerful tool for producing bitmapped images, too". First of all, by all means, ArtWorks *is* quite a powerful tool for producing bitmapped images, e.g., the complete RISC OS 5 icon set was produced using ArtWorks. Secondly, if you want to produce alpha sprites using ArtWorks, then surely, the logical thing to ask for is alpha sprite export from ArtWorks?

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 20/4/06 9:10AM
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Sorry - I didn't write that correctly. It's already very powerful for making bitmaps (I've only got a 1.X version but use it for that purpose). And the iconset example was a bad one to give. I'm interested in AWRender because I can't justify purchasing AW 2.X (not a serious enough user TBH,) but do use AW files a fair bit.

The obvious reason for my suggestion is if you don't need to create Artworks files with transparency, but you do want to manipulate existing files in other formats - say using them as pre-sized images in other products which don't support Artworks formats. Currently even non-Artworks users can create sprites from them with a screengrab with Paint. To create sprites from Artworks files with transparency would require buying the full Artworks 2 package (or make sure your final background is white...)

If you're contemplating a chargeable AWRender package, a feature such as this might therefore be more useful to more people than in Artworks as a whole.

Of course, since the code would be near-enough identical, it could always be done both ways ;-). Anyway, just a suggestion.

 is a RISC OS Usermd0u80c9 on 20/4/06 2:17PM
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I don't think £10 is expensive at all. Heck, when Cocognut came out I plunked down £15 for it just because it looked like an interesting product. The only thing I am a little worried about is the "realtime graduated fill" option. I hope there's going to be an option to disable this for the benefit of those of us who are still using 200MHz StrongARM RISC PCs (read: me).

 is a RISC OS Userphilpem on 20/4/06 11:33PM
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The root of the problem is that if a company's development time is concentrated on enhancing just one (or perhaps two) products, it is virtually impossible to earn a living any more from new sales alone, or even upgrades. The only solution is to charge more frequently (and all credit to Martin for having the courage to do so) for upgrades, and look at other income streams (eg. the renderer). Of course, as customers we wish we didn't have to pay so frequently, *but* look at the benefits... Compare recent Artworks 2.xx to CC's AW1.70 - its a HUGE difference. Martin's business model has allowed him to continue focussing on Artworks and make huge progress, instead of diversifying which would have diluted the amount of attention he could give to AW. At the end of the day, I think most of us would rather enjoy the benefits of ongoing development, than save the odd 25ukp and see that development dry up...

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 20/4/06 11:53PM
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philpem: Of course. Not only does it have an option to disable it, but you can even choose for which size of updates it should be enabled, so on a slow machine you could enjoy real-time updates on small fills while having fast updates for bigger fills. By trying the different size options provided you can limit real-time updates to the size of fill you still find responsive enough on *your* machine.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 21/4/06 10:55AM
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arawnsley: I wish I could concentrate on ArtWorks but the amount of money I can charge per year is limited, so that effectively limits the amount of time I can afford to spend on developing it. At the moment, I am working on many projects at the same time and I am starting more soon. Apart from ArtWorks (and the renderer) I am working on EasiWriter/TechWriter, GhostScript/GView, a big non-RISC OS project and soon I might start porting Gimp-Print 5 and there will be yet another new big RISC OS project. Unfortunately, that leaves less and less time for each individual project.

I was not actually looking for other income streams as you suggested, I have already got more than I can fully handle. Having transparency in the renderer was simply one of the biggest wishes of many customers and I am very happy that I eventually managed to do it. I did not do it in order to gain income, I could have got that more easily by developing ArtWorks itself, but I did it because it was such an important thing to have. However, having spent the time upgrading the renderer rather than adding a new ArtWorks feature or developing a new product, I now need to gain some income, which is why I am selling the upgrade. ArtWorks has gained enormously by the new renderer but that still does not mean that I will sell a single extra copy of ArtWorks if I make the renderer available for free, so there is no way to recover the development cost from new sales.

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 21/4/06 11:10AM
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