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Creating simple banners using RISC OS

By Martin Hansen. Published: 15th Jul 2007, 15:34:55 | Permalink | Printable

Martin Hansen explains why he prefers RISC OS banner-making software

As everyone knows, an essential part of modern life is having an ability to produce a banner. By this I mean an eye catching heading at the top of a document. The document could be lecture notes for handing out to students. It could be the design on a home made birthday card, or the headline on posters about that missing cat. Maybe something with a little extra zing is needed for a website or that presentation the boss wants you to give at 9am tomorrow morning. Sharp.

We've all seen them: those posters churned out by Microsoft's Word. I've seen that pointlessly slanting text with a shadow so many, many times. Dull, dull, dull. With RISC OS we can effortlessly do so much better and have been able to do so for years. It takes surprisingly little time to produce something fresh and more exciting. For example, and I'm going to time myself, I'm now opening up !Draw. Get set, wait for it, go:

Using Draw: Click for bigger

It took me less than five minutes to type in the words "Important announcement !", select those words, select the font NewHall Bold, drag the text to an appropriate size by eye, convert the text to a path, select red as the outline colour, orange as the fill, and then underline with a couple of similarly coloured rectangles. I saved it as a Draw file, grabbed it as a sprite file, and - by pulling it across to Paint on my RiscPC - convert it to a PNG file and a JPEG file. Job done.

One of the programs in my armoury for when the call comes in to rustle up a quick banner is FontFX. It is sold by APDL for less than a tenner. I bought version 4 years ago, and then version 6. It works on the Iyonix although I had it before that gleam was in John Ballance's eye. Its key feature is that it's very simple to use. You don't need any instructions whatsoever. Essentially, it's a control panel with lots of buttons to click and play around with. Each time you want to see what your settings will produce you menu click on 'create'. I'm now opening up FontFX. Have you got the stopwatch ready? Go:

Using FontFX: Click for bigger

Again, it has taken me less than five minutes to produce Draw, Sprite, PNG, and JPEG files of my design which could now be imported into whatever the target document is.

This year began with the news that Detlef Thielsch was releasing a graphics application called Insignia for free. The package, originally developed by John Whitington and which used to cost £39, was made available for download on the a4com.de website. This program is now called TextEffx and is being actively developed.

The latest version has resolved a problem caused by certain fonts on Iyonix computers and has an improved user interface. Last week, as a part of upgrading my website, I wanted a banner for a mathematics article I was placing online. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to give this latest banner producing piece of software a chance.

In short, I was very impressed and can see why Insignia used to retail for forty quid. Like FontFX, the best advice I can give on using it is to simply experiment and press lots of buttons. It's more sophisticated that FontFX and can produce some spectacular effects. I opted for sedate colours and subtle effects. I saved a snapshot of the resulting sprite from a 16 million colour mode as many folks are now browsing websites with that colour depth setting. On a RiscPC, you will need to adjust the screen resolution and colour depth to see it properly, unless you have a ViewFinder fitted. Times move on.

TextEffx example output: Click for bigger

In summary, there really is no excuse for not having an appropriate banner for your documents, and, under RISC OS, one that is a cut above the average.


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I still find such banners tacky on the whole, preferring simple plain titles. Microsoft WordArt does allow people with no taste to produce revolting documents with ease, but in a skilled user's hands it can also produce interesting things. But still, plain is better, IMO.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 15/7/07 4:01PM
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With RO6 and the latest version of paint, you can simply drop a draw file on to the Paint iconbar icon to get paint to load it. No need to do any "grabbing" any more.

 is a RISC OS Usersa110 on 15/7/07 4:35PM
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Nice article, indeed.

In reply to rjek: I agree completely - nowadays websites where loading a page needs less than 100kB are rare - all them banners, images etc. usually delivering close to no content are no fun. Worst are sites where you have to load the images to be able to navigate.

In reply to sa110: No need to have RO 6 (won't run on my IYONIX pc anyhow and for some reason beyond me ROL doesn't seem to want to supply anything to IYONIX users, not even the apps) since Photodesk does that with Draw and ArtWorks ever since.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 15/7/07 5:11PM
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So true about RISC OS having the ability to produce good banners that are so different from the boring everyday WordArt in Microsoft's collection.

Working with RISC OS in schools full of PCs, I am too often asked to do basic graphic design stuff on my 13 year old RiscPC 600 running RO4.02. The worst features about the WordArt on PCs is the ugly designs and many of them really unreadable to the point where they really spoil the documents the teachers at my school try to produce. The lack of experience using a draw type programme or simply acknowledging the need to buy a vector drawing programme for the PCs is one big drawback for MS user teachers in my environment.

I don't even have a new RISC PC, nor do I have PhotoDesk or ArtWorks! Without these wonderful RISC OS graphic tools I still can produce far better banners and logo designs than our PC user staff and our school's PC Media Studies department.

I guess when we do not have a decent RISC OS Media Player, it doesn't matter so much when our basic graphics capabilities are still quite good.


 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 16/7/07 10:28AM
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Sawadee: A problem with WordArt is that users don't go through the process of thinking about their work before producing a 'result'.

TexEffX is better than WordArt but the open nature of Draw demands that you get some skills under your belt - and that's the best teacher other than personal or written tutorials.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 16/7/07 11:05AM
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jc: TextEffx and WordArt are incomparable. The work in entirely different ways. One cannot say one is better than the other in such vague and general terms.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 16/7/07 11:21AM
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rjek: I was looking at them only from the comparison of the cognitive processes of typical users. How the programs work is irrelevant. 'Better' was used only to signify likely participation in the design process by the user.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 16/7/07 12:58PM
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jc: I've tried, but I am unable to gleam meaning from your posting. WordArt as just as many things to fiddle and tweak as TextEffx/Insignia does. What precisely are you referring to? Please try not to be vague.

 is a RISC OS Userrjek on 16/7/07 1:02PM
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rjek: Drobe is not the place for the detailed explanation necessary for someone whose expertise is so limited - at least that's what you would have said to me! ;-) I don't think it's the place for a detailed comparison of two applications across the two platforms either - so I'm afraid you will have to remain in ignorance. I may well tackle a comparison of FontFX, TextEffX, &c at some time (elsewhere) and cover the matter then.

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 16/7/07 1:30PM
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In reply to jc Ah! another sign of your presence *Codswallup* again.

 is a RISC OS Userjlavallin on 16/7/07 2:03PM
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In reply to jc:

Do you refer to yourself with "Drobe is not the place for the detailed explanation necessary for someone whose expertise is so limited"?

You wrote "... the open nature of Draw demands that you get some skills under your belt - and that's the best teacher other than personal or written tutorials.": What skills do you mean here - the ones to master Draw? Well then you seem to be in the wrong show. This is not a teachers forum or the like but a good article showing how the odd app can be put to use to create the odd banner. As for banners as such and the design of banners we're in a completely different area and that was not the issue here. As for teaching that you should not have to rely on using a computer at all (except perhaps to show the odd design).

I absolutely prefer (and admire) applications where I do not have a learning curve (or a very flat short one), do not need tutorials or manuals but which is so well made and easy to use that I achieve the result I want by simply starting off with it. Thus to me it seems that WordArt, TextEffx and FontFX have the edge over Draw for creating banners.

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 16/7/07 5:25PM
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"WordArt, TextEffx and FontFX"

Personally I would use Xara Exteme it does for Windows Art what Artworks does for Risc OS and more.

 is a RISC OS UserJwoody on 16/7/07 6:45PM
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Nice article and a fun app. Well done to all. Hours of endless fun pushing buttons:-)

 is a RISC OS UserEddie on 16/7/07 10:41PM
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