Free Alternative Friday explores various free (or very cheap) tools, apps, and utilities you can use instead of the expensive, mainstream alternative. Think Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, and you’ll be on the right track. This week we’re looking at Inkscape, a free, open source vector graphic program. It’s similar to Adobe’s Illustrator or CorelDraw, only without the hefty price tag.
If you need a program for vector drawing (as opposed to raster/bitmap graphics, like Photoshop), you’ve got a lot of options, Illustrator being the standard. If you use it frequently, it’s probably worth shelling out the cash, but if you just need it occasionally, why not use a free alternative?
Inkscape Versus Illustrator
While this program boasts all the features and functionality you would expect to find in a vector drawing tool, you have to wonder how comprable it is to commercial software. So how does Inkscape weigh in against Illustrator, the heavy-hitter in the industry? Here’s the story, straight from the Inkscape Wiki:
Things Illustrator can do that Inkscape cannot do:
- Gradient meshes
- Multiple strokes and fills for one object
- Color management for print (ICC Profiles, etc.)
- PMS color
- Natively work with graphs based on data
- Free transform and perspective transform (only via extension)
- Blends (only via extension)
Things Inkscape can do that Illustrator cannot:
- Edit SVG source directly
- Clones, tiled clones, edit clones on canvas
- Keys to move/rotate/scale by screen pixels
- Shapes as objects
- Edit gradients with handles on-canvas (CS4 added this feature)
- Edit nodes with keyboard
- One-click paint bucket fill
- Color painting over objects (CS4 added this feature with the name Blob brush)
Inkscape will run well on Windows (XP, Vista, or 7) and Mac (OS X 10.4 Tiger, 10.5 Leopard or 10.6 Snow Leopard). You can also run it on Windows 2000 by downloading an older versions of the program, 0.47.
Vector Graphics on the Go
Like some other programs we’ve featured, there is a version of Inkscape for PortableApps, so you can install it on your thumb drive and take it wherever you want to go. If you haven’t already setup PortableApps on your thumb drive, what are you waiting for?