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Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 2010

 
AutodeskSketchbookProHeader 400
Sketchbook logo are copyrights of Autodesk.
Unless otherwise stated, all other images by Nigel Gough Illustrations.



Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 2010



Review by Nigel Gough
http://www.nigelgough.com/



Summary


Cost:

  • Currently $ 69.99 USD / $ 76.41 AUD + Shipping at Amazon.com (15/12/2009.)
 

Pro's:

  • Clean Interface – Facilitates smooth and rapid execution of work
  • Excellent “ Feel” – On a Wacom tablet the stylus feels very similar to the action of normal sketching
  • Very short learning curve.- Allows for very rapid integration of the software into your office workflow.
  • Low Cost.
 

Cons:

  • Prone to crashing - with no current autosave function or crash dump file.
  • Would benefit from better integration with Photoshop - Currently explodes sub folders within its layer structure, and has no integrated save between open files in the two programs.
  • Some tools could use a re-think. - in particular the ruler tool is rather cumbersome despite its real world logic. Also a best fit line command would be a great thing to add to the wish list, to convert multiple lines within a selection to a smoothed solution line for work on complex curves.
 

Website:

Autodesk - http://usa.autodesk.com/




 
Click on image below to see software demostration.


TuscanGesture 400





 
 

Keep it simple appears to have been a guiding principle.



Rather than trying to be do everything this pared down design offers a new take on design drawing software well worth a second look.Will it shake out into something special that really has an impact on the profession?
The jury is still out.



 
In short Sketchbook Pro 2010 is simple and effective.

It is as close as I have gotten to the feel of freehand sketching on my computer.



At around $100.00 AUD it’s as

“cheap as chips” to purchase

, and reminds me of the advent of Sketch- Up only a few short years ago, as a possible ground breaking piece of software at the budget end of the market.

That being said my first observations had me thinking that it just didn’t stack up as an alternative to Photoshop. However after a short teething period I came to the conclusion that it isn’t intended to be a competitor to Photoshop. It exists as the name implies as a digital sketchbook.

While its simplicity may be seen as a weakness by some, the deceptively basic interface is also its greatest strength, significantly enhancing its usability in comparison to alternative software.


The interface has a clean icon based structure, using a simple floating palette for all the primary drawing tools, and a mobile “lagoon” for most of the secondary functions.
The “lagoon” can be switched to either bottom corner of the screen.
This needs to be tweaked slightly on the layout design as I often found some of the icons were getting partially lost at the edge of the screen. The need for top pull down style menus dominating most programs today has been nearly totally eliminated.


SketchbookProUserInterfaceD 400


The program has a straight forward intuitive feel that compress’s the learning curve down to hours, rather than weeks or months, and seemed totally compatible with the feel of freehand drawing. Just grabbing what you need from the drawing box and go for it.

Don't take my word for it download the free trial at:


Autodesk.com

Try it out for yourself.
I was surprised by

the “feel” and flow of the stylus

  , which was much better than any other program I had used. I had been more than happy with Photoshop up to that point, but Sketchbook Pro had none of the subtle rastering or slowdown that seemed part and parcel of Photoshop.

I suspect this is because Sketchbook Pro had been designed from day one with Wacom style tablet integration in mind. It can be exciting as an artist to break that tether between yourself and a keyboard using a stylus alone, rather than tap dancing on a keyboard with your free hand to find that pesky hotkey.


This really felt like drawing , and was well well worth the price of a fist full of markers.

All praise aside the program does have a number of failings that hopefully will be addressed in the future. First and foremost it can be unstable.

Save, Save, and then Save some more, as it can crash without warning.
If you get half a feeling that its not working at 100% , save the file, shut down the program, then restart it again you’ll be good as new. If not. One second you have a great image, the next moment the program and your image disappears without a trace, and you won’t be a happy camper.


Add to that the program could really use some sort of autosave, and crash dump that could be adjusted via the preferences menu. Currently it seems as if the program has a memory cache that once it fills up automatically shuts down.

In addition some tools perhaps could be reconfigured.

While the ruler visually relates to it real world equivalent, it still requires a two step operation to draw a single straight line. Fortunately in the real world we have two hands to position the ruler then quickly draw a line, whereas here it becomes a far more cumbersome operation just using the stylus. Perhaps the line command in Photoshop may offer a better solution where you can position a straight line off a single anchor point than just drag it out in whatever direction you require, including ortho if you use a secondary key command. This is particularly relevant if your trying to rapidly lay out perspective grid lines.

Also I still haven’t quite come to grips with the selection tool.
While it can be used to isolate areas to cut, copy, paste, move and scale, for some unknown reason it can’t be used it seems in conjunction with the drawing tools. Making it impossible to mask off areas when rendering.


In addition as I am increasingly trying to use

Sketchbook Pro

  in conjunction with Photoshop I’m very eager to see better integration between the two programs, so that I can effectively exploit the strengths of each.

Currently Sketchbook Pro 2010 doesn’t support sub folders in its layer structure on PSD files. If you are importing a PSD file that has been built in Photoshop it explodes the sub folders into a long list of individual layers. This is mildly acceptable if your workflow only runs from Sketchbook to Photoshop, but can be very frustrating if your switching back and forth between the programs at various stages.

On a similar vein it would be great if PSD files could remain open in both programs and saves in one program would automatically update on the other program. Currently files have to be closed in one program then reopened in the other in order for allergy alterations to register.

Hopefully Autodesk will be supporting this programs ongoing development, and current users will have access to update pricing as the program is progressively finetuned in the future.


In conclusion I think this software is a significant “watch this space“ design because its radical approach to its user interface coupled with the increasing availability of large screen tablet PCs may well allow Sketchbook Pro to have a significant impact throughout the architectural profession; reinvigorating the power of the hand drawn line as a design tool, albeit in a digital environment.

Hopefully this article will spur others to review their own software for the benefit of others in the association.