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Richard Hallas

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About Richard Hallas

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  • Birthday 03/21/1969

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    Huddersfield, UK
  • Interests
    Classical music, computers, typography, graphic design, sci-fi, good food
  1. I've just spotted this thread as a result of a search for something else, so must apologise for being five years late in providing a useful reply! Anyway, I just wanted to point out one or two things about Cerilica Vantage. As editor of one of the leading RISC OS magazines, I actually went to the press launch event for Cerilica Vantage, which took place in Ross-on-Wye in late 1998 (just after Acorn's catastrophic announcement about the closure of its Workstations division). Simon Birtwistle (for it was he who wrote the software) did indeed achieve some astonishing things. There were many elements of genius in 'Project Avante', as seen on that day, and it did get released (at least in beta form) as Vantage. I used it myself for a while to simulate print output accurately on my Risc PC's screen. It was good for that, though I don't recall that it ever really got finished. Certainly, its user interface was absolutely terrible (with about fifty-seven million tiny little buttons, that all looked the same, on its button bar!), and it never really challenged ArtWorks as a usable design tool (whereas, in technical terms, it should have been able to wipe the floor with ArtWorks if only it had ever been finished properly). The big news for modern Mac/PC users, though, is that Cerilica was actually an offshoot of Astute Graphics, which is very much alive and well today. Simon Birtwistle's business partner was Nick van der Walle, who was himself a brilliant artist. I had more to do with Nick than with Simon. Nick was a nice chap (and I'm sure still is!). Back in its Acorn RISC OS days, Astute Graphics used to market a clever and handy tool for doing neat things with recolouring ArtWorks files. It was called Phantasm. Later, when Astute Graphics was getting going in the PC/Mac world, it launched an Adobe Illustrator plug-in called… Phantasm. Moreover, although it has been joined by MANY other very neat, useful and clever plug-ins, Phantasm (now at version 4) remains Astute's original Illustrator plug-in. And Nick is still there at the company. So, we have a direct lineage concerning a piece of RISC OS software starting life as an ArtWorks add-on and turning into an Illustrator plug-in. The Astute Graphics Illustrator plug-ins aren't cheap, but they're all *very* good and very highly regarded. As for TopModel… Hello, Paolo! TopModel was another potential killer app for RISC OS – another bit of genius programming – that sadly arrived just too late in the life of the platform.
  2. I've just set up an account on this forum specifically to make this request. I'm an Illustrator user who really resents Adobe's new CC subscription scheme, so I'm interested in software that provides a realistic alternative to Adobe's core products. I've just bought Affinity Designer and so far am very impressed by what I see, feature-wise. There's a lot to like here. However, I DO NOT LIKE dark user interfaces, and I was dismayed when I found that a dark interface is all that's on offer here. Maybe it's a feature of my eyes, but I find the dark colours extremely difficult to resolve and focus on, especially if I'm working on fairly bright/pale artwork (which is invariably the case). UI designers seem to be under the misapprehension that having dark user interfaces is helpful because the tools 'get out of the way' and don't distract from the content. In fact, that's not true (or, at least, it's missing the point). The key thing is contrast: for ideal working conditions, every part of the screen that contains active content (i.e. artwork and tools) should be of a similar brightness to the overall intensity of the artwork. So, if you're designing dark/predominantly black artwork, your eyes need to adjust to that darkness, and hence having dark tools is helpful in that situation. But in the vast majority of cases (particularly when you're designing light artwork for use in print, typically on a white background), your eyes have to accommodate the glare of the bright colours, so the tools need to be similarly pale too. If there's a mismatch between artwork lightness and interface lightness, your eyes are constantly having to adjust as they move between the two areas, which is incredibly tiring. Maybe I suffer from this more than other people, but I'm very conscious of it – and it's the reason why I hate dark user interfaces. It's not that I'm against them in terms of their looking good; it's all about usability. Ideally, the lightness of the user interface, in a design application such as this, should be adjustable on a per-document basis, because – as noted – for the best experience, its overall lightness should be similar to that of the artwork itself. (So maybe it could be tied to the document background colour for any given document.) But at the very least, given that most artwork is either printed or viewed on-screen against a light background, a light user interface should definitely be the default. Frankly it amazes me that Adobe has got this wrong in recent times. It seems to be insisting on dark user interfaces itself, by default, which is barmy. But the fact that Adobe's started doing this doesn't mean that other developers should blindly follow its lead. Dark user interfaces may look cool, but they're actually a really bad idea, especially if enforced. Please, developers, THINK about such things! Take design decisions for the right reasons, rather than just to follow the current trend. At least Adobe does still offer the full range of dark to light in its user interface preferences, so it's still possible to make them look like they used to look (black text on pale grey) – which is massively better than the dark default. Unfortunately, Affinity Designer doesn't have this feature. OK, at least I can set the UI gamma. I've put it up to its brightest possible setting and it helps a little bit, but it's not nearly enough. At minimum, there needs to be a similar alternative to approach from the white end of the scale: i.e. to start with a very bright interface and darken it down. Please think about acting on this as a matter of urgency, Affinity developers. Much as I'd love to see more 'real' features being developed for this excellent-looking product, this UI issue is, to me, surprisingly important because it impinges on the usability of the entire application. While the interface continues to be excessively dark and overly hard to read, it's going to materially hamper my ability to use the software. We don't need skins and alternative icons. The basic look is fine. We just need to be able to lighten it right up so that the tools and buttons use dark text on a pale grey background. Thanks for listening.
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