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Feedback From a Xara User

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I'm not sure if you care at all but I thought you might like some feedback from a long time user of Xara Designer Pro, who also uses Adobe CC eight hours a day at work. To be fair, I have not spent a lot of time with Affinity Designer but a few things are immediately apparent to me.

 

The UI is very Adobe-like and I just can't see that as a good thing. Some things are just too fiddly. e.g. Creating a transparency gradient. There is plenty of room in the context toolbar to show all the options but you have chosen to hide it all in a tiny dialog window that drops-down. Sure, it feels familiar but in an "oh, no!" kind of way. Same with fill and stroke options.

 

Too many tools with restricted functionality. If I want to create a complex shape, I need to use the pen or pencil tool to create the shape but if I want to fine-tune it, I need to change to the node tool. In Xara I can just select the Node tool and do it all.

 

Saving colours either doesn't work or is much harder than it needs to be. I created a dark blue-grey and wanted to save it for later re-use. The help says there is an "Add Color To Swatch" option in the drop-down but there is not. I tried some of the other options but it always just saved a black swatch. I like the option to save transparency with a colour, though, it could be very handy, as could the palette export feature.

 

UI re-draws aren't very smooth. I put a 3D effect on a shape and then moved it around and rescaled it. I could see the re-draws happening, where Xara moves much more detailed objects around on screen completely smoothly.

 

There are a lot of things I think Affinity Designer does really well. The way grouped objects get put into a single layer is clean and intuitive. I also like having transfer/blending modes available for all layers and layer effects seem instantly familiar although, again, I'm not sure it's a better option than separate toolbar buttons like you get in Xara. Overall, Affinity Designer feels a lot more fiddly than I am used to. With a few UI tweaks and greater functionality within tools it could be really good. Obviously it comes nowhere near close to Xara's very mature featureset but for a version 1.0 product, it is quite promising. For the moment, though, I won't be buying it, I'm afraid, even with the very generous offer we've been given.

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BONES,

 

I know someone in the programming team who will care a lot about your opinions and comparisons with a programme he used to write ;)

Thanks for taking the time to express how you found it


Patrick Connor

Serif (Europe) Ltd.

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BONES,

 

I know someone in the programming team who will care a lot about your opinions and comparisons with a programme he used to write ;)

Thanks for taking the time to express how you found it

LOL  :D  :D  :D great


 

 

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I'm not sure if you care at all but I thought you might like some feedback from a long time user of Xara Designer Pro, who also uses Adobe CC eight hours a day at work. To be fair, I have not spent a lot of time with Affinity Designer but a few things are immediately apparent to me.

 

The UI is very Adobe-like and I just can't see that as a good thing. Some things are just too fiddly. e.g. Creating a transparency gradient. There is plenty of room in the context toolbar to show all the options but you have chosen to hide it all in a tiny dialog window that drops-down. Sure, it feels familiar but in an "oh, no!" kind of way. Same with fill and stroke options.

 

Too many tools with restricted functionality. If I want to create a complex shape, I need to use the pen or pencil tool to create the shape but if I want to fine-tune it, I need to change to the node tool. In Xara I can just select the Node tool and do it all.

 

Saving colours either doesn't work or is much harder than it needs to be. I created a dark blue-grey and wanted to save it for later re-use. The help says there is an "Add Color To Swatch" option in the drop-down but there is not. I tried some of the other options but it always just saved a black swatch. I like the option to save transparency with a colour, though, it could be very handy, as could the palette export feature.

 

UI re-draws aren't very smooth. I put a 3D effect on a shape and then moved it around and rescaled it. I could see the re-draws happening, where Xara moves much more detailed objects around on screen completely smoothly.

 

There are a lot of things I think Affinity Designer does really well. The way grouped objects get put into a single layer is clean and intuitive. I also like having transfer/blending modes available for all layers and layer effects seem instantly familiar although, again, I'm not sure it's a better option than separate toolbar buttons like you get in Xara. Overall, Affinity Designer feels a lot more fiddly than I am used to. With a few UI tweaks and greater functionality within tools it could be really good. Obviously it comes nowhere near close to Xara's very mature featureset but for a version 1.0 product, it is quite promising. For the moment, though, I won't be buying it, I'm afraid, even with the very generous offer we've been given.

 

Hi thanks for the feedback!

 

I'm sure Matt will have some better answers here - but to clear up a couple of possible misconceptions:

 

1.) The transparency / fill tools. To add a transparency, I choose the transparency tool, then drag - once - on the canvas. I select either handle, and set the transparency using the colour panel. I can add and remove handles, set midpoints, etc. all without ever using the little flyout. In fact, I don't think I *ever* use the flyout - unless I want to set a handle to a precise numeric position (i.e.. 25%). Other apps don't have the same on-canvas interaction with the fill / transparency tool as Designer and this often makes users think that the only way to use the tool is the flyout..

 

2.) The pen tool has all the functionality of the node tool - just hold the Cmd (or Windows equivalent) key! I think this implementation is pretty much perfect..

 

3.) Add the fills. I can do Right click -> Add To Swatches -> From Fill.. I'm using the Mac product though - so if this is missing in Windows, it's an oversight..

 

4.) Designer redraws are live - whereas other apps tend to keep rasterised copies of things like filter effects. This can make the movement of some objects slower than others - but facilitates immediate, live reflection of any changes to any objects - rendered correctly in z-order. 

 

Hope this helps!

 

Andy.

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I'm not sure if you care at all but I thought you might like some feedback from a long time user of Xara Designer Pro, who also uses Adobe CC eight hours a day at work. To be fair, I have not spent a lot of time with Affinity Designer but a few things are immediately apparent to me.

 

The UI is very Adobe-like and I just can't see that as a good thing. Some things are just too fiddly. e.g. Creating a transparency gradient. There is plenty of room in the context toolbar to show all the options but you have chosen to hide it all in a tiny dialog window that drops-down. Sure, it feels familiar but in an "oh, no!" kind of way. Same with fill and stroke options.

 

Too many tools with restricted functionality. If I want to create a complex shape, I need to use the pen or pencil tool to create the shape but if I want to fine-tune it, I need to change to the node tool. In Xara I can just select the Node tool and do it all.

 

Saving colours either doesn't work or is much harder than it needs to be. I created a dark blue-grey and wanted to save it for later re-use. The help says there is an "Add Color To Swatch" option in the drop-down but there is not. I tried some of the other options but it always just saved a black swatch. I like the option to save transparency with a colour, though, it could be very handy, as could the palette export feature.

 

UI re-draws aren't very smooth. I put a 3D effect on a shape and then moved it around and rescaled it. I could see the re-draws happening, where Xara moves much more detailed objects around on screen completely smoothly.

 

There are a lot of things I think Affinity Designer does really well. The way grouped objects get put into a single layer is clean and intuitive. I also like having transfer/blending modes available for all layers and layer effects seem instantly familiar although, again, I'm not sure it's a better option than separate toolbar buttons like you get in Xara. Overall, Affinity Designer feels a lot more fiddly than I am used to. With a few UI tweaks and greater functionality within tools it could be really good. Obviously it comes nowhere near close to Xara's very mature featureset but for a version 1.0 product, it is quite promising. For the moment, though, I won't be buying it, I'm afraid, even with the very generous offer we've been given.

 

"Node", "Pen" and "Pencil" tool could be merged into one tool:

1. Drawing with left mouse button pressed -- draws a freehand line

2. Combined with CTRL -- draws straight line

3. Double click on a line segment -- creates a node

4. Double click on a node -- deletes it

5. Dragging with left mouse button pressed on a stright line segment -- creates curve segment

6. Holding CTRL/ALT/SHIFT when clicking on a node converts it into node where you can drag the handles simetrical / smooth / each handle independently.

I know that some features already exists, but I just have to mention them.

 

Dealing with colors:

Remove "standard" colors and left only global swatches and colors systems (Pantone...)

Left click on a color -- fill, right click -- stroke. Just remove these Adobe like icons because they are just confusing and not so easy to select them expecially on a monitors with high resolution.

 

Put "rectangle tool" and "elipse tool" together with other smart objects like in Photo. Remove "rounded rectangle tool" from Designer and Photo because it can be done with "rectangle tool".


Best regards,

Petar Petrenko
Typesetter, Graphic Designer, Photographer
Skopje, Makedonija

Windows 10 x64 Pro
Dell Inspiron 7559 i7
Intel Core i7-6700HQ (3.50 GHz, 6M )
16GB Dual Channel DDR3L 1600MHz (8GBx2)
1TB HDD + 128 GB SSD Hard drive
UHD (3840 x 2160) Truelife LED- Backlit Touch Display
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB GDDR5

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1.) The transparency / fill tools. To add a transparency, I choose the transparency tool, then drag - once - on the canvas. I select either handle, and set the transparency using the colour panel. I can add and remove handles, set midpoints, etc. all without ever using the little flyout. In fact, I don't think I *ever* use the flyout - unless I want to set a handle to a precise numeric position (i.e.. 25%). Other apps don't have the same on-canvas interaction with the fill / transparency tool as Designer and this often makes users think that the only way to use the tool is the flyout..

Ah! That makes it better. In fact, the UI widget is also much better, I just need to get used to going to the fat side panels instead of the elegant toolbar. i.e. It's a more Adobe way of working, which makes sense if that's whose users you are going after.

 

2.) The pen tool has all the functionality of the node tool - just hold the Cmd (or Windows equivalent) key! I think this implementation is pretty much perfect..

 

No, that definitely doesn't work for me. If I have a straight line, for example, and I want to push it out/in to make it curved, I absolutely have to change tools to do it. I tried SHIFT, ALT and CTRL but none of them work. It's a really fast workflow I've developed in Xara for cutting out objects from photos - quickly go around and click everywhere you need a node, then come back and push the straight lines into the required shape for the final cut-out, all using the same tool.

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This definitely works in the Windows version - you hold down Ctrl while in the Pen Tool and you can access all the functionality of the Node Tool. If it's not working for you then we have a bug somewhere. Can we ask what your keyboard setup is? (US/UK/DE/FR?)

 

With respect to the Xara thing, I was trying to keep quiet for a change (everyone knows I worked there when we were making Xara X back in 2001-ish) and it was a great piece of software - but they got rid of their development team as soon as we launched the software and as a result it hasn't really changed much over the years :(

 

Thanks!

Matt

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This definitely works in the Windows version - you hold down Ctrl while in the Pen Tool and you can access all the functionality of the Node Tool. If it's not working for you then we have a bug somewhere. Can we ask what your keyboard setup is? (US/UK/DE/FR?)

 

With respect to the Xara thing, I was trying to keep quiet for a change (everyone knows I worked there when we were making Xara X back in 2001-ish) and it was a great piece of software - but they got rid of their development team as soon as we launched the software and as a result it hasn't really changed much over the years :(

 

Thanks!

Matt

 

Yep, progress has been slow on the vector drawing side of things and the seemingly impossible task of adding in OT Feature support. I write seemingly impossible because it hasn't happened despite the outcries. But hey, they gave us OT kerning...

 

The last few releases have made progress on new features, older ones have mostly stagnated. Older issues like "print on all plates" has not been rectified for spot color channels, no color management, etc. 

 

That said, it is far more responsive on all my computers than AD. And for much of what I do, it is perfectly suited. I don't do art, I mostly never use brushes, etc. I do make good use of the shape builder and vector eraser, etc. Back to performance, I can click to start AD and while it is starting, I can load XDP, load a drawing and export it to PDF by the time AD is ready.

 

Unless Xara / MagixTricks decides to get with the program and build in more drawing features in XDP, cut the web crap out and lower its price, it will be a footnote on Wikipedia as a has-been in the next few years. Serif's AD will erode Xara's non-web building customers to handfuls within a few years and Charles & Kate will retreat into their castle satisfied with the sell-out to Magix and never rethink the "what could have been."

 

This missive (or perhaps, dismissive) from a long-time xara customer...

 

Mike


My computer is a nothing-special Toshiba laptop with unremarkable specs running Windows 10 64-bit.

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When I saw Xara for the first time I was 14.

A demo made by Corel, with a big guy busy at blending planets on a landscape photograph. :)  

 

Ten years later when I was 24 I started working for a small eLearning company.

My equipment for illustration was a Xara/Expression combo, then they moved to OSX and Freehand.

 

AD has inherited somehow something of the divergent approach owned by these applications, but also pushed the limit even further, reaching the first truly working seamless integration with raster.

Pure vector illustration workflow still has to be fine tuned, but hybrid shading/fx capabilities and are unparalleled.

The recent improvements put a benchmark in UI design too.


The white dog, making tools for artists, illustrators and doodlers

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I can't say I like the UI. I noted above that it is quite Adobe-like but I have always thought Adobe's way of doing things was absolutely bloody awful and they've done little over the years to change that. I work as a broadcast designer, so I am used to truly elegant software UIs like that of Autodesk's 3DS Max, the sadly discontinued Combustion and their now free downloadable Composite. The latter two applications put everything in one place, where AD has a toolbar down the left side, a smattering of buttons across the top and big, fat panels down the right side. It's only by using lots of hotkeys that it becomes workable, which increases the learning curve considerably.

 

AD has inherited somehow something of the divergent approach owned by these applications, but also pushed the limit even further, reaching the first truly working seamless integration with raster.

 

It probably depends what you are used to but I don't feel that at all. Combustion remains the high point for vector/raster integration - even the magic wand tool is a vector point that can be animated over time - but Xara comes close, especially with tools like content-aware scaling/masking and the like. One thing I do like with AD, though, is the way it clips to the edge of the artboard. That's a very TV/film way of doing things that would instantly resonate with everyone at work. In fact, you know what? I've just realised that one feature is enough for me to justify buying the product...

... only when I go to purchase it, I don't seem to be getting the promised discount. Oh well, I shouldn't have waited 'til the last minute, I suppose.

 

I can click to start AD and while it is starting, I can load XDP, load a drawing and export it to PDF by the time AD is ready.

Wow! You are so lucky. Nothing I use takes longer to start than Xara. Just today, I ended up opening three instances because the first one took so long to even display a splash screen that I thought. Sometimes it can be two minutes from when I click the icon to when I see the UI. It's all because it wants to contact the Xara server before it will open so if I switch my modem off first, it opens quickly. Otherwise, forget about it.

 

The things everyone complains about with Xara are the things I tend to appreciate most about it. Like you, I don't do a lot of freehand work but I really appreciate things like the web functionality as it allows me to maintain my band's website without needing any third party software. And the photo tools mean I don't have to bother with Photoshop (which is something I really appreciate).

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As another looooong time Xara user, I'm thrilled by the rapid development of Affinity Designer's drawing tools. I actually purchased the Mac version previously during a stretch when my MacBook was my primary machine, specifically to have something vaguely 'Xara-like' as an alternative to Illustrator. Now that I'm back on my PC, I was delighted to see the Beta announcement.

 

I've happily purchased the release version, and look forward to many exciting things to come!

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It probably depends what you are used to but I don't feel that at all. Combustion remains the high point for vector/raster integration - even the magic wand tool is a vector point that can be animated over time - but Xara comes close, especially with tools like content-aware scaling/masking and the like.

 

Combustion was a video/compositing application, not suitable for illustration and print.

I'm talking about applications for illustration/painting/design for static content.

 

We have to make a distinction:

  • Raster Editors with Vector tools
  • Vector Editors with Raster tools

So far the only Vector Editor (still alive) which allows to create a raster/vector hybrid works in illustration/print industry is Canvas.

In the past CH Expression had raster brushes aside vector, and mapped ones.

 

Xara's vector workflow is brilliant, but raster management is not as slick as in AD, the Layer Studio makes the difference here.

Masking and Adjustments are simple stupid, also it allows complex raster brushworks impossible in Xara.


The white dog, making tools for artists, illustrators and doodlers

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I just want to throw out my feedback for the UI in Designer, it is the first thing that sold for me. Even though Xara goes very deep with its features, I am not fond of its interface. I just wish that Designer would have more contrast to selected tools and options. Aside from that, I really hope it doesn't change.

 

With respect to the Xara thing, I was trying to keep quiet for a change (everyone knows I worked there when we were making Xara X back in 2001-ish) and it was a great piece of software - but they got rid of their development team as soon as we launched the software and as a result it hasn't really changed much over the years :(

 

Is that so? I brought up Xara in another topic. I didn't realize they are not being developed anymore.


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Hi bleduc,

Matt was referring to Xara X (in 2001). The program is still being developed but most of the latest additions were related to raster or web design tools. Most of the vector based tools - the core of the application around that time - remain unchanged since then.

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No, there additions to the vector side of things too. Brushes, including vector brushes and bitmap ones. Vector shape builder and a vector eraser, type has been improved, multi-columns, etc., etc., all since Matt left.

 

But there is a lot more that can be done with it as has been mentioned.


My computer is a nothing-special Toshiba laptop with unremarkable specs running Windows 10 64-bit.

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I said most of the tools added were raster/web based. During a few years there wasn't almost any movement on the vector side. Only in more recent years they start introducing a few improvements to vector drawing tools. The text improvements were also needed because they launched Page & Layout designer (a subset of Xara Designer Pro like the other apps) as well as to support Word docs.

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It's true that Xara doesn't progress as quickly as it ought as regards vector. But your characterization isn't accurate either. The following page doesn't list version 12 stuff, nor does it include everything that is added, enhanced or changed. For instance, page size limitations have been removed in version 12, but this lack of information applies to previous versions too.

 

http://www.xara.com/us/designer-pro/whats-new/older/


My computer is a nothing-special Toshiba laptop with unremarkable specs running Windows 10 64-bit.

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3.) Add the fills. I can do Right click -> Add To Swatches -> From Fill.. I'm using the Mac product though - so if this is missing in Windows, it's an oversight..

 

Btw: Is there a way to add global gradients? :) It doesn't work in the Windows version.

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This topic interests me a lot. Xara has been my swiss army knife for more than 20 years now. But it shows signs of aging, and development is not responsive to user requests -- never was. Since Magix it seems they moved their focus to areas that are not what professional designers want. (Will anybody seriously consider it as the tool of choice to build a website?) They don't seem to be interested in perfecting and updating the tools they already have, nor are they including any new productivity tools por professionals. So what I really want is to replace it for good, and AD is my choice.

 

Having that said, I agree with Bones in that the Apple- and Illustrator-focused approach sometimes leads to AD being more complex that it should be. Yes, UI also know that the Pen tool in Xara is the fastest and simplest thing ever invented. Another example: I know of no simpler way of copying and multi-copying objects on the fly than that of Xara and CorelDRAW. It even works while you are rotating, scaling and skewing objects. Compared to Windows HTMP help, the AD help system is slow, does not highlight the results, and is not context-sensitive, and so on. AD could easily be the best of them all since it is so young, and I hope it will, but I believe it still needs a bit more of an open mind.

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Why wouldn't you build a website in Xara? I built my band's website 100% in Designer Pro - http://www.novakill.com- it beats the hell out of making all the little image files in Xara, exporting them all one by one and reassembling them into a website in another application, which is how I used to have to do it.

 

Combustion was a video/compositing application, not suitable for illustration and print.

Combustion is well suited to illustration. After all, it started life as two stand-alone applications, one of which was a vector art program called Paint. It's vector tools are as good as Illustrator, Xara, Affinity Designer, Flash or anything else I've used for the kind of work I do, at least. It's lightning fast and the vector tools themselves are intuitive and easy to use. And things like a vector magic wand tool give it unrivalled vector/raster integration, which is the context in which it was mentioned. Autodesk may have discontinued it six years ago but it is still one of my go-to applications, moreso than Photoshop, After Effects or Flash, even though I have been using those applications for many years longer. And it works fine for still images.

 

Xara's vector workflow is brilliant, but raster management is not as slick as in AD, the Layer Studio makes the difference here.

Masking and Adjustments are simple stupid, also it allows complex raster brushworks impossible in Xara.

 

I'm not seeing this at all. Masking and adjustments in Xara are just about the best I've ever used. Could you point me to some examples or tutorials that illustrate Designer's raster prowess because I'd be very keen to see it if it is even better than Xara? Mind you, the new Select and Mask features in Photoshop pretty much make everything else obsolete now. We only got upgraded at work this week and I am blown away by how well it works.

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I don't want to start any Application challenge here... ;)

Your opinions about Xara are perfectly licit, simply I do not agree... But this is up to one's habits.

 

About Combustion and its ancestors I want to make some clarifications

 

 

 

After all, it started life as two stand-alone applications, one of which was a vector art program called Paint.

 

Not true...

 

Illuminaire Paint, was a rotoscoping/visual fx application with a vector engine.

Discreet Logic acquired it from Denim Software when they decided to move to NT and released it for free just after Combustion launch.

Trust me when I say that it was not suitable for complex illustration, also vector tools were rather simple... Cannot be defined as a vector art program at all.

It even lacks of a Print function and it is pretty understandable, since it had been designed to work on image sequences.

 

I used it in the past and still have it installed as you can see below...  ;)

 

 

dicreet_paint.png

 

 

Discreet Logic acquired it together with Illuminaire Effects (this one was brilliant since it included a 3D camera system in a 2D environment ages before AE), and merged both into Combustion, giving it the same UI praradigm of flame, inferno etc...

Combustion was a much more powerful application than the Illuminaire Studio, but sorry its main discipline wasn't illustration...

It had been designed for vfx, compositing and motion graphics.

 

This does not mean that you can't do illustration in Combustion if you want, but comparing it Corel Draw, Xara and whatever else in the vector design panorama sound a bit weird: apples and oranges.

Even Apple Motion has a very clever stroke mapping engine and allows rather complex brushwork, comparable with Xara, but I'd never use it to make an illustration.

And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone...  :)


The white dog, making tools for artists, illustrators and doodlers

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It's main discipline may not have been illustration but that doesn't mean it isn't perfectly suited to it. It was used quite widely in Asia for cartoons at one time, as a much more usable alternative to Flash. It is probably far less intuitive to someone used to Illustrator but anyone with a bit of technical understanding can squeeze a lot out of it e.g. If you want to create highlights and shadows on an object, you paint in RGB, instead of RGBA, and your brush strokes use the alpha of the underlying object. No need to clip them by setting up a complex hierarchy. The raster features in Designer are quite clumsy by comparison.

 

Paint also received some fairly good upgrades during Combustion's life so it has a completely new text engine, retaining the sharpest looking text in the business, as well as B-splines and spline-based feathering, which are handy for illustration work.

 

I worked for discreet/Autodesk for a while and I got to meet the guy who founded Denim. He and his two mates only wanted to make something good enough to get bought out. They figured it would be Adobe and were surprised when discreet made them an offer. Last I heard, he was still working in sales for them.

 

I'm not looking to start any application contests, either, just genuinely curious. I've watched a few of the tutorial videos on Vimeo since I posted yesterday and I kind of see what you are probably getting at. My interest is more in integrating vector with raster, rather than switching between vector and raster on the same object.

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