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Wiggle It With Squiggle
A new graphics utility with powerful line enhancement tools
(From PC Graphics & Video magazine)

By N. T. Amur

Squiggle screen imageIn a world of orderly gradients, ubiquitous clipart that looks more manufactured than hand-crafted, and perfectly contoured lines, Squiggly by Insight Development (San Ramon, CA) puts the 'dis' in the word disorderly. The software will add some disorder to your otherwise orderly drawings. So, for cases where you neither need nor desire the perfect looks, Squiggle gives you a perfect solution.

As far as I know no other drawing and painting software offers what Squiggle does. Corel Corporation's CorelDraw, starting with Version 4, continues to provide significant line shaping tools with its PowerlLines feature. Also, Freehand has pressure-sensitive tools, that allow you to vary the appearance of individual lines.

Similarly, the latest crop of painting and image editing applications, such as Fauve Matisse, and Photoshop offer limited line shaping capabilities via their pressure sensitive tools. But none of the graphics applications on the market today can process images to produce the kinds of line appearance effects you can produce with Squiggle. It can randomly break up otherwise continuous lines, put wiggles on them, or make them look like you drew them on the back of an envelope-all in one shot. And here Insight Development lays its claim to fame.

The software package comes in a no-nonsense packaging: a spartan 44-page guide, a single 3-1/2 in. floppy diskette, plus the usual warranty registration blank, and the software license agreement, all stuffed in an ordinary white envelope. A closer look at the guide's contents reveals DOS and Windows installation procedures, examples, tips and tricks, and relevant application notes.

To install Squiggle as a DOS application you need an IBM PC or compatible, DOS 3.3 or later. You can also install Squiggle as a Windows application. You need Windows 3.0 or above, and a pointing device. I installed it on a 486 DX2 66 with a 16MB RAM running DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups Version 3.11. With the evaluation I also used a WACOM ArtPad graphics tablet. Squiggle completed its installation quickly and created its applications group in the Windows Program Manager.

To use Suiggle you first export your vector file from your drawing software as a HPGL or HPGL/2 file-also a vector format. CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, and Freehand among others offer this capability. In this instance I used CorelDraw 5. After you export your file, you open it in Squiggle.

The entire action in Squiggle centers around a suite of only six options that alter line appearance. Each option has two separate adjustments. In the Windows version, you select, deselect, and set the options simply by clicking your pointing device and moving the sliders. A preview window shows on a proxy the effects of your changes as you make them. So, you see immediately what your changes mean.

Insight Development gives you a head start by supplying nine styles with Squiggle. Styles consist of combinations of one or more of the six preset options. For each option in your style list you can reset the level of effects you want to produce. You can also edit the styles that come with Squiggle to create others, and store them as separate styles under different names.

Picking the options and setting the corresponding levels of effects is intuitive. But don't let this simplicity and ease of use fool you. While you get only six options to play with, by combining them in different orders and setting their respective levels, you can distort your drawings so much that you can't recognize them anymore.

Essentially, Squiggle gives you the tools to emulate freehand drawing styles. These tools break up the consistency inherent in computer graphics and give the artwork a more familiar look. The six Squiggle options, each with two variables individually adjustable from zero to one hundred percent, provide you with a wide range of flexibility enough to achieve effects from subtle to plain silly.

The Bend option makes lines wavy-looking. Also, you can set its variables Rise and Fall for the amount of waviness effect in your work.

You get interesting effects by including the Slide option in your styles. This feature changes line lengths in your drawings. You control the amount by adjusting the Over and Under levels. Over lengthens lines, while Under shortens them. At first, this may not seem like a big deal. But you can create line intersections where you had none, or break up lines where they intersected before. Discrepancies such as lines overshooting corners, or lines not quite connecting as they supposed to make drawings visually a lot more attractive.

The Sputter option breaks up single continuous lines. You move sliders labeled Draw and Miss to adjust segment lengths, and set the gaps between segments. A higher percentage for Draw means longer line segments generated from single continuous lines. Higher Miss numbers increase the distance between segments.

You can control the line thickness with the Thickness option. To set the effect you move the option's Spread and Length sliders to determine the effect intensity. Spread specifies the thickness and Length specifies the length of line segment you want to thicken. When you combine Thicken with Wiggle, and Slide you can make your drawings look like you drew them on a napkin.

To rotate your lines, you use the Tilt option. You specify the amount of rotation by setting the option's Away variable. You can also lengthen the rotated lines with Along variable.

The most intriguing option in the suite is Wiggle. It gives lines a zigy-zagy look. You set the high and low points with the Bounce variable, and the number of zig-zags with Breakup. This option produces fascinating effects, especially when you use it with other options.

Squiggle provides powerful line enhancement capabilities with a simple but functional user interface. Also, Insight Development promises for future versions a closer integration with leading drawing applications, and a live preview capability instead of the proxy. Squiggle is a lot of fun, and a great value at $99. It belongs to every professional's tool chest.

Price/Performance: 5; Features: 5; Ease of Use: 5; Learning Curve: 4; Documentation: 5; Technical Support: 5.

Squiggle, Version 1.05; MSRP $99

Insight Development Corp., 2420 Camino Ramon, Ste. 205, San Ramon, CA 94583. Phone: 510-244-2000. Contact: Steve Haber.

Contributing Editor N. T. Amur provides professional marketing consulting, public relations, advertising and communications services through Corsys in Garden Grove, CA. You can reach him at 714-892-7037.


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