Issue 20

Mar/Apr 86

Next Article >>

<< Prev Article



Batteries Included





If you were impressed by Neochrome, stand by to be even more impressed by DEGAS, a superb graphic arts system developed by Tom Hudson, formerly of Analog magazine who, I believe, began development of this program as a listing for Analog but has ended up with one of the best packages so far released for the ST.

DEGAS is basically an artists utility to produce superb computer art in low or medium res colour or even in black and white. One area where it far outshines Neochrome is its ability to combine text, in a variety of styles, with any graphic image thereby opening up the whole field of design to those with lesser artistic abilities. Even with the minimum of background design some stunning visuals can be achieved. The secret lies not in the mere placing of text on screen in the conventional manner but in the ability to use text of several different sizes, and from several different fonts on the same screen. You can even add shadow in any of eight directions and at any distance to give 3-D or double text. You can use any of the several fonts supplied or design your own with the font editor, another versatile and easy to use program on the disk. Let's not get too carried away by the text, however, for this is also an excellent graphics package.

Graphics wise almost all you would expect from a drawing program is there. A full screen menu gives 39 choices of action with 16 brush sizes and a 16 colour palette in low res together with an illustration of the current fill and line patterns. Selection between this menu and the full screen drawing screen is simply by clicking the mouse. All of the expected drawing commands are there such as Draw, Point, Line, K-Line, Rays, Fill, Circle, Disc, Frame and Box but by using the keyboard other niceties are available such as boxes with rounded corners or perfect circles or Polygons. An airbrush mode is included, in which you can alter settings, and it works in a very similar vein to a true airbrush. You really do seem to 'spray' pixels onto the screen and can fill an area to any density you wish. The Fill feature is extensive with 38 different Fill patterns supplied but also included is an editor to allow you to design your own patterns and save them on disk. Likewise with brushes and lines. If you don't like any of the many supplied, just design your own and save them on disk.

Magnify works superbly. By using the magnify key, a small rectangle appears on screen. Move this over your desired area and click the mouse button and that area will enlarge to fill the whole screen. Each pixel is clearly seen and can be adjusted as you desire while a small frame the size of the original rectangle appears at the top left of the screen and is updated to show the actual effect of your amendments.

A Shadow mode is available, again set to your preferences, which will work in draw mode but is much more effective with text. Coming back to text for a moment, you have a choice of either Block Text which obscures the background or X-Ray Text which overlays a background design. Block and X-Ray also apply to the Copy mode where you can select any area of the picture to duplicate to another part of the screen.

There is a lot more to DEGAS due to the ability to customise many parts to your requirements. You may change colours, fill patterns, brushes, line shapes, fonts, mirrors, shadows and the airbrush and you can save many of these on disk. Of course you can also save your pictures and show them again with a Slide Show program provided. The pictures are saved in a format unique to DEGAS but a utility is included to convert Neochrome pictures to DEGAS format. Pictures can be printed via an Epson printer driver provided and Batteries Included promise extra printer drivers shortly. Also to come are extra utilities and many more finished pictures some of which will be available commercially and others which will be released into the public domain.

DEGAS has certainly set a standard for drawing programs on the ST although it does have a few weaknesses. It lacks Neochrome's superb ability to cut an image from one picture to another and the adjustment of the colour palette is much more 'hit and miss' than Neochrome's on-screen presentation. The only other niggle is the selection of fill and line patterns where you must cycle through all 38 patterns. If you go too fast and miss the one you are after you must go through again.

One parting comment about the manual. Superb. It is in fact a fifty page paperback book which reflects the thought and design that has gone into DEGAS. Easy to use, visually excellent, you may stop reading now, go out and buy it!