[artworks] Comments on ArtWorks control points

  • From: Simon Smith <simon_smith@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: artworks@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 01:09:11 GMT

[Here is the complete message dredged out of my Scrap directory.
Cut-and-pasting from one Edit window to another seems to have been what
caused it to go astray. Apologies.]

First, I should probably mention that having used Draw so extensively over
the years, my reflex behaviour is to do things - or at least try to do them
- the way Draw would. So I'm probably not quite using ArtWorks in exactly
the ways it expects. I also like to have everything lined up just so, so I
make extensive use of the grid, and I often encounter issues where multiple
control points all coincide exactly. This is a problem that cannot be solved
by any amount of zooming in, of course. My usual workaround is to move the
control points out of the way until I've found the one I want, make the
change, then put the other points back again afterwards. This can be a right
pain. ArtWorks' layers do sometimes help in this situation, but only when
one is dealing with multiple /different/ coincident objects, which isn't
always the case. Finally, I use a very high mouse speed - mouse step 8, and
I do precision work by zooming in to very high levels and/or using tools
such as the Draw-style mouse cursor keys rather than by setting my mouse
sensitivity down.

While the ArtWorks control points are generally better than Draw's, their
smaller size is sometimes annoying, as is the fact that they can still
disappear when several of them overlap. And as discussed in my other
email, it does sometimes seem to matter which 'end' of a line you try
to select. If there really was no difference, we wouldn't need the 'reverse
path order' button, which I sometimes find quite handy.

I would suggest having different shaped control points for at least some
of the following: start of open path, end of open path, start/end of closed
path, (that would make it easier to distinguish a closed path with no fill
from an open path where the start and end points overlap), start/end of
currently selected line segment, and possibly inside and outside 'magnet
radius'. (In this last case, the control point would have to change shape or
colour dynamically as the mouse moved nearer or further away.)
There's plenty of possibilities for these shapes which would be just as
clear as the current red boxes - eight pointed stars, six pointed stars,
plus signs, crosses, a solid box, a hollow box, a box and cross, a box and
plus sign, circle and dot, circle and cross, circle and star etc.

It would also be good if the size of these control points could be adjusted.
At today's high screen resolutions they're getting increasingly small and
fiddly. Even if no other changes were made, I'd be glad to see the existing
control points doubled in size. While I acknowledge that providing
configuration options for too many different things can be
counter-productive, this could be made an adjustable setting, or else
dynamic based on screen resolution.

In Draw, when you select a line, the line segment and the associated control
point both change colour. Given that ArtWorks usually displays the line's
real colour, I don't quite see how you could match this, but perhaps the
following would help (and could be extended to the shape's bezier control
points as well): First, make line segments selectable. (Which is not
currently possible.) When a line segment is selected, its control points are
highlighted in some way (e.g. by changing to red and growing to twice their
current size or something). This would mean that when several control points
coincide, you can click on the line segment you want to manipulate, and that
would cause its 2-6 associated control points to grow larger, making them
much easier to select, even if they're 'buried' under other control points
for the same shape. And once a line's control points have been highlighted,
they can then be selected and then manipulated using ArtWorks' existing
editing mechanisms. At lower quality settings, the selected line segment
could be coloured red. The convention would be that if you clicked on a
line segment, it and its control points would be coloured accordingly, and
if you clicked on a control point, it and the 'downstream' line and control
point(s) would be selected and highlighted.

In Draw, you can bisect a line with the F7 key. I used this feature a
lot. In ArtWorks, it's easy to add extra control points to a line, but
harder to place them precisely. The ability to bisect would be good, and
trisecting (etc.) would be a double bonus.

The ability to use one line to cut another would also be handy. I don't
quite see how to do this at present, even with the intersect and clip tools.
Draw line AB, then draw line CD crossing it. Then press a key to add a
control point at the intersection of the two lines, then delete the unwanted
line segments. That would do me fine. Can it be done?

The ability to step along a line's control points using keystrokes would be
a possible substitute for the rather ambitious description of 'ways to muck
about with control points' of three paragraphs ago. Having both would
be lovely, but key-based selection of control points would be useful because
it avoids difficulties selecting the exact point you want when there's lots
of control points all close together. It also means you can step along a
path making changes to each control point in turn and know for sure you
haven't missed any.

If it was possible, I would be glad to have bezier control points conforming
to a finer grid than standard control points. However, a more general
refinement to this would be to have a key that toggles between two different
grid settings. You could then set things up to have, say, a 10mm grid which
toggles to a 5mm grid when the F10 key is pressed, or 1" with lock, grid
invisible, switching to 1/10" without lock, grid visible. Ctrl-F10 brings up
the grid dialog, so F10 would be a logical grid toggle key, I'd hope.
Presumably move the infrequently-used 'Show key shortcuts' to

I also note that while ArtWorks uses most key+modifier combinations, it
doesn't use many unmodified keys. Perhaps you could start using some of
these, at least when there aren't any text boxes selected. In Line mode, for
example; N for next point, P for previous point, F for first point, L for
last point, + to increase line thickness by 0.25 (or some other
user-specified value), - to reduce it by the same amount, 2 or / to bisect
the line, 3 to trisect, M to toggle the magnet, C to close the path, O to
open the path, X to intersect, V to make vertical, H to make horizontal, B
to cycle between a line's Bezier control points, etc. (I know there are
clashes/duplicated functions here - those keys are for illustration only.)

Perhaps 1-0 (or Shift/Ctrl 1-0 could be used for user-defined functions? In
some work I did the other day I was repetitively switching between several
different functions, and I could have been a lot quicker had I been able to
temporarily bind a few keys - select layer 1, select layer 2, zoom in,
zoom out, move object down one step in the current layer, cut, paste in
place, repeat.

BTW I know there is already an ArtWorks feature wishlist. Is it published
anywhere? I'd bet half these ideas are already on it. But unfortunately I
don't know which half.

Simon Smith
Have you heard of the International Obfuscated Perl Code Competition? Each
contestant is shown ten Perl programs - five that have been written normally
and five that have been deliberately obfuscated. In order to win, you just
have to decide which is which.

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