« Smultron and LilyPond | Main | The H-Bomb Girl »

May 10, 2008

Comic Life Magiq first impressions

Mayday bank holiday 2008 I got an email from the lovely people at Plasq offering me a cheap family pack of the new version of Comic Life. The new edition is Leopard only because it uses all the lovely Leopard core functionality. As a test for this review, I made this collage of some of the photos Steven took of the morrismen on Bank Holiday Monday. I really liked the extract feature, which isn't perfect but is good enough, and amazingly quick. I liked the flexibility around lettering, panel shape options, the great array of comic fonts that come bundled in and the starter templates. And I liked the overall ease of creating comic pages. You can see above that for a local club, you can create something really fun very quickly.

What's not to like? Well, a fair bit actually. Do you remember 'Kai's Power Goo'? It was a great little image editing program with a really silly interface. Looks like Plasq remember it too. If you decide to do complex editing on an image, it throws up a large palette in the middle of your screen, with a tiny editing window inside that; perhaps 640x480 (see screenshot below; either that editing window is very small or very far away). There are no context-sensitive right-click menus, and almost none of the elements are smart. Layout programs with layers need easy ways to see what layers are under your mouse at any given time and bring the right one out to work on. If there's a way to do this in Comic Life, I haven't found it yet. I want it to be perfectly obvious how to, for example, flip an image or object 180 degrees horizontally; I never found a way to do that at all.

The program keeps guessing about what it is you're trying to do, like Clippy. Several times, it decided for me that I wanted to insert an object into the frame of a different object. Er, no, ta; why would this ever be the default for anything other than an empty frame? And on one occasion Comic Life created a smart object out of two different elements, for no reason I can see, and I couldn't retrieve them except with Undo. either that editing window is very small, or very far away There's a weird circular editing tool that brings up a wheel of seemingly random options; its purpose is completely opaque to me. I guess my problem is that I'm not looking for 'intuitive' or 'whimsical' user interfaces; I'm looking for a neat array of tools with clear menus for their use, and a program that takes full advantage of my screen real estate.

Having said all that, I do think this is a great program. Comic Life has been used not just for comics and for family greetings and snapshots, but for a whole range of instructables and manuals. This version extends its functionality and provides enough editing tools for most non-power-users' needs. And the core of the program -- making comics to share with your friends and family -- is as much fun as ever.

Posted by Alison Scott at May 10, 2008 05:37 PM


Post a comment

Remember Me?

Your comment will be moderated unless you're using an authentication service and you've commented here before. You can use some HTML tags for style and links.