February 12, 2009

Aviary's Raven "flexes" vector muscles

Cloud computing is all the rage in today's world. Whether it's Gmail, Acrobat.com, Kuler, Basecamp, or any of the other thousands of online hosted services and applications out there, the concept is simple. Instead of tying your work directly to the desktop, your information lives on the internet (a.k.a., the cloud), easily accessible from any computer, no matter where you are.

Most of you are probably familiar with Adobe's Kuler application - what Adobe likes to refer to as an RIA or a Rich Internet Application. You can access kuler through your web browser from just about any computer and see the colors that you've created. You can also create your own colors, and search through colors that others have created. But Kuler is really a "small" application - can you imagine if Adobe Illustrator itself was a hosted service - where you could actually use powerful vector drawing tools in your browser from any computer, share your art, and view art from others as well? On some level, Adobe has actually taken parts of Photoshop and made it available online via Photoshop Express. And while Illustrator isn't there today, no one knows what the future holds.

But some people have decided they weren't interested in waiting for the future. So they developed their own tools. I actually bumped into these guys at Adobe MAX in 2007 (in Chicago), and it's really funny how small the world is - considering they live about 5 minutes from my home. Their company is called Aviary and they have built their own suite of creative tools -- including an image editor (Phoenix) and a vector graphics drawing application (Raven). These rich internet applications are actually built on the Flex framework (same as Kuler), and they live in the cloud. At first glance, they look just like a regular desktop graphics application, but they run in your web browser.

Aviary's Phoenix - a Photoshop-like image editor

Aviary's Raven - an Illustrator-like vector drawing program

But don't take my word - try it out for yourself! Aviary has released these applications as public betas, and you can sign up and give it a whirl yourself. You can access the Raven beta here. What I really love about these tools is the sense of community. Focus less on the toolset (naturally, Raven can't compete with the powerful toolset of Illustrator - even though Raven does have a rubberband effect for the Pen tool), and focus more on the fact that you can browse through hundreds of other illustrations that others have created, and open them.

Overall, I find the experience of the Aviary suite of tools somewhat surreal. It certainly gives you a taste of what working in the future might feel like. It's pretty cool to have this kind of functionality that is cloud-based, and that is integrated so well. The vector art that you create with Raven is SVG-based, so you can certainly save files out of Illustrator as SVG and open them in Raven, and vice versa. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


Javier Zarracina said...

I'm very impressed by Raven.
I wouldn't be so sure about the claim that Raven "can't compete with the powerful Illustrator toolset"
Actually i think Illustrator would benefit of a smaller, better designed and more efficient toolset (i'd won't miss the scallops tool) and could takes some notes about Raven's tools-take gradients for instance. Also it launches in 1/10th of the time Illustrator takes to start in my computer.
Raven nails the foundation of a vector drawing application in the first try. I'll be very excited to see its evolution.

illustrator_LA said...

The cloud is the most exciting development in ages. It's hard to say whether open source tools will ever become main stream but then again just look at PHP, Firefox etc., Companies would be daft to ignore it.