Canvas 14 creates sophisticated tech illustrations

Create technical illustrations with this powerful but intuitive enterprise-class application.

Canvas 14 from ACD Systems is an enterprise-class technical illustration program. With it, you can create, refine, and publish sophisticated illustrations, animations, and documents.

It combines the drawing and illustrating features of a premium graphics app, the 3D modeling and drafting capabilities of CAD, and the collaborative capabilities of a productivity suite in one surprisingly intuitive package. A quick-start guide, copious documentation, and a helpful sidebar called the Canvas Assistant made getting to know this capable but complex software easier than we expected.

To try Canvas 14 for free, you must select that option during installation and complete the process via e-mail notification, but it's quick and painless. The program's user interface is efficient and attractive, with a crisp and businesslike layout blending the look of an image editor, office application, and Web browser; it's easily customized, too. Canvas 14 opens with an optional Startup Dialog that let us quickly create a new Illustration, GIS Document, Publication, Animation, Presentation, or user-defined Custom Document. This dialog also offers a series of quick-start guides that open a detailed browser-based users' manual.

We started small by creating a new illustration. Our blank document opened in the main window in a split view with the Canvas Assistant, which provides context-specific information and help at each step. Canvas 14's floating tool palette and layers will be familiar to Photoshop users, as will the tool and brushes themselves and many other features. Canvas is the equal of top-class illustration and design tools, though, and it takes a bit of time to learn its many unique features, such as the SpriteEffects filter tool, or its productivity and collaboration features such as flowcharts and publishing. There's even a spell-checker.

Canvas 14 now includes advanced GIS features like positioning and tagging, plus the ability to import and export GIS information and to visualize GIS data. Canvas 14 shows again why premium tools are worth their price in the face of stiff competition from freeware, especially in a business setting, where efficiency, power, and support are reflected in documents and the bottom line.

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