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Canvas Draw 5: Loving Smart SnapsSCG

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  • mdawson69
    started a topic Canvas Draw 5: Loving Smart SnapsSCG

    Canvas Draw 5: Loving Smart SnapsSCG

    As I do not perform graphics work at home as often as I used to, I did not become aware that Canvas Draw 5 had been released until I perused the forum last week. Fortunately, I a Software Assurance membership, so the update was free. My first use of Canvas Draw 5 was to attempt to recreate a keyboard concept that I had drawn a few years back in OmniGraffle; I was still using my old Power Mac G5 at the time and did not use (the original cross-platform v.10) Canvas X due to the lack of Unicode support.

    After I designed the various key caps—key objects sized at relative sizes such as 1 × 1, 1 × 1.25, 1 × 1.5, et al.—I started creating the keyboard layout in a new layer. To my pleasant surprise, Canvas Draw began exhibiting a behavior that I was accustomed to seeing in OmniGraffle since I started using version 6 on may iMac at work, if not with the version that came pre-installed on my Power Mac G5 (v.4 of the standard, non-pro edition if I recall correctly), as well as modern CAD software such as Vectorworks. As I dragged key caps into their respective positions, Canvas Draw was giving me feedback on the distribution and alignment of objects I was moving with respect to other objects on the screen. I did a little reading of the online manual and found that Canvas Draw added a new feature called Smart Snaps.

    It was good that the ACDsee development team had this feature turned on by default, as I would have otherwise found out about it much later, which would be ashamed as my text project to “kick the tires” was made easier with this feature enabled. The introduction of Smart Snaps in addition to Smart Mouse and grid/guide snapping is another modern feature that makes Canvas Draw competitive with its modernized competitors in the drawing/illustration/diagramming subset of graphics applications. Granted, Canvas family of products are in a class by themselves, as they have a stronger set of image editing, page layout/publication, and presentation tools than is found in most other drawing/illustration software, but even the product page at the Canvas Website seems to not emphasize this fact as much as it did 10+ years ago.

    I have come across some bugginess, but that is a discussion for another thread. All said, given the rebuild of Canvas for modern Intel Macs, Canvas Draw, the introduction of Unicode in Canvas Draw 4, and now Smart Snaps in Canvas Draw 5, let alone other new features I have not yet come across, I can see myself returning to having Canvas as my primary graphics tool on my Mac, just as Canvas X 17 is in my Windows VM at work. I will still use OmniGraffle, but more so in its original capacity as an excellent diagramming and flow chart application.

  • kohanmike
    replied
    When a keyboard command is not in an app, I go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Short Cuts > App Short Cuts and add a command. For Smart Snaps I use control-option-P since I already use control-option-S for Symbol Library.

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  • mdawson69
    replied
    A single hotkey for enabling/disabling Smart Snaps is a good idea.

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  • jxc100
    replied
    Those modifier actions go back to MacPaint on the first Mac (except control - I don't think there was a control on the early mac keyboards). However, inevitable compromises inevitably end up causing trouble. Here is another issue with Smart Snaps - as you point out, the shift key *usually* restricts movement to 45-degree increments. Try that with Smart Snaps - eg draw a vertical line starting just a bit off-center from the page and Smart Snaps insists on ending it on the vertical center, so the line is NOT vertical, as it should be with the shift modifier. Similarly if the end-point snaps to an object, that also overrides the 45-degree restriction. So far that is the most annoying "feature" - except when you want it of course! (And yes, I know it can be turned off, but its the kind of thing that I want on most of the time, but just need to disable it on occasion, quickly while in the middle of doing something. Going through the menu to disable it, and again to enable it really breaks the workflow).

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  • mdawson69
    replied
    Originally posted by kohanmike View Post
    I do see the value with Smart Snap, the only gripe I have is that it cannot be turned off by default, every new document has it on until I have to go to the Layout menu to turn it off. I only need it at certain times.


    I had not witnessed this behavior, but I have been working on the same document in my spare time so as to kick-the-tires. After reading your post, and knowing that you are a seasoned Canvas user, I opened a new document and was able to replicate what you posted. Just to play the devil’s advocate, such user experience faux pas are to be expected with a feature that is not only new to Canvas Draw, but is also new to Canvas as a whole; this feature was also introduced in Canvas X 18 earlier this year.

    Enabling/disabling Smart Snaps should definitely be handled as an application-level feature and not on the document level. This bug is something that the Canvas Draw development team needs to know about. (Darn it, you just ninja'd me on this point. 😜 Isn’t exploring new features so much fun?)

    Originally posted by jxc100 View Post
    I find Smart Snaps mostly useful and I am happy to see it in Canvas Draw, but its occasionally infuriating when the "snap" is not to the object I want but to something else, or when I don't want a smart snap at all. Zooming in sometimes helps it settle on the "correct" object, but at times it seems to decide on something distant rather than the (to me) more obvious nearer object. Other programs that do smart snapping usually have a modifier key that turns the smart snap off while its pressed (shift, control, option) but I don't see this in Canvas Draw. I know this doesn't satisfy the on-by-default complaint, but it would help moderate its always-on functionality.


    As I noted above, bugs like this are to be expected in a new feature, but I perhaps I find the Smart Snaps less jarring perhaps because I am used to OmniGraffle where they are called Smart Guides, and Vectorworks, where they are referred to as SmartCursors; in the latter case there are a wide range of settings for SmartCursors, but that is to be expected given the target audience for high-end CAD software. That being the case, I will not treat you like an Guantanamo detainee by going down the rabbit hole that is Vectorwork’s highly customizable object snapping settings.

    OmniGraffle’s Smart Guides are split into two groups, Smart Alignment Guides and Smart Distance Guides, that can be independently enabled or disabled. Smart Snaps behave similarly to Smart Alignment Guides much of the time—e.g., snapping to edges (top, bottom, left, and right), centerlines (horizontal and vertical), and baselines (top and bottom). From what I have seen Smart Snaps do not behave any different than OmniGraffle’s Smart Alignment Guides; that is selecting the nearest object with regard to a particular snap point. Given that my test project is a keyboard design, it is a torture test for Smart Snaps.

    Based on my observations when Canvas Draw 5 does not snap to the nearest object it is because the particular snap being highlighted is not on the nearest object. For instance, I created a rectangle in my keyboard illustration—it is a full-sized Mac keyboard design, so you can follow along—and then aligned the left edge of the rectangle to the left edge of the keys. Doing so I saw a Smart Snap line showing that the left edge of the rectangle was aligned to the left edge of the leftControl key. As I dragged the rectangle to the right across the screen, I observed the following Smart Snaps alignments,
    • The right edge of the rectangle aligned to the left edge of the LED on the Caps Lock key;
    • The right edge of the rectangle aligned to the vertical centerline of the left Control key;​
    • The right edge of the rectangle aligned to the right edge of the LED on the Caps Lock key;
    • The right edge of the rectangle aligned to the centerline between the bases of grave (`) and 1 keys;
    • The vertical centerline of the rectangle aligned to the right edge of the face of the grave (`) key;
    • The vertical centerline of the rectangle to the left edge of the LED on the Caps Lock key and the right edge of the rectangle to the vertical centerline of the left Shift key;
    • The vertical centerline of the rectangle to the vertical centerline of the left Control key;
    • The vertical centerline of the rectangle to the right edge of the LED on the Caps Lock key;
    • The right edge of the rectangle to the right edge of the face of the Tab key;
    • The right edge of the rectangle to the vertical centerline between the bases of the Control and Option keys;
    • The left edge of the rectangle to the vertical centerline of the left Shift key;
    I think that is enough for you to get the gist of it. Now I have witnessed Smart Snaps not registering certain snap points until I zoomed in; this seemed to be more of an issue with centerline snapping than edges, but your mileage may vary.

    What OmniGraffle calls Smart Distance guides is also performed by Canvas Draw’s Smart Snaps, but depending on what you are doing, you may see this behavior less often. This type of snapping is effectively an on-the-fly distribution of objects. For instance, if you have a row of objects that are evenly spaced either horizontally of vertically, any object that you drag into place on the same axis that has the same offset as the existing object, Smart Snaps will let you know that you have the object properly distributed based on the spacing of the existing object. This is a powerful addition to Canvas’ Replicate feature, as it provides immediate feedback on similarly distributed objects without being locked into only replicating the same object or having to go to the Align palette.

    Now your point about a modifier key to enable/disable Smart Snaps seems quite reasonable. The only real issue I see there is that while Canvas Draw was rebuilt from scratch as a macOS (née Mac OS X) application it is still very much part of the Canvas family, so it has inherited much of the Canvas legacy that goes back to Canvas 5, which was the first major rewrite of the software 22 years ago. As it now stands,
    • holding an Option key while and until you finish moving an object creates a copy;
    • holding a Shift key restricts movement of an object so that it only be moved horizontally, vertically, or diagonally at 45° increments;
    • holding a Command key creates duplicates along the path that you move the original object with the spread of copies being relative to the velocity at which you drag the object;
    • holding a Control key behaves like a right click invokes a context menu—are there really people still using a one-button mouse on a modern Mac—, but that can be disabled in the macOS system preferences; and
    • holding multiple modifier keys seems to result in either a mixture of behaviors or one modifier key taking dominance.
    As many of the modifier key behaviors go back as far as the Mac platform itself, graphics software that break from tradition can be problematic especially in the eyes of long time Mac users that have grown accustomed to the modifier keys causing certain behaviors when dragging an object. Until you brought it up I had forgotten how engrained those actions were in my mind, because after 34 years of using a wide range of graphics applications on the Mac this had become something that I just did without giving it a second thought. The only time I ever had to readjust, was on Windows-based PCs because some modifier keys are different because they were either inherited from MS-DOS or just the result of targeting a completely different OS.
    Last edited by mdawson69; 09-08-2018, 11:45 AM.

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  • kohanmike
    replied
    You might have missed my note that it can be turned off in each document by going to menus Layout > Smart Snaps > √Smart Snaps On by choosing it to uncheck it.

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  • jxc100
    replied
    I find Smart Snaps mostly useful and I am happy to see it in Canvas Draw, but its occasionally infuriating when the "snap" is not to the object I want but to something else, or when I don't want a smart snap at all. Zooming in sometimes helps it settle on the "correct" object, but at times it seems to decide on something distant rather than the (to me) more obvious nearer object. Other programs that do smart snapping usually have a modifier key that turns the smart snap off while its pressed (shift, control, option) but I don't see this in Canvas Draw. I know this doesn't satisfy the on-by-default complaint, but it would help moderate its always-on functionality.

    Leave a comment:


  • kohanmike
    replied
    I do see the value with Smart Snap, the only gripe I have is that it cannot be turned off by default, every new document has it on until I have to go to the Layout menu to turn it off. I only need it at certain times.

    Leave a comment:

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