RISC World

A Secret History of DrawWorks Part 4


Last issue I said we would continue looking at the later versions of DrawWorks and in particular DrawWorks Third Millennium.

DrawWorks Third Millennium

This version of DrawWorks was designed to be launched at the Wakefield 2001 show. By this time Wakefield was the biggest show of the year and it made sense to release a new DrawWorks there. Despite being a fairly mature package there were still plenty of silly little bugs to deal with, as well as some inconsistencies between various DrawWorks Tools.

One of the first things that needed to be done was to make sure all versions of Draw were supported. RISCOS Ltd had only recently released !DrawDA, a a version of !Draw that used dynamic areas. The DrawWorks code for getting the data out of menus wouldn't work with this version of Draw as the writable menu data was stored in a different location. In the end we got hold of every copy of !Draw we could and after a bit of fiddling re-wrote the code so that it would work with every RISC OS 3 or later version of !Draw. It would have been nice to future proof the code at this point, but it was impossible as the code had to use a look up table to see where into memory it should look for the data it needed. Unfortunately we couldn't produce a look up table for versions of !Draw that didn't yet exist.

Whilst DrawWorks Third Millennium was being written negotiations were underway with several parties about the sale of iSV Products. In the end we decided to sell iSV to APDL with the transfer happening in June or July. Since this was only just over a month after the show it was decided to make DrawWorks Third Millennium available purely as an upgrade for existing users. Once APDL took over they would then release a full stand alone version. This had the benefit of splitting the profits both ways, and gave APDL a chance to fix any bugs in the upgrade version before doing a full release.

Work on improving DrawWorks continued all the time with each beta release coming back with fewer comments from the intrepid band of beta testers. My logs for the period show at 7 major versions going out to the testers before everyone was happy. Some of the bugs were quite amusing, especially when we discovered that the new DrawWorks wouldn't work with the Penulator software, releasing an application that didn't work with one of our products didn't seem like a good idea so it was fixed before release.

I then had some agonising over the pricing of the upgrade, although there were some useful new features, including SVG export, the Distortion tool, the text exporter and the text area control tool a lot of the work done really related to fixing long term silly bugs in the main code. In the end I decided to make the upgrade as cheap as possible, and priced it at just £10. After all with thousands of DrawWorks users the hope was that those £10's would stack up quite quickly.

DrawWorks Third Millennium was announced a couple of weeks prior to Wakefield with the final published improvements as shown:

    Main New Features
    • Compatible with future versions of RISC OS.
    • Works on all versions of RISC OS from 3.1 onwards.
    • Faster than any previous Millennium version of DrawWorks.
    • Over 50% less processor load than any previous version.
    • Autoscroll or manual scroll toolbars.
    • Autoscroll toolbars now move much faster.
    • DrawWorks toolbar now stays on screen whenever a Draw window is open.
    • All features now work with !DrawDA.
    • New microbar with commonly used features.
    • Line width, colour, rotate and scale options always available.
    • Font and pt size menus always available.

    New Tools
    • Export as SVG option.
    • Export as PDF option (using GhostScript).
    • Writable options for start cap and end cap menus.
    • Nudge buttons for start and end cap triangle options.
    • Freehand drawing mode.
    • DWDistort tool to distort objects visually by dragging.
    • Extract the text from text objects automatically.
    • Export all text objects from a drawfile in one text file.
    • Text Area control tool including font and point size.
    • Change the number of columns in a text area easily and quickly.
    • Set margins, line spacing and paragraph spacing for text areas.
    EPS Improvements
    • Double click an EPS file and it loads into Draw.
    • Unclosed objects render correctly in Adobe Illustrator
    Improvements to existing features
    • Export GIF with NetSafe colour palette.
    • New moulds for the path moulder.
    • Path moulder can now handle grouped moulds.
    • Shadow tool auto groups all soft shadow layers.
    • Start cap and end cap menus tick to show current selection.
    • JPEG export tool improved.
    • Re-designed preferences window.
    • Nudge buttons no longer "Stick" in down position.

The new DrawWorks went own very well at Wakefield, with us selling out of copies (and we did make plenty) on the first day. However a spanner was about to the thrown into the works. RISCOS Ltd were working on Select at this point. Part of the new Select was a new version of !Draw, one which wouldn't work with any version of DrawWorks. Luckily for me this would be APDL's problem, unluckily I had agreed to maintain DrawWorks...