posted by Bryce Harrington on Thu 2nd Dec 2004 01:00 UTC
IconThe Inkscape Team is pleased to deliver its newest version, 0.40. The development cycle has been particularly long and intense this time, but we feel it's our best release yet.

The new layer functionality was tough to fully implement but we're already seeing artists take up this capability with glee. The text-on-path feature enables some very elaborate text layout, that folks have been asking about for quite some time. The new bitmap tracing support opens some very intriguing capabilities that we're quite interested to see put into use. And we've closed a larger quantity of bug reports in this release than in any other (by nearly a factor of two!). We'll take a quick tour of the major new features in this article.

Learning Inkscape

If you've ever used a vector drawing tool before, you'll probably find the buttons and controls pretty obvious. If not, or if you want to learn the tool in detail, Inkscape includes several handy tutorials under the Help menu item. New tutorials for 0.40 include Shapes, Calligraphy, and Tracing.

Layers Layers

The principal feature for this release is the layer management. Technically, we implemented them as a special type of SVG 'group'.

The main use of this feature is to allow sets of shapes to be hidden and/or locked (unselectable) so you can focus on one part or aspect of your drawing and ignore others. Being in a layer also limits the default scope of keyboard selection and search commands to the current layer, which is very convenient when you have hundreds of objects in your drawing. This should enable artists to create much more sophisticated artwork than has been possible in previous releases of Inkscape.

Layers 2

New layers can be created through the Layer menu. You can also move, rename, and delete layers via this menu. Note the 'quick layer selector' in the statusbar at the bottom of the window; it provides instant visual feedback ("what layer am I in?") and is very handy for reviewing the layers in the document, switching current layer, and toggling the hide and lock status of the current layer (using the two buttons).

It is worth noting that unlike most other vector editors, when you select something outside the current layer, Inkscape switches to that object's layer. This feature is somewhat experimental (feedback welcome!) but it has been quite convenient in our testing so far. Most of the time, you don't even need to use the layer switcher, but navigate through layers by selecting objects in them. The new "select under" mode (Alt+click) is also very useful in this regard.

Text On Path

Text on Path Screenshot Another long-requested feature is the ability to place text on arbitrary paths. In other words, you can write text around a circle, or march it along a sinusoidal curve.

Here's how you do it. First, draw a line. Make it as squiggly as you like. Next, make a text object and write a few sentences. Now, select both the path and the text, and then in the menu activate Text > Put on Path. Easy!

You can put text onto stars, spirals, and ellipses just fine. You can't put text onto text, but if you convert the base text to a path, you can wrap another line of text around it! What's really exciting, however, is that both the path and the text remain fully editable. You can even put several texts to one path and freely move or transform them without losing the link to the path.

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