A commonly cited reason why people don’t switch to Linux is the lack of professional graphic design applications. True, there is Gimp and some CAD solutions, but they’re not always the right tool for the job. If you’re into vector drawing, there’s a new app called Gravit that aims to be an alternative to Adobe Freehand, Fireworks, and similar programs. Gravit is cross-platform, open source and free, and its main features are a context-sensitive interface and a lightweight backend.
Source code is available on GitHub for those who wish to compile it. It’s also possible to download an archive with an executable Gravit file which you can just run from the terminal or by double-clicking it in the file manager. However, the Linux version offered for download is 64-bit only, so the fastest way to try Gravit is to just use the web version.
Gravit is currently in release candidate stage (version 1.0 is expected soon), so there might be glitches. Also, note that the web version doesn’t support the “Save” feature, but you can export all your work to PNG and JPG from the “Export” dialogue.
Like other popular designer tools, Gravit uses a dark gray color scheme for its interface. The buttons and icons are rather small, so it looks better on big screens. The drawing area is in the center, with toolbar on the left (1), selected tool options at the bottom (2), layers and pages options on the right (3), and align/transform, export (4) and swatches/styles (5) dialogs below it.
There are a few simple menus in the main menu bar from which you can cut, paste and duplicate selected objects, as well as arrange and group them. These same options are available from the sidebar on the right. The “View” menu offers several preview options for easier control of your work.
The toolbar with icons on the left is the main access point for the majority of Gravit’s features, including document options, selection tool, lasso tool, transform tool, drawing tools (pen, line, rectangles, circles), text tool, and finally, magnify and slice tools. Some icons have a small arrow in the corner – this means they have a sub-menu which you can activate by holding a left-click on the icon.
Gravit supports layers, pages, and smart objects. Your document can have multiple pages, and you can view several at the same time. Pages can inherit features from a master page, which is useful when you’re working on a project with many pages that requires consistent formatting.
Selecting an object – a textbox, circle, or any drawn element – lets you use transform tools to adjust its position, change its size and even group it with other elements. It’s possible to select objects by right-clicking anywhere in the drawing area.
Gravit’s distinctive feature is the toolbar at the bottom that changes depending on the selected tool (similar to the “Tool Options” dialog in Gimp). This is the context-sensitive approach promoted by Gravit’s developers. It’s meant to reduce clutter and hide unnecessary options from the screen, as you can’t work with more than one tool at a time anyway.
The amount of options visible here depends on the tool you’re using. Most of them are represented by small icons, so it takes some deciphering to understand what each button is for. Some buttons, like “Color Picker”, open their own small but feature-rich popup windows where you can further tweak the settings.
For now, Gravit can save your projects in its own format (.gravit) or export them to PNG and JPG. PDF and support for other popular vector graphics formats is planned in future releases. Gravit is stable, even in the browser, but the “Export” option can still sometimes crash the application. A number of Linux users reported problems with starting Gravit due to
udev versioning conflict, so if this happens to you, you can temporarily solve it by symlinking your current version of
sudo ln -s /lib/i386-linux-gnu/libudev.so.1 /lib/i386-linux-gnu/libudev.so.0
or if you’re on a 64-bit system:
sudo ln -s /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libudev.so.1 /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libudev.so.0
Gravit is especially practical because you can use it in the browser, and it’s a handy starting point for an amateur vector artist who can’t afford expensive professional software. Since Adobe plans to release a browser version of Photoshop, Gravit just might be on the right track with its approach. If it continues to improve in future versions, Gravit could become serious competition.