in design, tip

Aviary: Worth a Test Flight

Aviary, a collection of online design and editing tools, is an amazing technical feat.

A couple of weeks ago, Aviary brought their online vector editor out of Beta. It’s called Raven, and it joins, well, an aviary of other online applications: Phoenix (image editor), Peacock (dubbed a ‘visual laboratory’), Toucan (color manager), and Phoenix (an image editor).

These tools are powerful, free to use, and tightly integrated (meaning you can pass your work of art seamlessly back and forth between the different applications). But what really intrigues me about Aviary is where it’s heading.

In addition to the current flock of Aviary applications, there are many, many more interesting creative applications coming. We’re talking everything from an audio editor to a terrain generator to a word processor. And the Aviary team plans to eventually offer offline versions of their tools via Adobe AIR at some point in the future (interesting to note that Adobe already has an online office suite, and I’ve read that they plan to bring many of their creative tools to the web, a la Photoshop Express).

The tools at Aviary are free to use, and are well worth your time to check out. No, Phoenix is not as powerful as Photoshop. And no, Raven is not as powerful as Illustrator. But how many users really need that much power? For casual creation, artistic exploration, and simple projects, Aviary is fun and easy to use. I especially like experimenting with Peacock. If the interface seems weird, it’s only because we’ve become so use to Adobe’s way of doing things.

Aviary

Basic usage is free. The catch is that Aviary is, at heart, a social site. So free usage means you are prepared to share your work of art with the world. Also, while you own the full rights to all works you create, Aviary retains a license to display any works you make viewable to the public “within Aviary and in any external publication provided it’s in a way that promotes Aviary.” Also note that your work will be accessible by others, so someone else can mash up your image and repost it. In this case, your name will appear in the attribution in the new derivative work. It’s a great model for encouraging social creativity and sharing.

If you want more control (and more privacy), a pro-level subscription is $10 a month. If you are interested in using these tools to create artwork for, say, a Web site, you’ll want to pay the fee. Not a bad deal when you factor in the considerable capabilities of these applications and compare with the cost of Adobe applications. No, Aviary is not as powerful as an Adobe app, but if you can’t afford or don’t want to purchase an Adobe app or Suite, Aviary offers some powerful tools to create some great art.

I’m an Adobe CS owner and daily user for work and home tasks. I like my Adobe applications. But I hope that services like Aviary thrive. I’d hate to see Adobe completely own the design and editing tool space both on and offline (… and they already own the offline space).

Competition is good, and Aviary is one of many alternatives out there offering innovation and quality service.

  1. I’d be interested to know if you test-drove Phoenix. I see a bunch of reviews of Aviary on the web, but they all read like press releases. Is anybody actually trying the thing out and seeing how it works? I have, and on my Mac Pro, the interface is dodgy, to say the least. Sliders jump, they don’t slide. The tools don’t seem work very well, when they do work. I use Painter and Photoshop CS5, and to me this feels like a toy.

    So I’m wondering: what’s your view? Thanks –
    Bob
    (I’ve reviewed Aviary on my blog, btw)

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