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First Movie Preview of CS6 Plugin Developments

posted by: Nicholas van der Walle, in Articles / News/ Comments: 0

Progress for Astute Graphics’ updates for Adobe Illustrator CS6 has been marching on feverishly since the beginning of 2012. With its new user interface, 64 bit rework and much more, this upgrade has been by far the most technically challenging for all Illustrator plugin developers.

We are now in a position to be able to preview our tools in action within Illustrator CS6 for Mac OS…

As may be seen from the movie, our attention to detail is driving our desire to ensure that the forthcoming releases are as seamlessly integrated within Illustrator as possible.

We are now also at a stage to offer a more detailed set of estimated release dates and stages at which users may access these tools.

Gaining access to CS6 plugins

All products purchased from Astute Graphics since 6 March 2012 (click for details) have been supplied with CS6-compatible license keys. This includes those who upgraded from that date to previously-purchased products.

Astute Graphics will release public beta versions of the CS6 plugins to allow those with the necessary license keys to access the tools early. Whereas the beta status dictates that the software will not have yet received the full level of testing normally associated with our products, they will be functionally near-or-fully complete.

All purchases, including upgrades, made now or in the future will automatically gain license keys compatible with these beta releases.

Upgrades allowing customers to upgrade specifically to CS6 (ie. no functionality changes) will be made available around the time Phantasm CS’ first public beta is made available. Prices will be kept to a minimum and confirmed closer to the time.

Projected release dates

The following dates are provided as an estimate based on our more advanced development progress. However, they are all subject to change. We will make any changes public at the first opportunity.


Full release (Mac OS): July 2012

Phantasm CS

First public beta (Mac OS): August 2012

VectorScribe and DrawScribe

First public beta (Mac OS): September 2012

When will Windows releases be made available?

It is anticipated that Windows releases will follow a couple of months following their Mac OS counterparts. This is due to the amount of low-level development required to match Adobe’s new UI as closely as possible on both platforms.

Astute Graphics naturally values Windows and Mac OS customers equally, but Mac OS development was prioritised to the vastly greater percentage of customers using Apple’s operating system.

CS6 development insight

This section is only intended for those who are interested or curious as to why work on CS6 plugin upgrades is so intensive…

Adobe’s upgrade to Illustrator CS6 was no minor step — it is possibly to most involved single development that has taken place in the 25-year-old product since its original launch. Most people notice the different User Interface (UI) first, with its new style and darker-by-default look. But its appearance is literally only scratching the surface of the internal changes that had been made. The change to 64-bit has been covered by various commentators, including ex-Illustrator Product Manager, Mordy Golding in his blog.

But what did the CS6 upgrade mean to Illustrator plugin developers? The main, but not exclusive, issue was the removal of Adobe’s ADM system. This admittedly dated technology was the backbone to many Illustrator plugins; it provided the means by which plugins could build a consistent UI across both Windows and Mac operating systems. At Astute Graphics, we take great pride in that each plugin looks and feels part of Illustrator, which leads to real benefits of an improved user experience and reduced learning time.

With the ADM removed and no Adobe-led substitute, all plugin developers have had to take a decision on the best route to recreate and build all aspects of the UI. With Astute Graphics’ extensive and polished toolset, this was never going to be a trivial task. This is compounded by complex and sophisticated UI operations offered by the likes of the Phantasm CS Curves tool and DrawScribe’s InkScribe Preference panel.

Several options were considered including Nokia’s Qt cross-platform UI toolkit. But we finally decided to take a more involved route that would result in greater initial development investment. However, we are now seeing the benefits of all the work undertaken as we feel the quality by which we can match Adobe’s new UI style is truly excellent. Once again, the user experience boundary between Adobe’s own tools in Illustrator CS6 and Astute Graphics’ plugins is very hard to define.

Other benefits of Astute Graphics’ chosen method are:

  • The flexibility allowed for existing and future plugin developments
  • Use of minimal resource overheads with the resultant benefits of best possible speed of operation
  • Removal of shared resource (eg. Qt) clash risk

We are painfully aware of how many existing customers want to get their hands on CS6 upgrades. But equally we have also recognised that an even greater number of customers will remain with CS3 to CS5.1 for the foreseeable future. Therefore, even though CS6 development has been our top priority in 2012, you can still expect new and exciting developments from Astute Graphics beyond the CS6 releases this year!

Astute Graphics

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