How can I edit basic SVG files and create simple logos for clients without resorting to my desktop and Inkscape (I am a through & through Linux user, so barely touch Microsoft & Adobe graphics editors)?
Well, before buying my lovely Chromebook, I tried Inkscape on RollApp and it seemed to be sufficient for my needs, but, on reflection and greater use, I was wrong. RollApp is, effectively, a ‘virtual app os’ running in Chrome, and whilst seemingly offering a sensible and convenient solution, has a number of significant drawbacks.
Where RollApp fails …
- I can’t add fonts – I appear to be limited by the slightly odd selection offered by RollApp. I did message them about this on Twitter and they asked which fonts I needed. My reply, initially, was that I needed all the fonts in the Google Fonts collection by I didn’t hear back and I can’t see that they’ve added essential web fonts (for me) such as ‘Raleway’.
- RollApp seems tremendously unstable and often crashes with no autosave resulting in a loss of work. I’m running a 4gb Acer Chromebook 14 for Work with a decent Celeron processor, and both GIMP and Inkscape are prone to this issue. When this has happened more than once it’s very difficult to have any confidence in the system.
- It’s a Pay Monthly / Subscription deal. Now it’s only pennies per month, to which I have no objection, but it’s not “Linux free”. To be honest, this last objection to RollApp only exists because it doesn’t serve my purpose anyway – I’d be quite happy to pay a few ££ a month if I had the functionality I need.
Back to the Chrome Web Store
So it’s back to the trusty old Web Store. Search “vector graphics” and “svg” brings up a number of options, including Boxy SVG, Janvas, Einked and Google’s own ‘Draw’.
Einked – seems rather basic. Maybe I’m wrong here but I only gave it 30 seconds before moving on.
Google Draw – ok for basic editing. Doesn’t go beyond Raleway in Normal, Bold and Italic (same as Janvas below). Being fair to Google’s app, it does look rather usable but it’s no replacement for everything I usually do in Inkscape, such as logo design, business card, leaflet and email signature design. It’s possible I could use it for a business card, but a quick glance through the menus doesn’t give me too much confidence but a search on Youtube reveals a number of Google Draw tutorials. It still doesn’t have all the fonts I want though 🙁 .
Janvas – better, but still no cigar. Janvas is simply a redirect to a website rather than a Chrome App, and it’s not the fastest ‘app’ I’ve used. It seems to have a decent set of features and does have preloaded fonts, including Raleway, but (!), not all versions of that particular font are available. I’m trying to write out one simple eight letter word in Raleway Ultra Bold – Raleway in the Google Fonts selection has 8+ variants, from Ultra Light to Ultra Bold. Unfortunately, Janvas only has ‘Normal’ or ‘Bold’ (with Italics as an option in either weight). So, no Ultra Bold Raleway with Janvas. Back to the web store again …
Boxy SVG – best so far. Looks a bit simplistic, but that simplicity hides a good user interface for non-power users like me. What about the bloody fonts, I hear you cry. Well … YES! Boxy has a great selection of fonts, including ALL the Google fonts AND all variations of Raleway. Result? Sadly, not for me yet. I spent no more than 5 mins getting to grips with the interface and created my simple logo. On screen, the logo looked fine, every bit as good as Inkscape. This could be the winner. I exported the ‘selection’ with a great and easy dialogue, and dropped it into the relevant folder on my Google Drive. Off to WordPress I go, login and upload the logo file to the website header and … wait. What’s this? THAT’S not my font! That logo isn’t Raleway?! Back to Boxy SVG – maybe this is a PNG thing, so I export it again, this time as a JPEG. Upload it to my site and again, wrong font! What gives, Boxy SVG?! A quick search to their support page on the Web Store reveals that “rasterisation only works in Chrome Version 53 and above“. Ok … but my Chromebook is brand new, a fairly new model and I could have sworn it had updated just a couple of days ago – I should alright, right? Well, apparently not. My Chrome OS has Chrome Browser Version 52.0.2743.116 (64-bit). So not Version 53 then. Which begs the question, why does Boxy SVG only work on 53 and above, when my very new Celeron based Chromebook only has Version 52.0.2743.116 (64-bit)?
If you’re one of the lucky Chrome Version 53 users of Boxy SVG, Youtube again has a number of tutorials that can help. Check them out here.
Where does that leave me?
In short, writing a blog about using a Chromebook to create and edit SVG files, writing to Boxy SVG to find out what, if anything, they can do about it and Googling, “How to update Chrome browser on my Chromebook”.
And leaving you and me without an answer, beyond keeping hold of the old computer to do stuff the Chromebook can’t.
[UPDATE 1] Apparently I may be able to get Chrome 53 by switching my Chromebook from the “Stable Channel” to the “Developer Channel – instructions on how to do this here. WARNING – read the page very carefully … Once you’re on the Developer Channel, switching back to the Stable Channel will delete all the files etc on your Chromebook and you’ll have to reconfigure it all, much like a Powerwash for your Chromebook I guess.
[UPDATE 2] Now … this was unexpected. I threw caution to the wind and pushed my lovely new Chromebook into “Developer Mode”.and after a restart I see I have Chrome Version 54.0.2830.0 dev (64-bit). Sorted. No … sadly not. On launching Boxy SVG (remember, the app that told me I needed Version 53 or later, and I have Version 54) I am greeted with a frozen app and this screen – this situation is the same whether I launch a new file or try to open an SVG file created by Boxy SVG earlier today.