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Stone Studio

COMPANY: Stone Design
CONTACT: 505-345-3800,
PRICE: $299 (SRP)
REQUIREMENTS: G3 or faster, Mac OS X or later, 128MB RAM, 40MB free hard disk space

In a David-versus-Goliath scenario, a small software company, Stone Design, beat out Macromedia and Adobe in releasing the first Cocoa (bypassing Carbon) graphics suite, Stone Studio. While not for the high-end graphics market, Stone Studio is a robust set of apps that takes some getting used to but is worth the effort.

The heart of Stone Studio is Create, a Web- and print-layout application with illustration and effects tools. It's surrounded by six other applications: GIFfun, PackUp&Go, SliceAndDice, PhotoToWeb, PStill, and TimeEqualsMoney. All work well together, replacing the need for pricey Web authoring and graphics packages for nonprofessionals. However, integration isn't seamless - you can't import a native Create document into GIFfun, for example. (For a closer look, see "The Companion Apps," below).

Installing Stone Studio was a breeze - we didn't need to reallocate memory no matter how many files we opened. Then again, Mac OS X is the reason why Mac OS 9 users will initially feel frustrated with Create's interface. Bezier and color tools don't work the same way, nor do layer and export options. However, once you're accustomed to the differences, Create becomes easy.

Create comes with robust tools for shapes and drawing, basic text formatting, and effects. Save a custom style via the Image Well and drag the saved effect into the Library Resources palette for later use.

The Image Well, a pop-up menu containing file types (TIFF, PDF, JPEG, GIF, PNG) and object properties (Page, Blend, Effect, Thumbnail), is Create's best feature, allowing you to export files via drag and drop. For example, you can design art, select JPEG from the Image Well, and drag the word JPEG from the pop-up menu onto your Desktop to export the art to a JPEG.

Create contains plenty of page-layout features to create master pages, lock down crucial elements (such as folios, backgrounds, and recurring items) to prevent design shifts as you work, and output documents to PDF for high-quality printing. You can also convert documents into Web pages and add rollovers and animation with GIFfun and SliceAndDice. However, you have limited control - the simple table-creation features can't handle much nesting.

Alas, the Bezier tools and some features in the Image Well are complex, and the cursory online help doesn't do much to decipher them, making use difficult. Also, Mac OS X requires that files have extensions tagged on the end, yet Create won't add them - you have to do so yourself.

While Stone Studio won't replace Adobe's graphics suite, it does provide many of the same tools at a fraction of the cost.
- Narasu Rebbapragada

Freakin' AwesomeGOOD NEWS: Cocoa app. Great value.
BAD NEWS: Interface initially confusing. Cursory online help.

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