Art Text 1.0.6
Developer: BeLight Software
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4. Universal.
Trial: Fully-featured (completed projects are overlaid with the words “Trial Version”)
Text art, or the result of manipulating text objects to make them look fancy, has been around in other software packages. Microsoft Word has WordArt, Photoshop can warp text, and other large software packages usually have the ability to process text built-in. Art Text from BeLight Soft, on the other hand, is a standalone text processing program.
Welcome to Art Text
The Art Text initial screen has the phrase Art Text already typed out for you. Naturally, you would want to change it to your own text. The text isn’t limited to one line, as you can type a Return. From there, you can adjust the text object’s skin or its outline in the Fill and Stroke panel, or its Shadow and Glow, in the panel by the same name. In the same area with Shadow and Glow, you can also add an image to the text object’s background, with the option to tile the image. Wherever you see tiny pairs of arrows in the lower corners of a panel, you can flip the panel on its vertical or horizontal axis by clicking on either of the pair of arrows. The Fill and Stroke panel makes room for Shading Pro, while Shadow and Glow becomes Transform. With Shading Pro, you can add a sense of depth to the two-dimensional text. The Transform panel includes effects such as the familiar Wave, Ring, and more than ten other effects that are best seen to appreciate. Naturally, Art Text supports the use of different typefaces, but it also includes over 300 vector graphic symbols, such as recycle, crescent moon, skull and bones, many mammals, flowers, and trees, and even Batman!
Green glass, shadow, kerning, line spacing, background…there are many parameters to tinker with.
With the various parameters provided by the different panels, there really is much you can do to spice up your otherwise plain-looking text. In the above picture, I tried out different typefaces, then adjusted kerning to bring the A and the T closer together, changed the line spacing, used the green glass shading with maximum depth, threw in a shadow, and last but not least added a flowery tiled background, using a texture file of my own. However, should you feel a dearth of creativity, you can pull out the Styles drawer on the right side. With Styles, you can make your text objects a wood background, go vertical, recede into the background, etc. Styles are really just templates of what can be done with Art Text, something you could do yourself, but perhaps only after much experimentation. Exceptions are those that are textured to have the look of wood, brick, or flower.
The Art Text program is visible on your hard drive as an application package, or a single file with everything contained inside, not counting the Read Me file. I was really curious as to which file the textures come from and peeked inside the package by holding down the Control key clicking the package, and choosing Show Package Contents. Alas, there were no individual GIF or JPEG files anywhere inside the package. Style files themselves are XML files, which are basically text files. This lack of readily available textures is one of the down sides of Art Text. Should you ever wish to use one of the textures that are shown in one of the Styles, you must use that Style and adjust all the other parameters to suit your design. You cannot make the design first and apply the texture afterward. If you don’t happen to have a collection of texture files, clicking the Texture button in Art Text wouldn’t get you anywhere. Since much of Art Text is about canned or pre-set parameters, I think it makes perfect sense for it to have a set of textures built-in, so the joy of exploring it can be better appreciated.
One of the Styles was called Vertical because the text ran up and down instead of across the page. I tried to create the effect myself and concluded that the only way the text could be made vertical was by using the Frame Transform, which was basically a rectangle. I had to pull on the rectangle’s four control points located at the corners until the vertical effect was achieved. It would be much easier if there was a rotate control point. Likewise, for Transform effects that make the text appear to recede into the background, like Star Wars’ introduction text, having a rotate control axis would make the task much simpler.
When it comes to saving your work, Art Text has a unique approach. Basically, you don’t have to save anything. Whatever you create is automatically saved. Just simply quitting Art Text won’t cause you to lose your hours of laboriously-achieved text effects. Whatever text and effects you were fiddling with would be there the next time you launch Art Text. The only you time you need to name a file is when you want to export your work for other programs to use.
Alternatively, you can just choose Copy to Clipboard and paste the result into your other program, except that Copy to Clipboard doesn’t work as well as it should. Art Text uses only the PDF format when copying to the clipboard. If the application that you want to paste into doesn’t support PDF, then the Paste menu option won’t be available or, if is available, doesn’t actually paste anything. That explained why Preview, which is the default PDF viewer, and Photoshop Element, with its built-in PDF rasterizing engine, could handle Art Text clipboard, whereas GraphicConverter, MS Word, NeoOffice, etc., couldn’t. Copying to clipboard in PDF format only is a gap in Art Text, as it very much limits Art Text’s usefulness.
As Art Text doesn’t allow direct saving of work done and automatically loads just whatever was last worked on, Custom Style is what you’ll need to use if you have a series of designs to do. Custom Style’s main use is to save a set of parameters for later re-use, but it is perfectly suitable for saving a work in progress for later editing while you work on a new design.
Art Text’s unique way to deal with saving leads me to believe that the software’s intended market includes those who don’t own the major software packages like Photoshop or Illustrator, or at least those who are not too familiar with Photoshop’s advanced text features. These people just need a quick way to produce attractively enhanced text and export the result to other programs, in other words, software packages whose strength is not text manipulation. Art Text is good for this purpose, even though no textures are readily available, there is no easy way to rotate objects, and the Copy to Clipboard feature doesn’t work as expected.