Hi folks,

I'm looking to purchase or download a combined vector drawing and bitmap
image editing program, and was hoping that some of you might care to offer
some suggestions.  My primary use for this program would be to overlay
layers consisting primarily of various text, simple shapes, and freehand
lines on top of scanned images of hardcopy maps.  Requirements that I have
are as follows:

1. Runs under Windows.
2. Reasonably simple to learn and use.
3. Allows simple editing of bitmap images including cropping, rotating,
flipping, resizing (including different scale factors on each axis), and
some color manipulations.
4. Handles LARGE images (preferably exceeding 32K pixel limits per
dimension).
5. Supports multiple layers, and the ability to enable/disable individual
layers for printing.
6. Provides simple vector graphic object drawing tools, including shapes,
text, freehand curves, color fills, and object grouping.
7. Provides manipulation capabilities for all objects such as rotating,
flipping, resizing, and color and transparency changes.
8. Allows programmatic creation and manipulation of images via scripts that
can be created as simple ASCII files.
9. Handles both large format hardcopy devices and output tiling, along with
the ability to select a specifc portion of the image and scale for printing.

Previously, I have tried using a number of different applications, and
haven't been impressed with any of them.  Among others, I've tried Jasc's
Paint Shop Pro 7 and several different CAD programs, including a fairly
recent AutoCAD release.  I have primarily actually used Corel Draw 10.  But
all of these seem to come up short, primarily in 2 areeas: 1) ease of
learning and use, and 2) image size limitations.

My typical work flow goes something like this where the graphics that I want
to produce are concerned:

1. Scan in raw images, most line art, but some grayscale or color, many up
to E size or even larger.  Minimum resolution that I use is 200 dpi, but
most documents scanned from 300 to 800 dpi, depending on the potential need
to blow up the image to a larger scale and still retain decent resolution.
2. Sometimes stitch together images from multiple scans, which requires very
precise control over image rotation, especially for larger images.
3. Clean up, rotate, resize, and crop scanned images.
4. Create simple symbols as compount objects to be reused in map layers for
common features.
5. Create multiple map layers using vector based objects, including text,
simple shapes, color fills, and grouped objects, some with transparency.
6. Select a specific portion and desired scale for the final map that I want
printed (Corel Draw is particularly awkward at this) then print it on either
a large format inkjet plotter (up to 54" width by essentially unlimited
length), or on a smaller inkjet printer than can handle paper sizes up to
17" x 44".  When printing on the smaller printer, we often print maps on 11"
x 17" paper that are too large to fit on a single page, so the software must
have output tiling capabilities.
7. Enable/disable various layers, change map portions or scales, and print
again until all desired maps have been created.
8. Sometimes I will want to script some of this process, and I may want to
use an unrelated external program to help generate the necessary script.

Both Corel Draw and a number of the other programs that I have tried do have
most of the capabilities that I need, with the primary exception of
undesirable image size restrictions (typically 32K or 64K pixels per
dimension).  However, I have not found any of these programs very easy to
use so far.  I especially find Corel Draw's user interface to be
particularly cluttered, confusing, and difficult to use.  My usage pattern
with these graphics is to do very intense work over the space of several
weeks, then to not use the program again for perhaps several months.  During
this intervening time, I forget all of the essoteric nuances that are
necessary to get the job done using these programs, and seems like I have to
learn them all over again each time.  This is especially true since I use a
large number of other highly complex programs in my work, all of which have
different ways of doing things.

Can anyone help me out here with some good recommendations?  Thanks!

s/KAM

P.S. - Public domain, freeware, shareware, or inexpensive applications
preferered, but I'd consider almost anything.


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