If you were to Google “best vector editors” or “best Adobe Illustrator alternatives,” I’d wager a cup of coffee that nearly every list you find will include Inkscape. The open-source, 100% free illustration and editing program has been the go-to for thousands upon thousands of professional and casual users around the world. Back in May, the much-anticipated version 1.0 was released. With more than three years of “beta” development under its belt, Inkscape brought a truckload of updates and features drops in the official 1.0 release and it’s the version to use if you’re looking for a robust, versatile illustrator app that’s completely free.
What’s new in Inkscape 1.0?
- Theming support and more new customization options
- Better HiDPI (high resolution) screen support
- Native support for macOS with a signed and notarized .dmg file
- Coordinate origin in the top left corner by default
- Canvas rotation and mirroring
- On-Canvas alignment of objects
- Split view and X-Ray modes
- PowerPencil for drawing editable, variable-width strokes with a pressure-sensitive graphics tablet
- New PNG export options
- Integrated centerline tracing for vectorizing line drawings
- Searchable Symbols dialog
- New Live Path Effect (LPE) selection dialog
- New Corners (Fillet/chamfer) LPE, (lossless) Boolean Operation LPE (experimental), Offset LPE and Measure Segments LPE (and more!)
- Path operations, deselection of a large number of paths as well as grouping/ungrouping are much faster now
- Much improved text line-height settings
- Variable fonts support (only if compiled with Pango library version >= 1.41.1)
- Browser-compatible flowed text
- Extensions programming interface updated, with many new options – Note: this introduces breaking changes, some third-party extensions will have to be updated to work with Inkscape 1.0
- Python 3 support for extensions
No doubt that Inkscape is a powerful and popular tool. For us Chromebook users, Inkscape has been in the toolbox since the days of Crouton. Now that Chrome OS supports Linux applications without the “hackiness”, you can actually install Inkscape via the Linux terminal. There is a catch, however, The Debian repo used by Chrome OS contains a slightly older version of Inkscape. While that’s not a big deal for some users, designers that use Inkscape’s massive range of powerful features want the latest version to have access to the list of features above. If you fall into the latter category or simply want to have the latest build, no worries. Installing the newest stable version of Inkscape on Chrome OS is quite simple. You can actually build Inkscape from the source using the instructions from the Inkscape website. However, I can tell you that you will likely run into some dependency issues and for a lot of users, modifying the necessary files to get this up and running probably wasn’t on your to-do list for the day. Thankfully, we have a couple of alternative methods that are much more user-friendly and less time-consuming.
Flatpaks are pre-packaged, standalone applications that can be downloaded and executed using the flatpak command in the Linux terminal. Installing a Flatpak application does require installing some prerequisite software initially but the Flathub store offers a wide range of applications and they generally run well on Chrome OS. To get started with Flatpak, check out my tutorial here. Once you’ve installed the necessary software, you can install and run Inkscape 1.0 with the following commands in the terminal. If by chance this is your first go at Linux apps on Chrome OS, you probably want to take a look at our Command Line article on getting started with Linux on Chrome OS.
sudo flatpak install flathub org.inkscape.Inkscape flatpak run org.inkscape.Inkscape
The Flatpak is relatively straightforward and frankly, it’s a great way to discover and try new Linux apps on your Chromebook without having to become a Linux terminal guru. Still, I recognize the fact that some may find themselves reading this and just want a quick, clear-cut way to run Inkscape 1.0 without all of the fluff. Well, I got you. AppImages are similar to Flatpaks in the sense that they are freestanding. AppImages can be downloaded and then executed directly from the terminal. To do so, you will need to download the latest Inkscape AppImage from the website. Grab that here. It is the first one in the list of four options. Once you’ve downloaded it, head to your Chrome OS Files app and move the AppImage to the Linux folder. (Alternatively, you can right-click your downloads folder and share it with Linux to give the terminal access to your downloads folder.) Once you have the AppImage where you need it, open the Linux terminal and run the following commands one at a time.
chmod a+x Inkscape-4035a4f-x86_64.AppImage
Note: Your filename may be different if Inkscape puts out a new update. To select your specific file, you can just copy it from the folder or type the first two or three letters of the filename and then hit “Tab.” It should auto-populate the filename. Next, to open Inkscape, just run the following command in the terminal. The Tab shortcut will work here, as well. You will see the terminal begin to output a lot of code. Don’t worry about that. Inkscape will open in a new window but don’t close the terminal or it will terminate your instance of Inkscape. Hope you find this useful. If you’re going to use Inkscape, might as well get the freshest version. Right?
Featured image credit: Vector4Free