Cranium Comics

Stories that get in your head.

ComicLife 3 (Beta) Impresses with Its Breadth of Features

Script Editor ScreenshotRecently, the fine folks at ComicLife offered me an opportunity to test drive the new version of their application, ComicLife 3. I’ve been using their product for years and have appreciated many of the aspects of it (see earlier review), but was really looking forward to seeing what sorts of improvements would be in this latest version.

One if the things that is immediately noticeable is the speed in which the application loads. Unlike other tools I’ve used, the template dialog pops up seconds after the icon for the application is clicked. Once loaded, the user is greeted with the Template Chooser. While it does contain many new and unique templates to choose from, the new Script Editor is the biggest addition and something I have wanted to see in the app for a long time. The Script panel is no mere text editor either. It’s a robust area that allows you to generate a comic (and characters) directly from a script. It includes sophisticated functions like spell-check, find and replace, and tight integration with the comic layout itself, which prevents the user from having to use two different tools — one for layout and one for writing — as I used to do with Google docs.

Variance SliderUsing the layout tool will be familiar to users coming from version 1.5 or 2, however the interface feels more substantial; packed with new features. I decided to do a test based on photos I took during my CASA Superhero Run a few weeks ago to really see what the new features were all about. A feature I am absolutely in love with is the new Variety slider that appears when you create a thought balloon. It essentially allows you to increase or decrease the amount of bumps on your thought balloons, providing subtle variations in each to give your comic a more hand drawn look. This effect is done on the vector shape itself, but is nondestructive, meaning you can come back and tweak it at any time.

The number of customizations within the Inspector Panel for this release is astounding. Here’s just a sampling of the many options within each state:
Inspector Panels

With so many options at my disposal, I feel like I have ultimate control of the way the page gets rendered — more so than any other version. Even within the panels are hidden some sophisticated and much appreciated options. For instance the page setup button provides sizes for video, blog, photo, and tablet sized in addition to the traditional US and comic paper sizes. The program now has page numbering and the availability of spreads, something I would’ve had to use a much more expensive program to accomplish.

Export Options Exporting options have gotten an overhaul as well. The dialog now supports the latest EPub and CBZ formats along with the standard PDF, Facebook, and email output. While these may have been present in earlier versions, everything feels more cohesive and more in line with a product like Apple’s Keynote.

There is so much more to explore with this program — in particular the texture and line control options — that I feel as if a “Part 2″ follow-up review is needed to capture all of the goodness within Plasq’s latest offering. Suffice to say, ComicLife 3 has taken a major step in not only becoming a fully featured comic program for consumers, but comic creators will appreciate the typography and professional quality customizations in their daily workflow.

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