Aviary is a small New York startup with the ambitious goal of recreating (and expanding upon) Adobe’s most popular design tools in the browser.
Since we first covered the company about a year and a half ago, Aviary has kept most of its 15 planned tools (at least those that have seen development at all so far) in private beta. Only three have become publicly available: Phoenix, an image editor along the lines of Photoshop; Peacock, a so-called “visual laboratory” for pixel-based images; and Toucan, a color palette tool.
Now, Aviary has taken the lid off a tool called Raven as well. Raven is a vector-based image editor that mimics (and therefore competes with) Adobe Illustrator, a popular desktop application among digital artists whose work often makes it onto real paper. Like Phoenix, Raven doesn’t match its Adobe counterpart feature-by-feature but it does recreate Illustrator’s most essential functionality. And the results are pretty impressive; the pen tool and gradients in particular work just as they should, and the tool overall reaffirms Flex’s reputation as a suitable platform for desktop-like applications.
Is it good enough to convince veteran Illustrator users to switch? Probably not. But it may be enough to convince new designers to forgo buying Illustrator and try out Raven first. After all, Adobe charges a pretty penny for its creativity software and not everyone’s inclined to pirate it.
CEO Avi Muchnick seems keenly aware of the imprudence of calling Raven (or any of his other products) real competition for Adobe just yet, preferring to describe Raven as “the web app counterpart to Adobe Illustrator”. The thinking is that Illustrator users may want to load their files into Raven using its SVG import feature, after which they can make modifications and then release their work into Aviary’s online community. And the community does appear to be Aviary’s biggest selling point, at least until its productivity tools evolve. Artists can easily browse and modify each others’ work, and they can retain control over copyrights and sell their work online, if so desired.
Almost a year ago Adobe started making its own inroads into online creativity tools, releasing a photo editing tool at photoshop.com. Surprisingly, Adobe chose not to recreate Photoshop in the browser but rather to design a new tool with broader consumer appeal. This suggests that Adobe may leave the field open for Aviary to produce online products that are robust enough to entice creative professionals.
Aviary is still working to improve font support, bitmap-to-vector tracing, and support for export file types in Raven. An API will also be released next month that makes it possible to embed any of Aviary’s applications across the web. Interested parties can email this address.
Check out a video demonstration of Raven below.