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The Rise and Fall of Canvas for Mac

Twenty years of history have officially come to an end, not with a bang but a whimper.

[Published Monday, May 21st]

Twenty years of history have officially come to an end, not with a bang but a whimper.

Deneba's drawing program Canvas got its start in 1987, and since that time has figured as a unique alternative, first to such simple drawing and painting programs as MacDraw and SuperPaint, then to more heavyweight applications such as Adobe Illustrator and even Photoshop. By general agreement of many nostalgic users, the program reached its height around 1992, with the lean, mean, feature-packed, easy-to-use version 3.5. There followed a long period of anticipation (also known as "vaporware") until, with a massive version jump and a complete rewrite, Canvas 5 for Mac and Windows emerged in late 1996, to howls of protest. The program felt like a massive and clumsy port; it was sluggish and badly implemented. One review described the new version as a Microsoftization of Canvas.

Canvas continued to evolve. Canvas 6, in 1999, was a distinct improvement over the previous version, but Canvas 7, in 2000, seemed to be adding random features, a victim of directionless bloat. Things muddled along until, in 2003, Deneba was acquired by ACD Systems, a Windows-only developer; and although new Mac versions continued to appear, they were costly and lacking in significant improvements. The program by this time was shaky and unreliable; meanwhile, ACD's advertising and emphasis seemed to concentrate on the other platform. Around 2005, following the much-scorned release of Canvas X, upgrades and bug fixes ceased entirely, and the lack of any transition to an Intel-native version focussed the spotlight more intensely than ever on the situation.

Finally, in response to a vociferous thread on their own forums, an ACD employee posted a message beginning as follows:

ACD Systems will release Canvas XI, Certified for Windows Vista, in early Fall 2007.

While we will not be incrementally releasing new versions of Canvas for the Mac platform, our R&D department is exploring opportunities to develop new cross-platform products that support and streamline our users' workflow.

And that, as the forum denizens immediately recognized, is that.

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