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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

We are pleased to announce that Plasma 5.23.1 is now available in our backports PPA for Kubuntu 21.10 (Impish Indri).

The release announcement detailing the new features and improvements in Plasma 5.23 can be found here.

To upgrade:

Add the following repository to your software sources list:

ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports

or if it is already added, the updates should become available via your preferred update method.

The PPA can be added manually in the Konsole terminal with the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports

and packages then updated with

sudo apt full-upgrade

IMPORTANT

Please note that more bugfix releases are scheduled by KDE for Plasma 5.23, so while we feel these backports will be beneficial to enthusiastic adopters, users wanting to use a Plasma release with more rounds of stabilisation/bugfixes ‘baked in’ may find it advisable to stay with Plasma 5.22 as included in the original 21.10 (Impish Indri) release.

The Kubuntu Backports PPA for 21.10 also currently contains newer versions of KDE Gear (formerly Applications) and other KDE software. The PPA will also continue to receive updated versions of KDE packages other than Plasma, for example KDE Frameworks.

Issues with Plasma itself can be reported on the KDE bugtracker [1]. In the case of packaging or other issues, please provide feedback on our mailing list [2], IRC [3], and/or file a bug against our PPA packages [4].

1. KDE bugtracker: https://bugs.kde.org
2. Kubuntu-devel mailing list: https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/kubuntu-devel
3. Kubuntu IRC channels: #kubuntu & #kubuntu-devel on irc.libera.chat
4. Kubuntu ppa bugs: https://bugs.launchpad.net/kubuntu-ppa

Today, we bring you a new report on the Maui Project’s progress.

Maui 2.0 was released almost four months ago, and since then new features, bug fixes, and improvements have been made to the Maui set of apps and frameworks; the following blog post will cover some of the changes and highlights from the last month of development.

What’s new?

Among many bug fixes that will be listed below for each individual app, some of the highlights include faster startup times, around 5X faster on the PinePhone and other ARM-based devices, which means that Maui Apps now start under 5 seconds or less in low-end devices with slow speed I/O reads.

Index, has initial support for handling file permissions; Clip, the video player, now can use two different backends MPV or GStreamer, and the UI is now more in pair to Pix and other Maui Apps; MauiKit Controls now are quicker when being created, since many parts are delayed into asynchronous loaders.

All of the MauiKit Frameworks now make use of the Qt Quick Compiler to precompile the QML sources at build time, this can be turned off when building the frameworks by passing the flag -DQUICK_COMPILER=OFF

To have more detailed information and screenshots keep on reading!


MauiKit

Once again, the framework has been cleaned up, and many bugs have been solved, resulting in better performance and optimizations. This is what’s new:

Core

  • The ImageViewer control is now back at MauiKit Core and reused on MauiKit ImageTools.
  • The Style source, defining Maui HIG’s sizes for fonts and icons, was moved from QML to C++.
  • More lazy initialization of controls by using asynchronous Loaders.
  • Now uses by default the Qt Quick Compiler, the build time flag is -DQUICK_COMPILER=ON
  • The MenuItemActionRow button now displays the text under the icon on mobile devices, on desktop the icon can be hovered to reveal the tooltip text.
  • The Luv icon theme and Maui Style can now be bundled and enforced using -DBUNDLE_MAUI_STYLE=ON and -DBUNDLE_LUV_ICONS=ON. If the Maui Style is bundled using the flag then it is also precompiled using the Qt Quick Compiler.
  • Fix memory leak on non deleted singleton instances.
  • The AppViewLoader control now is asynchronous.
  • The Dialog control gained a new property autoClose to prevent from closing the dialog and allow for a second confirmation before closing it. It also now properly calculates its implicit height.
  • The TabView control was polished and the mobile overview mode now has hovered states on the cards.
  • The ApplicationWindow’s AboutDialog is now only loaded when requested.
  • The source code has been cleaned up from unneeded includes and imports.
  • Maui Style styling fixes for scrollbars and the BusyIndicator rotation animation.

FileBrowser

  • The methods to retrieve a file’s basic information metadata no longer extracts user, group, and owner information, this can be a slower operation according to QFile documentation.
  • The FMList model to list the file system has been cleanup.
  • Fixes to translatable strings.
  • Now malformed URLs can be correctly formatted, for example, URLs with trailing or extra “/”s
  • Fixed issue warning about malformed URL when performing a search.
  • Now uses by default the Qt Quick Compiler, the build time flag is -DQUICK_COMPILER=ON
  • More lazy initialization of controls by using asynchronous Loaders.
  • The source code has been cleaned up from unneeded includes and imports.

TextEditor

  • Now uses by default the Qt Quick Compiler, the build time flag is -DQUICK_COMPILER=ON
  • More lazy initialization of controls by using asynchronous Loaders.
  • The source code has been cleaned up from unneeded includes and imports.

Maui Style

  • Styling fixes to ProgressBara and Switches.

Maui Apps

For the upcoming 2.1.0 stable release, we expect to move Strike, the IDE, and Sol, web browser to a stable release, while Booth, the camera app, will move to beta.

Maui Apps now launch much more quickly, thanks to precompiled QML sources, usage of asynchronous Loaders, and refactored source code. As an example, Vvave takes around ~3 seconds to launch in the PinePhone and 1.7 seconds on an RPI4 with Manjaro ARM, that’s around 5X faster than before. The same improvements can also be found in all the other Maui Apps, and further performance boosts can be expected in the future.

Index

  • Faster startup times.
  • Initial support for handling file permissions.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Polished Open With and Share dialogs.
  • Precompiled QML sources
  • Slicker file previewer.
  • Bumped Android manifest version.

 

Index

Vvave

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Lazy initialization of the database.
  • Refactored sources scanning workflow.
  • The settings section to add new sources gained a new button to force a re-scan of the collection.

 

Nota

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Polished New File dialog.

 

Buho

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • The notes overview cards now do not take more height than the minimum needed.
  • The No-Notes placeholder now has a button to quickly create a new note.

Pix

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Option to disable initial scanning of geolocation tags for the whole collection.

Station

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Minimal Tabs overview switcher

 

Station – Terminal Emulator

Clip

  • QtMutimedia is now used by default.
  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • Better UX.
  • The initial placeholder gives the option to open external files or form the collection.

Clip – Video Player

Shelf

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.

 

Communicator

  • Faster startup times.
  • Precompiled QML sources.
  • Polished menu entries.
  • The contact page is now a MauiKit Popup dialog.

Release date202120222023
February1.2.12.1.12.2.2
May1.2.22.1.23.0.0
August2.0.02.2.03.1.0
November2.1.02.2.13.1.1

A quick reminder of the project near future goals:

  • Fully utilize CMake. [Done]
    • Developers can build apps and the framework with CMake for all targeted platforms.
  • More feature-rich applications. [In Progress]
    • Pix image editor and GPS location browsing.
    • Vvave metadata editor and cloud streaming.
    • Index – feature-rich file management.
  • Improve data synchronization using NextCloud. [Pending]
    • Only Buho and Vvave have initial support.
    • For 2.1, We will add support for Pix as well.
  • Improve performance. [In progress]
    • We have split the MauiKit framework into different components.
    • MauiKit::Core controls are faster and more coherent.
  • Improve the UI cohesion on all supported platforms. [In Progress]
  • Move beta apps to stable. [In Progress]
    • Shelf and Clip have been moved to stable, missing the Sol, NX SC, Booth, Strike.

The post Maui Report 16 appeared first on MauiKit — #UIFramework.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Wayland is a display protocol, a protocol (and accompanying C library) spoken by a graphical application with a display server in order to communicate about both input to the application (keyboard, mouse, …) and about output from the application — that is, the rendered window. Wayland was developed to replace the X11 server on the Linux system. After quite a few years of incubation, it’s becoming much more common. It’s a far simpler and more attractive protocol compared to X11, allowing much more flexibility in developing custom compositors and control in the display compositor on how the client applications are shown and with less decades-old baggage to keep around and take into account.

So, what’s the problem?

Qt provides both a Wayland platform allowing you to run Qt applications as Wayland clients in a Wayland compositor and a library to build a Wayland compositor, both using QML or not, in the Qt Wayland module. However, that and Wayland, in general, are only available on Linux, which may prove to be a problem for many. Many projects that target a Linux embedded platform but are developed on Windows because of some tooling that is only available there or for any other reason end up using a Linux virtual machine, which is a far less than optimal solution. It has several disadvantages: worse performance, an OS and environment that you are not used to, possibly bad or no hardware support for some devices, and a clunky user experience.

A Better Solution

There is a better solution. With the WSL subsystem on Windows, it is actually possible to run directly (albeit through an X server and so far unfortunately only OpenGL software) a Wayland compositor and clients. By running a Wayland compositor directly in your Windows machine, you avoid all the aforementioned problems. In this blog post, I’ll explain how to do it.

First, you need to setup WSL2, following the guide at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/install-win10.

After that, you need to install an X server for Windows. I’ve successfully tried both VcxSrv and Xming. Launch it, but make sure to disable access control. If you’re using VcxSrv or Xming, there is an option in the XLaunch utility for that.

Now open the terminal of the Linux distribution you installed from the Start menu (I’m using Ubuntu 20.04, but any distribution should work) and run these commands:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade sudo apt install weston

If you picked another distribution, you may need to adapt these commands, but it should not be difficult.

We are almost there. Now we need to tell the compositor the location of the X server. To do that, you need to open the PowerShell from the Start menu, run the ipconfig command, and locate IPv4 address in the section about the WSL adapter (usually the last one). In the Linux terminal, that’s the address we need to use to connect to the X server:

export DISPLAY=<address>:0

Wayland also needs the XDG_RUNTIME_DIR environment variable to know where to put the socket file:

mkdir /tmp/xdg

export XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/tmp/xdg

We are going to add this export line also at the end of the .bashrc file so that it’s run automatically every time a terminal is opened.

Now if you run weston, you should see it open a window. To then run a Wayland client, open another Linux terminal and run a Wayland client. Weston provides a few, such as weston-terminal. But you can also install and run any Qt application by using the -platform wayland command line parameter or exporting the QT_QPA_PLATFORM=waylandenvironment variable beforehand, provided you’ve installed the QtWayland module. On Ubuntu, that is only a sudo apt install qtwayland5 away.

That’s it! As I’ve said, at this point in time it has the limitation that OpenGL is only provided by LLVMpipe, which runs on the CPU. Microsoft is working on improvements to the WSL layer to make this whole experience better, including adding GPU acceleration. However, that version is not released yet to the broad public. You can, in the meantime, subscribe to the Windows Insider program to try a preview. See https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/tutorials/gui-apps. For a QML application, unless you have some custom item that does heavy rendering, it’s not a real problem if you can accept maybe less than 60 fps.

 

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The post Wayland on Windows appeared first on KDAB.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021. Today KDE releases a bugfix update to KDE Plasma 5, versioned 5.18.8.

Plasma 5.18 was released in February 2020 with many feature refinements and new modules to complete the desktop experience.

This release adds five months' worth of new translations and fixes from KDE's contributors. The bugfixes are typically small but important and include:

  • KDE GTK Config: Make sure to actually commit GSettings changes. Commit.
  • Plasma Desktop: Fix renaming shortcut for files selected via selection button and popup. Commit. Fixes bug #425436
  • Plasma Workspace: Sync night colour default values. Commit. Fixes bug #442253
View full changelog

Tuesday, 19 October 2021. Today KDE releases a bugfix update to KDE Plasma 5, versioned 5.23.1.

Plasma 5.23 was released in October 2021 with many feature refinements and new modules to complete the desktop experience.

This release adds a week's worth of new translations and fixes from KDE's contributors. The bugfixes are typically small but important and include:

  • Discover: Flatpak, do not crash when a source is disabled. Commit.
  • KScreenLocker: Fix sleep and hibernate actions. Commit.
  • Plasma Desktop: Fix “clear emoji history” action. Commit. Fixes bug #443974
View full changelog

Monday, 18 October 2021

So, with Krita 5.0 nearing completion. There’s been some discussion about what we’ll do next.

On of the proposed topics has been to replace our calligraphy tool with something that can produce nice variable width editable lines.

There’s a number of use-cases for this:

  1. Inking is exhausting, so making it possible to edit lines after the fact can help in cleaning up a piece after doing the majority of the lines while requiring little motor-skill precision.
  2. Inking requires a lot of practice, so in a studio setting, you’ll likely have a mix of artists, most of which aren’t that skilled at drawing yet. Editable vector lines can help create some consistency in the line work produced by a variety of artists.
  3. Variable width lines have some computer uses as well. We could think of erasing lines until an intersection, but also of simplifying the search for path boundaries, for fills.
  4. Scaling and the like can be done much better with vectors than with raster images, but I personally haven’t seen this used much. Animation, similarly, seems to still per-frame line work as the interpolation tech for vector lines does not solve all use cases.

Usually beginners also really like the idea of editable vector lines because then they can ‘always fix their mistakes’, and I am wary of this as it is a perfectionism pitfall. Strokes that always taper at the beginning and end are another example of something beginners ask for (because they do not have a tablet or the motor skills to taper), but I feel equally uncomfortable about this, as inking without a tablet is a recipe for RSI.

There’s many different ways to approach such lines, and I’m writing this blog post as a study of the different types, problems and what kind of needs we’d have to fulfill if we want it to be on par with raster inking.

To do this, I have used the following sketch and inked it with Krita’s raster tools, Inkscape’s Power stroke and Blender’s Grease Pencil. I will note the good and bad qualities of each. Furthermore, I’ll talk a bit about other solutions I’ve seen as well as Krita’s existing calligraphy tool.

Time lapse of the sketch made using the recorder docker.

The sketch was made by taking the basic-opacity brush, drawing a basic pose, then using the adjustment curves to quarter the alpha, then halving the brush size and refining the sketch, rinse and repeat. This is a technique I tend to use if I am unsure about what I am drawing. The result tends towards the somewhat stiff but technically sound side of drawing things.

Krita’s raster tools

Our ‘control group’? (Though, iirc, control group is when you explicitly do nothing to the base :D, maybe not really applicable…)

I’m using my own inking brush here that I made like 5, 10 years ago. It’s nothing special. I am also avoiding the stablizer, to give an accurate representation of the kinds of strokes I am making. Stablizer does makes things easier as you grow more tired over the duration of the inking session.

There’s a number of different kinds of strokes.

Super cut of uninterrupted lines. Note how the canvas is rotate to let a left handed person make these easily.

Long uninterrupted strokes. To make these, I need to use most of my arm. I also make liberal use of the ability to rotate and zoom the canvas so that I don’t have to do strange arm movements.

Super cut of sketchier lines. These often happen at fine details that have a complex shape.

Smaller sketchier strokes. These tend to form a bigger line visually, and are made when it’s difficult to tell how the shape should go precisely. They result in messier lines than the uninterrupted ones.

Feathering allows me to suggest lines which in turn makes the objects feel more 3d.

Dotted strokes, this is when I am ‘feathering’, which looks a little like hatching, but where hatching is to shade, feathering as an inking term is to create a suggested line.

Sometimes it’s cleaner and quicker to just erase sections.

Erasing is happening in two kinds of situations: 1. Reducing a stroke. 2. removing a stroke that is otherwise overlapped.

Thickening lines strategically can help make the important contours more visible, hence doing that at the end.

To thicken a stroke, we go over it again with a brush.

Situational Use

There are certain situations in which the variable width vector stroke isn’t going to be very useful.

Quick example of a textured line art. We define the important shapes by continuously drawing over the same area over and over. This can then be used as a base for a more story-book like drawing. (Underestimated how small this was, sorry for the jpeg artifacts)

The first situation is when the stroke is textured or semi-transparent. These strokes tend to be made up from very small strokes. While you could imagine a computer doing that, it’s going to be odd.

Recorder docker time lapse showing an inking technique where we just erase whenever we want, and the result is messy, but that also adds to the charm. This is a very fast method.

Similarly, any inking technique that makes liberal use of the eraser is just doing to result in a very difficult to render stroke. Hatching too is easier to deal with in rasters than in vectors, as the number of strokes adds up very quickly.

Inkscape’s Power stroke

Inkscape’s power stroke is a live path effect, which is a feature of Inkscape’s that applies a modifier onto a given vector object. Indeed, if you have used Blender, it’s not dissimilar to it’s mesh modifier stack.

The SVG of the path effect looks as follows:

<inkscape:path-effect
       effect="powerstroke"
       id="path-effect17974"
       is_visible="true"
       lpeversion="1"
       offset_points="0.86244098,0.24492331 | 2.4187158,0.29378686"
       not_jump="true"
       sort_points="true"
       interpolator_type="CentripetalCatmullRom"
       interpolator_beta="0.75"
       start_linecap_type="round"
       linejoin_type="spiro"
       miter_limit="4"
       scale_width="1"
       end_linecap_type="round" />

<path
       d="m 141.35792,216.07057 c -0.0276,0.11281 -0.0716,0.34971 -0.12294,0.59413 -0.0292,0.13899 -0.061,0.27119 -0.1023,0.39613 -0.0148,0.045 -0.0319,0.0918 -0.0515,0.13927 -0.17908,0.45322 -0.40001,0.8479 -0.674,1.35131 -0.25497,0.46846 -0.49545,0.92864 -0.66586,1.44256 -0.0642,0.19583 -0.12884,0.42029 -0.1924,0.65448 -0.0674,0.24842 -0.13667,0.51918 -0.20297,0.78197 -0.11636,0.46121 -0.18741,0.75083 -0.29558,1.17151 -0.0498,0.19358 -0.10042,0.38704 -0.1522,0.57864 -0.1726,0.6388 -0.33964,1.18944 -0.51217,1.6492 -0.10012,0.26679 -0.19306,0.47861 -0.27912,0.64813 -0.12005,0.23648 -0.21672,0.37056 -0.28054,0.44715 a 0.29378686,0.29378686 90 0 0 0.4514,0.37614 c 0.0946,-0.11357 0.21536,-0.28464 0.35398,-0.55589 0.0985,-0.19276 0.20058,-0.42516 0.30701,-0.70769 0.18253,-0.4845 0.35573,-1.05698 0.52881,-1.70397 0.0521,-0.19477 0.10281,-0.39105 0.15221,-0.5866 0.10038,-0.3974 0.18356,-0.74376 0.28915,-1.17699 0.064,-0.26251 0.12997,-0.53067 0.19335,-0.77458 0.06,-0.23085 0.11914,-0.44579 0.17639,-0.62956 0.14323,-0.46633 0.35151,-0.8942 0.59486,-1.3678 0.25852,-0.50314 0.48454,-0.92799 0.66996,-1.41969 0.0217,-0.0596 0.0404,-0.1171 0.0565,-0.17063 0.0448,-0.14874 0.079,-0.29701 0.10986,-0.44306 0.0544,-0.25732 0.0991,-0.47638 0.12396,-0.57792 a 0.24492331,0.24492331 90 0 0 -0.47586,-0.11624 z"
       id="path-1-34"
       inkscape:path-effect="#path-effect17974"
       inkscape:original-d="m 141.59585,216.12869 c -0.0945,0.38686 -0.14019,0.78902 -0.28351,1.16057 -0.375,0.97221 -0.98283,1.79222 -1.30234,2.79068 -0.47491,1.48407 -1.0781,4.97731 -1.95794,6.03318"
       style="fill:#000000;fill-rule:nonzero;stroke:none;stroke-width:1.99937" />

We have a section in the defs that describe the effect, and then a path which references that. The power stroke itself consist of a base path, to which the live path effect adds nodes that represent the size at that point. There’s a number of additional options that allow controlling the behaviour at the ends of the curve, as well as the interpolation mode and other small details.

Inkscape 1.1 currently has the ability to create such strokes easily, by using the pencil tool and enabling the pressure sensitivity.

The usability is wanting, as this tool over-simplifies the input, resulting in lines that often only have one or two points to indicate the size, making many of them indistinguishable from non-power stroked paths. The bezier part of the paths is fine, but the few size-nodes per stroke is not.

When doing small strokes, this tool bugs out, creating strokes of the wrong size.

Beyond that, the pencil tool has no features to set the pressure curve, nor can the canvas be rotated with finger input (it can however be zoomed with finger input!). It also seems to be view-relative in how big the curves can be, which is really annoying when you’re the type to zoom out for larger curves.

Editing the final curves is quite easy, however. The size handles can be easily moved, and the bezier part reuses the bezier editing functionality from the rest of the program, allowing on-canvas dragging of the curves.

There are a number of editing operations which do not work. The power stroke LPE has no concept of joining paths, or having multiple sub paths in a path. The ‘tweak’ tool is also not possible on these paths, as it seems not to work on non-closed paths. This is unfortunate, as it means a whole subsection of vector editing functionality is not possible. The eraser in inkscape is also implemented using a completely different method, it just produces a variable path, then takes the existing paths, ensures the LPE’s are ‘merged’ by converting them to regular paths, and then subtracts the ‘erasing path’ (if the eraser isn’t set up to remove the whole path).

Overall, I get the impression that Inkscape over-simplifies in order to make the final stroke easy to edit. This however means that the tools cannot track my subtle motions, which makes using it rather frustrating, if not indistinguishable from drawing regular paths. Furthermore, the power stroke path effect isn’t treated as a first class citizen, and much of the vector editing functionality is something that cannot be reused. Perhaps the disconnect between the size and the nodes make it very hard to reason about what a join between two power strokes looks like.

Inkscape’s implementation seems to be inspired by that of Synfig, but I did not test it out.

A stroke made with inkscape's calligraphy tool, with all the nodes visible.
Inkscape’s calligraphy tool does give better results. But it only produces the final path, which is harder to edit.

Blender’s Grease Pencil

Blender’s grease pencil was originally designed to allow artists to leave annotations on each other’s 3d models and animations (hence ‘grease pencil’: an oily pencil that can be rubbed off a smooth surface easily). In recent years, the project has upgraded this tool to handle variable-width strokes and other functionality.

As per usual, Blender’s usability is… idiosyncratic. I used Blender a lot 8~ years ago, and can model in it decently, but this inking session took several tries to set up because I was flailing around trying to navigate it. I will try to avoid commenting too much on Blender being Blender in favour of evaluating the tool itself.

Blender’s implementation works by taking vertices, and giving them extra properties like size, opacity, color, and proly some other things. It then connects these vertices into a polyline. The polyline is then rendered in some way or another, though I don’t dare to say exactly how, the colors seem to be vertex-colors, and it’s capable of a soft edge, but no clue whether said edge is calculate over the line, or that the line is actually stroked with a soft dab.

The usability of creating the strokes is much better with Grease Pencil. The tool has the ability to set a pressure curve, as well as some smoothing options. Rotation of the view is not possible, and zooming and panning cannot be done by using finger gestures. Even worse, there’s no palm-rejection at all, leading to blotches.

Suggested lines are a lot easier to do in Blender because it picks up the details much better.

The paths produced are very dense. This is noticeable when drawing, as the lines tend to pick up the details of my strokes very nicely. However, this in turn also means they are tricky to edit. The tools given to edit are largely the same ones used to edit the vertices in meshes (like sculpt and rotate/scale/translate of selected nodes), and I suspect this is the primary reason why the grease pencil is a polyline: Blender can then reason about these vertices like it reasons about all other vertices. On top of all this, erasing seems strangely difficult.

A variety of editing operations, such as adjusting line thickness, erasing and sketchy strokes, which I would’ve avoided with inkscape’s tool.
Blender does have an interface to treat these polylines as a bezier path, but it’s only an interface, underneath is just a polyline. It has some functionality to increase the sampling and such.

Solutions in CSP and Sai

So, I didn’t make an official test of these, but here’s some things I know about the solutions of these.

Like Blender, their implementation seems to consist of nodes that have certain properties, like size, opacity. Unlike Blender, it seems these implementations use a type of curve that does not use control points, but rather goes through each node smoothly (This might be a K-curve, or something like that, see links at the end for more info). The exact nature of these curves still elude me, but the lack of control points as is usual in bspline and bezier curves must be by choice. Another difference with blender is that the size per node seems to be in percentage to a full stroke size, with tools to adjust the stroke size all together.

These implementations are most clear about using a dab-based sort of brush engine to stroke the resulting path. All vectors are treated this way, so circles and rectangles are too always ‘stroked’. Of note is that this kind of stroking does not use any canvas sampling effects like we use in our color smudge, deform and filter brushes.

That said, like Blender’s implementation, editing the vectors is hard. This is partially because of the amount of extra tools that get added (and are in CSP’s case, nearly impossible to find), but also because there’s far more nodes, and the more nodes and properties there are, the harder things become to edit.

Variable width lines are a first-class citizen in these programs, because they are the primary vector implementation, so all the editing tools can edit them, and it’s possible to split, join and use the eraser to erase only what you need.

Previous Work

So, Krita already has editable variable width curves. But they are buggy and you can only edit the positioning. I tried upgrading these curves, but failed.

These curves store size and angle information per-node, and then tries to generate a path from that information. The path generation is bugged, because it does not understand how to handle sharp angled curves.

Furthermore, the parametric path class is not sophisticated enough to edit the size and angle inside the node, as well, we do not store this kind of specialized data at all.

I tried solving the save/load problem by refactoring the whole thing to use KisPaintInformation, like our brush engine uses. This sort of worked, but the reason I had to stop is that PaintInfo and friends tends to change too much, meaning my branch bitrotted in a matter of weeks.

Similarly, getting path rendering to work was a headache as well, and I in fact, never got it to work as it should. I am just not good enough with vector paths for this.

The big problem is that everything changes when you add angle and ratio. It’s easy enough to think ‘ok, we should make this per-segment’, but then you’re stuck trying to develop a vector path that is derived from an ellipse following a path. How does one even figure out the maths for that? In cases like these specifically, a stroke-based path would be easier to reason about.

Finally, besides the saving, loading, path generation, and general inability to edit the path beyond positioning, the UX of the calligraphy tool is wanting. Most of the options are very obscure, and while I managed to make some headway in this in my branch, I suspect we might be best off to have the freehand brush tool generate these kind of paths when drawing on a vector layer (though this also has draw backs).

Some of the changes I made, in particular the sampling options based on distance and time, could be useful inspiration for a future tool.

Conclusion

Right now, neither of the open source solutions I checked were really comfortable to use. Studying all examples, we can tell there’s a number of core questions we need to solve:

What base path to use?

The three things I looked at, all used different methods: Bezier curves, straight lines, and some kind of auto-smoothed curves that may be something akin to ‘k-curves’ or auto-smoothed curves.

Krita can already generate bezier paths, and more importantly, we have generalized UX classes for editing these bezier paths by dragging the paths. This can be useful if we feel that showing these nodes is too complex (mesh transform for example allows turning control handles off as the direct curve editing is enough in most cases). What this means is that we do not directly need to worry about the UI becoming too complicated when choosing bezier curves.

Straight lines are easier to reason about, and the weird autosmoothed curves have less UI trouble, but our bezier curve implementation is really thorough so I am not sure why we’d try anything else. Animation, perhaps? Did not research this.

How to render the final stroke?

Here the difference between the various versions is most prominent: Either there’s a vector path being generated from the original path data, or the original path data is stroked by a sort of brush engine.

The stroked version is easier to render, but harder to store to SVG: We’d proly have to store PNG data into the SVG, and then store the path data as a sub-elements, especially if we’d like to avoid having to re-stroke all paths on load. Stroked paths can have more cool effects like color and opacity changes, but are less portable, because only Krita would know how to scale them.

The vector paths version is in contrast, easier to store, it’d be a path, with path data as sub-elements, but harder to generate. Vector paths are more portable, but have less capabilities.

Both is in theory an option, but we’d still, beyond anything, need to choose the primary method at risk of scope-creep.

What data to store?

Inkscape only stores size, and the size nodes are separate beasts from the nodes that make up the bezier paths. Blender and other solutions (as well as Krita’s current solution), store the data into the path nodes. Synfig implements both, as noted in the extra links section.

I think we should go for storing the data into the path nodes, as it makes it a lot easier to reason about when deleting nodes, adding nodes and other path operations that flow from this (I recommend looking at the advanced outline link for reasons against this).

The kind of data we store will depend on how we render the result. Stroked paths will be able to do much more than vector paths. I do not think we should store paint-information, rather we should store end-result size/rotation/opacity/whatever we choose. These will be much easier to edit by the user.

Editing itself will also require a potentially new vector object to be written, as the parametric path shapes are designed for circles and rectangles, and not for bezier paths with extra information per-node.

Trade-off between too many nodes and too few nodes?

Generate too many nodes, and the path becomes harder to edit, generate too few nodes, and the path is harder to create (because it does not sample the user-input correctly).

Generally, I feel like programs seem to go too hard into either direction, and am not sure why we cannot choose how many nodes are placed.

My instinct is that we should generate too many nodes at the start, and then try to simplify afterwards. Perhaps even use ‘stablizers’ to let the user choose the simplification method.

The creation tool and other integration.

Like I said, I believe using the freehand brush tool on a vector layer might be sufficient. We could then imagine a model where we have a class for these kinds of strokes, which stores per-node size/angle/opacity/whatever. These then get generated by the freehand path tool, using the current brush preset to process the PaintInformation into size/angle/opacity/whatever for each node.

There’s one big problem here: Not all of our brush engines are dab-based. Furthermore, we need to communicate to users that the canvas-sampling features of o.a. the Color Smudge, Deform and Filter brushes do not work for these vector objects. Another problem is that we might introduce unique features where it comes to erasing and stablizing, and we’d need to figure out where we would keep track of such options.

Then we need to wonder: are we going to allow the straight line tool and geometric tools to generate such paths? This is particularly important if we go with the stroked render method. Similarly, we should keep track whether the fill and selection tools can use this information and how.

Finally, I personally think it’d be cool if we could use some heuristics to make the tool easier to use. For example, looking at my own test, if I am using small overlapping strokes, I clearly want to have a large final line, so why not allow this kind of gesture to extend an existing line? Other examples include: increasing the size by drawing over it, decreasing the size by erasing, removing overlaps when erasing. This is of course very pie-in-the-sky, and will need a lot of testing.

Who will use it?

We will need to find people who are planning on using these features. Not all of the folks that we usually consult care about this feature, even if they do a lot of line art, because of the reasons I lined out in the ‘situational use’ section.

I don’t think I’ll work on this tool, as I have been trying in the past and failed. Furthermore, there’s a number of other post-Krita 5 projects that I would be more successful in (color management improvements, QML port). None the less, I hope anyone who wants to work on this now has a good overview of the design decisions that need to be made.

Some links on vector lines

Some of these links discuss things that I was unable to cover, such as Synfig’s implementation.

  1. Synfig Outline Layers
  2. Synfig Advanced Outline Layer
  3. SVG proposal variable width lines
  4. Ralph Leviens Spline Work, this has some background info on k-curves.
  5. OpenToonz Manual page describing the tools to edit line thickness (Thanks to Jeff for pointing this out).

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Aleix Pol Gonzalez (KDE president), Lydia Pintscher (KDE vice president), and myself are doing an AMA on Reddit right now for the next hour and a half. Check it out if you want to ask us anything!

Linux Locales Locale is often ignored aspects of a system. Especially if you’re America. For most systems, locale is chosen on installation. But for distributions like ArchLinux, you do need to config locale yourself. Now there’re two ways to config set locale. One way is described on ArchLinux Wiki, edit /etc/locale.gen to enable the locale and use locale-gen to generates it. Finally set $LANG to the locale you want. The second way is to use DE, take KDE for example.

Saturday, 16 October 2021

First of all: happy birthday to KDE! If you hadn’t heard, KDE is now 25 years old (which means that KDE is 3 years older than I am — oof). I first started using KDE (3) on Mandrake after, out of the blue, my dad decided to nuke our family computer’s Windows 95 installation. I …
Small note: The SoC is a Rockchip RK3399 hexa-core SoC operating at 1.5GHz, for those who wanted a bit more detail there! Stay in the loop: https://t.me/veggeroblog If you want to help me make these videos: Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/niccolove Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCONH73CdRXUjlh3-DdLGCPw/join Paypal: https://paypal.me/niccolove My website is https://niccolo.venerandi.com and if you want to contact me, my telegram handle is [at] veggero.