Aviary is overhyped

If you are one of the 4 people in the world who has not received Aviary spam yet, let me introduce you what is aviary. Aviary is a set of graphic design and image editing tools which can be directly used on your web browser to create professional looking results.

At a first glance, Aviary's excellent web design, impressive Flex programming and surprising image gallery will amaze you. But, after a careful analysis, you may find out that Aviary is overhyped.

For serious purposes, Aviary tools aren't free

The main drawback of Aviary is that, if you want to create something serious with Aviary, then you will have to skip the free software part. Yes, if you want to create professional images, then Aviary is not free, because with the free Aviary tools you would be giving away your source files and your final images for their self promotion. You would be enabling other users to create derivative images from your work too.

Does any professional designer want to share every design secret with other designer in the world, or let them build derivative works upon their images? Any professional designer interested in surrendering some rights of every creation? No? Then Aviary isn't free for professionals.

And then there is the payment method part. You purchase a yearly subscription (around 85$ a year), and they claim that you are saving money, because graphic design software programmers charge too much to their customers. Well, if you purchase a single license of Adobe Photoshop, then you will have a lifetime license of a professional design application, which is less expensive than a lifetime subscription to Aviary (at least, if everything goes well with your health).

Aviary tools aren't better than other Open Source tools

If Aviary tools were unique and really impressive, they would be worth the money, right? But the truth is that there are several open source graphic design programs that let you do the same tasks. And hey, these programs let you create professional images without taking for granted some copyright rights or source files from your designs.

So let's analyze whether Aviary tools are really unique:

  • Phoenix is an online image editor similar to Photoshop, with layers and effects support. However, there's already a free online version of Photoshop, as well as other online free photo editing software as Picknik or Pixlr. But if you want to be serious about image editing, then chose an off-line open source image editing software such as Paint.NET or the multiplatform GIMP.
  • Raven is the first online vector drawing software. But once more, there's another vector drawing program out there that is completely free and open source: Inkscape. Nevertheless, both programs are rather limited compared with Adobe Illustrator.
  • Peacock is called a visual laboratory because it lets you experiment with plenty of image editing effects using a node based interface (such as Apple Shake). I have to admit that Peacock is a quite unique tool. But is by far the most complex one, and rather experimental. If you want quick, abstract eye-candy, choose some free fractal generator such as Aphopysis and tweak the results with something like Photoshop.
  • Toucan is a tool to select color swatches and palettes. It is very similar to the free color online tool provided by Adobe, Kuler.

Yes, good online software, but nothing extremely useful or innovative: there are completely free alternatives for each tool out there.

What new Aviary tools are coming in the future?

Till it isn't created, it shouldn't be reviewed. But let's take a look at what's coming to Aviary. Are there any really free open source alternatives to these graphic design tools?

  • Myna and Roc are an audio editor and a music generator. Is this something FL Studio like?
  • Hummingbird is a 3D modeler. Would this one be even better than the famous free, open source and powerful Blender?
  • Eagle is a pixel pattern recognition tool. I wonder what is this about...
  • Ibis is a font creator software. There aren't many free font creators for Windows out there (I only know the combination of Font Forge plus Cygwin). But if you want to keep full copyright with no derivatives on your fonts, then you may afford the powerful Font Creator.
  • Owl is an online desktop publishing program. Yes, there aren't other "free" desktop publishing programs, but, if you want to create a simple brochure you can use something like Photoshop or Illustrator. And if you are willing to create an extensive document, why use an online tool when you need to carry big document source files?
  • Penguin is a free online word processor. Are we reinventing the wheel? Did we already hear of Google Docs or Open Office?
  • Starling is an online video editor. It seems interesting as there aren't many functional free alternatives. Or may it end as another Windows Movie Maker?
  • Pigeon is a painting simulator. Like Corel Painter Essentials (which is bundled for free with many drawing tablets and that costs like a single year subscription)?
  • Woodpecker is a smart image resizer. Let's see what this smart is about. More than the bicubic interpolation? Even more than the Photoshop CS4 resizing algorithms?
  • Tern is a terrain generator. But Terragen is free for personal use, and it's the software that created the landscapes of The Day After Tomorrow. And DAZ Bryce 5 was released for free, and contains a full 3D terrain editor, a renderer engine, tree creation tools, texture editors...

We still have to wait till we can review the new tools but it seems that there are really free open source alternatives out there even for the upcoming features.

Aviary is over-hyped

Don't get fooled by the amazing sample galleries. I've seen the works of some geniuses that create wonderful pictures using the outdated Photoshop 5. The idea is that even with a software which is not impressive people can create masterpieces, because people's skills are amazing.

A strong user community of great artists and an intense marketing campaign cannot hide the fact that there are other Open Source or Free graphic design tools out there available to create professional results. Only if you are a casual designer you would want to give Aviary a try: it seems that professional designers have better free options to choose from.