Review: Click ’N Design 3D CD/DVD Labeling Software
Developer: Stomp, Inc.
Price: $14.95 (download); $27.17 (CD + shipping)
Requirements: PowerPC-based Mac with Mac OS 8.6 or Mac OS X, 30 MB free disk space (320 MB for all the clip art), 800x600 display, printer that can handle label stock.
Recommended: 64 MB application RAM, QuickTime 5.
Trial: Fully-featured (30 days).
Click ’N Design 3D lets you create fancy disc labels and jewel case liners and inserts. It supports label sheets from many vendors. It has a large clip art and photo collection for creating backgrounds and foreground art. It also includes tools for creating and modifying text with 3D effects.
Double-click on the “Install Click ’N Design 3D.app” icon to launch the installer. Click the Agree button after reading or ignoring the lengthy license agreement. You have options for installing the application (48 MB) and two clip art collections (100 MB and 253 MB). If QuickTime 5.02 is not installed, you may select that option, too. The application and clip art files can be installed in any folder on any hard drive.
Installer Options Window
Click ’N Design Folder with Clip Art Installed
Using Click ’N Design 3D
Each time you launch the application, you encounter a window that forces you to select a label type from the pop-up menu and label vendor from the scrolling list.
Window for Selecting Label Type and Vendor
The program does not remember your last selection, and you cannot establish default options. If you check the “Use Quick Designer” box, the program switches to the QuickStart Wizard. (I don’t know why Stomp uses Quick Designer and QuickStart Wizard interchangeably.)
QuickStart Wizard for CD Label
The main application consists of a label creation window beneath three collapsible tool bars: an unnamed toolbar (containing file option, view option, and image stacking buttons), a Layout toolbar, and an Object toolbar (with variable contents depending on label type and current task).
Application Window, Toolbars, and Palettes
The main window shows the chosen template with the default grid setting (blue lines 0.25" apart). The active area for editing is surrounded by a red rectangle. You can add three types of backgrounds: solid fill, gradient fill, or image. Six types of gradient fills are available. Gradient starting and ending colors are selected using the color palette to the right. There are two color palette options: fixed and continuous. The fixed palette contains 256 colors and cannot be altered.
Gradient Fill Options
Click ’N Design comes with a large assortment of background photos, computer art, and textures. Fifty images are uncategorized and are found in the Graphics folder. The Backgrounds folder contains 33 folders of images. Two folders contain textures. The others contain photographs. Themes vary from Architecture to Dog Sledding. Unfortunately, all images, textures, and clip art contain non-descriptive names such as “B0311772.JPG.” Click ’N Design does not include an image catalog program and does not have a printed (or printable) catalog. The only way to identify images or clip art is to preview them in the “Select Image” or “Select Background Image” windows. The default window contains a file list and a button to show or hide a preview window to the right.
The preview changes almost instantly as you highlight different image files by clicking on the file name with the mouse or by navigating through the list with the arrow keys. If you go to the Preferences window and choose “Thumbnail Selector,” then your “Select Image” window will contain three or six thumbnail images below the file list.
Default Image Selection Window with Thumbnail Selector
Unless you have an incredibly fast Macintosh, do not use this option. The Thumbnail Selector initially loads the first six images of the chosen folder. This takes quite a few seconds. As you scroll down the list of image names, more image previews load (slowly). If you change folders, the process begins again. If you go back to the previous folder, those images must reload. This process is not speeded up by giving Click ’N Design more memory, or by putting the images on your hard drive. Images can be used as background or as foreground art. Background images can be resized to fit the label, and small images can be tiled.
You can add three types of text to your labels: plain text, circular text, and 3D text. The plain text tool requires you to create a text box within the active portion of the label template. The text box cannot extend beyond the red bounds. The object toolbar contains text editing tools when the text box is selected.
Object Toolbar with Text Editing Tools
The “T” and “S” icons are pop-up menus for choosing fonts and font styles. Font size can be adjusted with the up and down arrows or by typing a point size into the text size field. The next two toolbar icons are pull-down menus to set text alignment (left, center, right, full) and orientation (normal, up, down, and other [text on a specified angle]). The next two buttons are for setting margins around the text and for editing text contents. When the text box is highlighted, the top rectangular button in the Color palette reads “Text Color.” When that button is active, the text color matches the one chosen in the Color palette.
Circular Text Creation and Editing Window
When you click the “Circular Text” button, a new window appears. Text entered into the field immediately appears in the active portion of the label template. Some icons are the same as those in the plain text toolbar. The text color button (to the right of the Style pull-down icon) pops up a standard Macintosh window for choosing colors.
Color Picker Window
You can use any available method for generating text color (CMYK, Crayon, HLS, HSV, HTML, or RGB Picker). However, if you wish to exactly match the color of plain text, then you should use one of the 256 fixed colors from the Color palette. The button to the right of the color icon toggles “Center Text” on and off. When “Center Text” is off, you can shift the circular text within the active label. When “Center Text” is on, you can only change the diameter of the circular text (the center point is fixed). The button with the letter “T” over an arc toggles convex and concave text. The Trash Can button deletes the circular text from the active label area. The orientation point for the text can vary between 0 and 360 degrees.
Window for Creating and Editing 3D Text
3D text creation is done in a separate modal window with six tabs. The upper part of the window contains buttons and numeric fields for entering zoom factor and camera distance. Tab-specific items appear on the left, and the 3D text appears on a grid to the right. With the Text tab active, you enter text into the field on the left. You can choose a font and a justification, but you cannot choose a font style (such as bold or italic). You also cannot adjust kerning, a major omission when working with 3D text. Otherwise, Click ’N Draw 3D gives you complete control over your 3D text. You can apply a variety of effects (arc, arch, bow, bubble, circle, curve, perspective, slant, and wave). You can change extrusion and bevel settings, adjust curvature of circles and arcs, apply and position one to four light sources, use a variety of materials such as gold or chrome, apply textures (including the use of images as textures), and select from solid, gradient, or image backgrounds. In addition, you can edit 3D text blocks or individual characters via Bézier curve handles.
Editing 3D Text Using Bézier Curve Handles
You can also edit the shape and 3D orientation of individual font characters and have those changes apply to every instance of the character in your text. Editing via Bézier curves and X, Y, Z position settings requires time and some trial and error (thankfully, there is a reset button), but it isn’t difficult. When you have finished editing your text and adjusting camera position (which also controls the overall size of the 3D text object), clicking on the “Transfer 3D Text” button places the text block onto the active label.
Problems, Bugs, and Omissions
Other than the quirky interface and slow thumbnail image browser, I encountered no problems with Click ’N Design 3D. An obvious omission is the lack of support for drag and drop. (The program does support cut and paste.)
The CD comes with a two-page “Quick Start Guide for Macintosh.” On the CD is a PDF file for a 20-page (6" by 9") “QuickStart Guide.” Both manuals are solely for the Macintosh version, a welcome feature for a product ported from a Windows-based predecessor. The manual begins with brief descriptions of how to create disc labels and jewel case inserts using the QuickStart Wizard. Then there is a series of “Did you know…?” tips covering image and text manipulations. I disliked this approach in a manual, especially when many of the menu and toolbar items were not even described. However, these items are described (very briefly) in the online help screens. Although the Help guide is being used in place of a more detailed manual, it doesn’t function like a manual. You cannot move sequentially through the help screens and must keep returning to main topic or subtopic screens to switch topics.
Help Viewer Window with Topic List
Stomp maintains a Web site listing of frequently asked questions about Click ’N Design. However, only ten questions are answered. Written support requests via Stomp’s online Web form are free. Telephone support is free for 30 days starting with the first call. After 30 days, telephone support is $20 per incident.
- Supports labels and templates from many vendors.
- Large image and clip art collection.
- Ability to create and edit 3D text with advanced features such as light placement, textures, and Bézier curve adjustment of letters and text blocks.
- No label type and vendor preferences.
- No printed or printable image catalog and non-descriptive image file names.
- Incredibly slow thumbnail image browser, even when images are on hard drive.
- Non-standard interface that is inconsistent and somewhat difficult to use.
- QuickStart Wizard offers very few choices.
- Fragmented documentation with no unified owner’s manual.
Discus 2 from Magic Mouse Productions is another dedicated disc labeling application. An OEM version (with less clip art and no minidisc templates) is bundled with Toast 5 Titanium from Roxio (see ATPM review). Although it has its own interface quirks, Discus allows faster creation of disc labels and jewel case liners and book inserts. It can import audio CD track names from Toast. Discus costs $39 ($20 if upgrading from the Roxio OEM version).
Most drawing programs, such as Deneba’s Canvas, Adobe Illustrator, and CorelDraw, support label templates. With one of those programs and some clip art collections, you can create disc labels and jewel case liners almost as readily as with Click ’N Design 3D.
Another alternative is Nova Development’s Print Explosion Deluxe ($60). It has CD label templates and an extensive clip art and image collection. This program helps you create greeting cards, stationery, envelopes, banners, signs, labels, certificates, paper airplanes, etc.
Click ’N Design 3D subjects users to an awkward and inconsistent interface. The program would have received a “Rotten” rating if usability were my main criterion. However, the program is very inexpensive ($27.17 with shipping). The clip art and 3D text creation capabilities alone might be worth that much to some users, so I give the program an “Okay” rating.