Since my original posting in July a lot of mapping has gone by. Right now I'm editing a part of the raster mapping tutorial and am coming again across workarounds that we have to tell people to do because things don't perform at an optimal level yet.
To demonstrate the shortcomings, I made a quick map with scale dimensions of 5760 x 4500 feet. It has a 100 foot grid. It's filed with grass, and it has the same structure twice and the same river twice. The complete map looks like this:
For good raster mapping, we find that the weakest elements are the algorithms and controls for:
1. All special effects.
2. The Fractal Factor.
Starting with the last, the control is exactly the right one, a spinner, but the programmed latitude is all wrong. A raster mapper should - as an example - be able to draw a river on a large scale map, perhaps as a fractal polygon, and then fractalize it. The current algorithm, however, even at a factor of 1, will fractalize such a river on a map of larger scale all out of proportion, making the fractalization useless. Instead of the scale of 1 to 10, the spinner needs a scale of 1 to 100, with the 1 to 10 or 1 to 20 part of the range offering a lot of latitude between what now is 0 and 1.
The following screen shot illustrates the problem when one puts on a fractal factor to get a good fractalized shoreline. The fractal algorithm can't deal properly with an object as (relatively) small as this river, less than 50 scale feet wide, within a map 5760 feet wide. It distorts the width of the river to the extent one might expect from a fractal factor of 10, not of 1.
The special effects have the same type of problem. Let's start with the slider control for Scale. It's the wrong tool for precise work. It needs a spinner, like Fractal Factor has, with a range of 1 to 100 that allows a lot of latitude between what now is 0 and the first slider marking. In the following screen shot, we have two rectangles filled with cobblestone. To the left the scale is set to 0, that is, as far left as is possible. The cobblestone to the right is at the first position to the right of zero that the mouse can activate (not the first marked position). There is an extreme difference in scale here, but no latitude available to allow us to set the scale somewhere between.
The final screen shot shows two other special effect shortcomings:
It has exactly the same building and the same river twice. The upper river was given a Feather of 1. It pixilated beyond recognition. The left building was given a shadow. It pixilated lightly, blurring details.
Before there a lot of misunderstandings: This isn't a letter of complaint. I've seldom been as happy with a program as I am with FM8, and that goes for the rest of our group too.
I also am not trying to say that these issues are more important than points that others (or even I) have made in other postings on this thread.
Rather, I can see that FM8 almost
is able to produce - with all the advantages of a cartographic program - what others draw painstakingly with Adobe Photo Shop, the GIMP, Paint.NET, etc. You'll have to do a lot of looking to find another cartographic program that can produce the razor sharp images on the tight and close zoom-ins made on a raster map more than a scale mile wide, as shown above.
My point is that it would be great to see FM9 improve these controls so that they can go the rest of the way.