Software Review: GLIFTIC, An Abstract Image Generator 

 I must admit to being an art klutz. Words I can deal with, but graphic design has always been beyond me. I guess I'm too left-brained, or something was left out of my brain, for as much as I love art (and quilts in particular), if you put a pencil or a crayon or a chunk of charcoal in my hand, I haven't the faintest idea what to do with it. And it's worse if I think I know what to do with it and actually touch it to something that will record a mark. Computers haven't helped, because you still have to have a clue what to do with the mouse. Have you ever tried to draw with a mouse? 

Enter Gliftic, a shareware program that generates a wide variety of patterns and images with the click of a mouse. The program, written and marketed by Owen Ransen, is based on the kinds of repetitive, abstract patterns you find in wallpaper, fabric, and ornamental tile. The same kinds of patterns, of course, that you often find in quilts.


I guess the best way to define what Gliftic is would be first to tell you what it's not. It's not a drawing program. You won't find any tools to make polygons, lines, or curves. It's not a quilt block generating program, or a quilt layout program. It's also not a photo manipulation program (Ransen publishes one of those, known as Repligator). So what is it? Well, I guess you would basically have to say it's a visual inspiration program. 

How do you get inspired? Click your mouse on a lightning bolt, or press F-7. When you do so, the program automatically generates an image that displays itself in a square on the screen. You have no idea what this image will be -- it may be a scattering of leaf-like objects, it may be a curling mass of ribbons, a paisley print, or a seething mass of snake-like objects.


The first thing I did with it is just keep clicking on the lightning bolt to see what kinds of things it would create, and there seemed to be no end to the variety. During a session, the program saves all the images you have summoned up, and will happily display them as thumbnails when you click on the "Thumb" button on the top icon bar. The only limit to this is the amount of memory in your computer, and it gives you the opportunity to go back and pick an image that interests you out of the many you have created. 

Once you get bored with just creating new designs, you can experiment with the other major variables built into the program, known as Form, Color Scheme, and Interpretation. Form allows you to experiment with different spatial arrangements of the basic shape you are working with, color scheme allows you to play with color, and interpretation takes the basic spatial arrangement and puts different shapes in it. You can experiment with each of the different features of an image in a completely random way, or you can use dropdown lists of colors, shapes, and arrangements. 

Describing all of this doesn't really do it justice, because the experience of the program is ultimately a visual one, and the only way to see what it can do is to experiment with it. This is easy to do, since the program is shareware, and fully functional in its shareware form. Its only impairment is that it displays a shareware notice on each image, effectively rendering them unusable for anything but experimentation. 

The program's terminology and features take a little getting used to, but a beginner's introduction to it is eased by what Ransen calls a "60-second Tutorial" that is available in the Help menu. Once you get into it a little deeper, you begin to see that the program is more than a random device -- that almost all of its aspects can be customized and adjusted by the user. Each shape, interpretation, and color scheme can be personalized through selection boxes. Color schemes can be added through the import of jpg images or any image using the Windows clipboard. Other image aspects can be changed by adjusting slider bars -- though it takes a good bit of knowledge of imagery to know exactly what you're doing.

 Like many personal shareware efforts, Gliftic has a playful feel as Ransen lets his sense of humor and personality show to the user, especially through the daily tips. Inane quotes from Chinese leaders and other amusing observations and "useless information" leaven the mix. The internal wizard of the program, which generates the random images, is named "Randy," in case you wanted to know. 

What is this program good for? The images can be saved as jpgs and used as backgrounds or illustrations on websites. The program's tiling function allows you to view a full screen of tiled images to see how it will look. You can, of course, further refine and manipulate any Gliftic image using Photoshop or other graphics programs. The images can also be used as buttons, borders, or other graphical designs. And, if you're looking for a way to break out in your quilting, the program can prime your creative pump with literally millions of design ideas! The shareware version of Gliftic can be downloaded from Planet Patchwork at

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