Akira UX: The Future of UX Design on Linux

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The Linux Experiment

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Shared June 29, 2020

Linux as a whole has a lot of various applications available to it, but some niches are still lacking. The absence of Photoshop, Indesign and others is felt by many professionals that just can’t switch their whole workflow over to free and open source tools, but it’s also the same problem for UX designers. Akira UX is a project that aims to fix that.

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What is Akira ?
Akira is a native Linux Design application. Its end goal is to bring a modern approach to UX and UI design, and offer a professional solution for Linux users. It is not released yet, so many faetures aren’t implemented as of yet, and it needs to be compiled (which is super easy right now), but is shows so much promise that I wanted to showcase it.

Akira is developed by a team of 3, led by Alessandro Castellani. It was initially started with a Kickstarter campaing in early 2019, that unfortunately failed to reach its goal, but still managed to get more than 16 000 dollars in pledges.

The team didn’t abandon the project, and started working on it anyways, even though the rythm of development is slower than what they could have achieved had the campaign worked successfully.

Akira is meant to look like an elementary OS app, but will be available for other Linux distributions. Now, the choice of the elementary OS GUI has been made first because the team felt that Qt wasn’t really an open source toolkit, and second because in the Gtk world, the elementary OS Human Interface guidelines was the most refined at the time the team started working on Akira. the GNOME HIG wasn’t fully fledged yet.

Akira is fully open source, which is important, since Akira will need to create a lot of the tools and libraries it needs from the ground up, and other projects will be able to take advantage of them.

What can it do ?
Akira is still in its early stages, but can already create artboards, manage layers by locking them in place or hiding them.

It can also create shapes, although that’s limited to rectangles and ellpises for now, and change their properties: the fill color, the corner radius, the position on the canvas, the rotation and the border color and thickness. Shapes can also be placed up or down relative to each other, and be mirrored.

You can also import images, and resize them. Akira supports a dark theme, multiple icon themes and styles, and you can also tweak the default properties for the new shapes you’ll create.

That’s basic stuff for now, and Akira can’t really be used a fully fledged tool right now, but it shows a lot of promise!

Akira also supports saving and loading, as well as exporting to a file format. It wants to do a lot more than that, though: they want to offer something comparable to Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD.

What is it missing ?
For now, Akira can’t really be used in production, since it’s still in alpha. Many features are still missing, the first being a text tool. This might be a huge endeavor, as not even GIMP has a competent text tool that works well. The team might have to start this one from scratch, which will definitely take some time to achieve and might slow down the progress of the project.

While you can create shapes, like rectangles or ellipses, there is no way to create a line, vector based paths, or even just draw freely with a pencil. You can’t create color gradients for filling shapes yet, and drag and drop is not implemented yet for reordering the layers. Shapes don’t support drop shadows, and you can’t undo / redo, copy / paste, or select multiple objects at a time. There is also no snapping of shapes yet.

There are a ton of features that will be implemented as time goes by, and while the team is small, they have already accomplished a lot with that tool. I asked Alex which are the main areas they will focus on next, and these are the ability to drag and drop the layers to reorganize them between artboards, reworking the transformations for the shapes and images to fix some issues, and adding a click and drag solution to select multiple items at once.

After that, they’ll aim for a beta release, which is missing a few big features: they want to bring full SVG compatibility, the ability to version control files to be able to reset to an earlier version, more shape controls, like gradients, textures, uneven radius. They were aiming at April for that release, but the world intervened, and with the current pandemic, Akira currently relies on the efforts of Alex alone, while the other developers deal with family and work