It’s 2013. Do you know where my Free vector animation software is?

In 2008 I vowed that the only animation software I’d switch to, once I had to give up Macromedia Flash 8, would be Free software. Why? Because Adobe bought Flash and ruined it. Among their other unforgivable crimes was crippling Quicktime video output. Old Macromedia Flash could export to any video codec Quicktime supported, including the luscious and useful “Animation” codec. Adobe removed high quality output options to force users to process .swf files through After Effects. I could have lived with the insult and expense of being forced to buy After Effects, but not of having my workload and production time increased just so Adobe could try to squeeze more money out of its customers.

Now it’s 2013 and I’m still using the same copy of Macromedia Flash 8 from 2005, on an old Mac that supports OS 10.5, because old Flash doesn’t work on newer computers or newer operating systems. I’m frozen in time, and it’s starting to hurt.

5 years have passed and there’s no viable Free vector animation software for me to switch to. Synfig supposedly can do all sorts of wonderful things, but it’s simply not useable by anyone not actually developing the software. I devoted quite a bit of time and effort trying to switch, even getting a devoted Linux box for it; it didn’t suck from lack of effort on my part. That said, I do trust that the problem is with the user interface, not the back end; existing Synfig could conceivably serve as a starting point for making some really good software I could actually use.

Whether it’s a massive Synfig UI overhaul, or something new built from scratch, I need a good, Free vector animation program to switch to. I’m talking Free as in Freedom. It’s not the price of the software that puts me off.  I’d pay to switch to ToonBoom, for example, if I thought it would be reliable. But no proprietary software is reliable. At any time its “owners” can cripple it and otherwise screw over their customers, in pursuit of whatever misguided business model they fancy at the time. It’s not the loss of my good money I can’t tolerate, it’s the loss of ALL MY WORK. Meanwhile the world moves on, new file formats and codecs are developed, and whether my work is compatible with progress remains at the mercy of my software’s corporate overlords. Even now I can’t export my Flash illustrations as .svg files; SVG wasn’t in demand when Macromedia released Flash 8, and because Flash is proprietary no one can add an SVG export feature to it now.

I need vector animation software I can use in the years and decades to come, that can grow with the times, and allow the future access to the work I do today.

What else do I need? Things like Flash 8*:

Mac compatible (I’m a pragmatist, not a purist)

Timeline similar to Flash 8

Visible audio waveform in timeline

“Symbol” grammar, where symbols can be animated and nested

good vector drawing tools

expansive video export options

resolution independent

and things Flash 8 doesn’t have, but should:

parent-child registration points

“bones” (maybe – aww, who cares)

custom vector strokes (beyond just dotted and dashed lines)

SVG export

fewer bugs 😉

Time alone has not made this elusive software come into being. Could money? How much would I have to raise to commission an excellent programmer or two to give me what I want? Should I try a Kickstarter? A project like this should have a million dollars; I would aim for one tenth of that. Would even $100,000 be possible?

The result would be excellent Free vector animation software for everyone in the world.

If that doesn’t work I’m going to have to switch to some other proprietary software for the near future. That would be very disappointing. But I can’t stay in 2005 forever.

*What I don’t need is anything related to .swf files or the Flash Player or ActionScript. Almost all of Flash’s development since Flash 5 has been around “interactivity” and “web delivery”- things professional animators don’t use. If only we could separate the animation production part of Flash, from the “web player” part! The former has been almost perfect from the beginning, the latter has become a bloated monster that needs to die.


Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

72 thoughts on “It’s 2013. Do you know where my Free vector animation software is?”

  1. Hi safsafdasdasfsd
    how about
    rails, backbone.js & two.js?

    And never forget Brooks’s law!

  2. FYI, quite a lot of people are using Blender. It is an extraordinary powerful tool – but because of that, it’s pretty hard to learn. The UI is also non-standard compared to other animation tools.

    If you just need something simple, maybe Ajax Animator could do the job.

    Also, I assume you know about Inkscape for static vector graphics.

  3. Stefan, I’m a PHP programmer so unfortunately, I cannot help you with ROR-based project. Sorry about that.

  4. > Maybe, you can convince him to release his incredible animation software to the general public

    It is absolutely impossible to convince anyone to release his/her source code.

  5. I found Blender has an even steeper learning curve than Synfig. Synfig has many YouTube videos most of which are useful. I’ve just started using it today and those videos are helping me gain traction with my project. I guess Blender is 3D so is necessarily more complex. I’m just glad there is something for us Linux people!

    Here are some Youtube video channels I’ve found useful:

  6. Hi, I read the post and the comments and I believe there is a lot of confusion here. You are searching for an alternative to vector animation software like flash, yet for some reason so many people suggest you to use blender. Blender is a 3D Animation software which is very different from vector animation software bost in the result you get and in the type of work you have to do. From a research I made few years ago (, Synfig or ink space is the way to go, but perhaps things changed and there is a newer and better alternatives. Would love to learn about them as well.

  7. I feel a lot of the same pain. You’re certainly not alone. There are other tools out there that no one else can get their hands on because the studios/people that produced them want to keep it all to themselves and that’s sad. is the closest flash equivalent i’ve found so far. it exports to or renders videos but does not do SVG.

    Blender is good if what you want to do is export to video, but it lacks a few features that come with a real vector graphics package. Namely, beziérs that optimize their resolution based on zoom level and curvature. Because of that limitation, often curves look poor.

    A Rant About SVG:

    SVG has the potential to be a Flash Killer. It was, after all, being developed during the days of all the Macromedia Flash hype. It’s feature-set is astoundingly similar. There are a lot of fantastical things you can do with SVGs that you couldn’t ever do with Flash.

    Simple animation example with SMIL:

    I know of a few tools that are in development right now. SVG is the technology that is here to answer the rendering power you’re after. The web browser is the new vessel, free from the shackles of Flash’s plug-in. is very much in its early stages and a tool I’m building of my own design. I think it will be a few years before it’s ready but it is a project that I started because I had a very similar frustration.

    A competing open-source project is but it doesn’t have animation (yet?).

    There are a lot of people trying to figure out how to deliver these SVG things to us. They met in England this past September. Tavmjong Bah’s blog covers a lot of the aspects of SVG 2.0 that still need figuring out. They’re not just number-crunching mathematical problems, but spatially difficult problems.

    But we’re still really far away from much more modern tools that will probably never have commercial releases. Like whatever they used for Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, and The Gold Sparrow.

  8. Hey Nina, first of all, I’m both a great fan of your work and a colleague flash-animator. You are absolutely right about proprietary software, but, on the other hand, you are never certain if free software will be supported longer than Adobe Flash. The latest version of Flash, Flash CC 2014, can export to SVG. It can even export to Quicktime just fine, including actionscript, although I prefer to use Swivel (free!) for that purpose. I have had the same problems as you have and have spend quite some time to test other programs, but at the end I sticked to Flash. Judging your workflow, the current version of Flash can still do exactly what you want to achieve and more…

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