I bought Manga Studio 3 EX while at Comic-con last weekend. I was impressed by the tool set that I saw in the demos online and at the Smith Micro booth. I was also inspired to investigate the software after seeing the work that Ethan Nicolle did with it in his book, Chumble Spuzz.
Before buying the software, I wanted to try it out. So, I downloaded the demo from the Smith Micro website and installed it and the anti-piracy software they Smith Micro uses to protect their demos. I don't know why, but having to install the anti piracy software really bothered me. The anti-piracy software comes from a third-party, I believe, and I just don't know that I trust them.
Once I had the demo installed along with the associated crud-ware, I attempted to run the Manga Studio demo. It crashed upon start-up. It turns out that the demo for Manga Studio 3 EX is not compatible with OS X 10.5.4. There was no indication of this that I could find on the demo download page and the Smith Micro support pages are difficult to navigate and obtuse. The support search results are filled with more Google adds than support hits. I didn't learn of the compatibility issues until I was able to talk to a sales rep at the Smith Micro booth the next day.
It turns out that a new version of the software will be released later this year and that the Japanese firm that makes the software did not feel that it was worth their time and expense to patch the demo. The full version of the software has been patched.
After a lot of internal debate and some time online, looking up reviews and criticisms of the software, I decided to buy the heavily discounted version being sold at the Smith Micro Comic-con booth. (They sold it at the convention for $99; it's regularly $249-$299).
My experience with the sales representatives at the Smith Micro booth was very positive. They answered all of my questions clearly and honestly and at least one of them was a fan of SLG Publishing. (I was working at the convention as an exhibitor with SLG Publishing).
After booth break-down and a late diner, I made it back to my hotel room, I sobered up and installed my newly purchased software. Everything was going well until it was time to unlock the software with the serial number that was printed on the packaging. I typed in the numbers time and again and they would not work. Honestly, I thought I might still be a little tipsy, so I asked Jennifer to double check my typing and to make sure that I wasn't missing anything. She did and I wasn't. After saying a few bad words, I decided to give up. As I was packing up the software, I notice that the label on the software read Manga Studio Debut. I had purchased Manga Studio EX. The CD jewel case was mislabeled. I searched the internet to see if anything like this had been reported elsewhere; I found nothing but reports of slow tech support from Smith Micro.
I was eager to work with the software and did not want to wait for tech support to reply to my email, so I called once I returned home. Smith Micro does not have a toll-free tech support number, which I suspect is to discourage phone calls. I was greeted by a support representative name Aaron. After I explained my situation, he described the extensive procedure that I would have to follow in order to obtain the correct serial number for my software. It involved scanning and faxing and waiting. I couldn't have that--for one thing, I don't have a scanner that works with my Mac and I don't have a fax machine. I was told that they would make no exceptions. I was able to provide Aaron with my order number. While he could not research the number that I provided, he was able to forward me to someone else. My called was transferred to Junior and Junior was able to locate my order number and generate the serial number that I needed. Junior also gave me his direct email address. Finally, he replied to me almost instantly with the information that I needed.
Three days after my purchase, I was finally able to run Manga Studio for the first time. The menus are cluttered and don't follow the standards of other graphics applications (not exactly). But, they are easy enough to decrypt with a little effort. The biggest obstacle that I encountered came when I tried to use my Wacom tablet:
The response was terrible. There was a terrible lag with each stroke that made the tablet useless. There was no lag, however when I used a mouse. Some people can draw with a mouse, but I can't--not the way I want to draw. Again, the support pages at Smith Micro were incompressible and of no help. I searched the Wacom site and found nothing there. I uninstalled my driver and installed the latest driver and there was still a lag. I searched the internet for more than an hour and still found no help.
Finally, I resorted to an old PC trouble shooting technique: I uninstalled the Wacom driver and then restarted the computer. I then installed the Wacom driver and restarted the computer. Everything worked perfectly. Almost.
I tried to create a multi-page project and was greeted with a message that read, "Error 37" and nothing more. Again the support pages at Smith Micro told me nothing about Error 37. I resolved the problem by shortening the file name. First I tried: The Adventures of Red Bean & Mochi. Then: The Adventures of Red Bean and Mochi (I thought that the ampersand might have been the problem). Finally, I tried with success: Red Bean and Mochi.
In summary, this was the worst software installation experience that I have ever had. The customer service was mixed, but mostly positive. The tech support was entirely useless. The software seems functional, but a little awkward.