WebRef Update: Featured Article: PhotoImpact 5 Packs an Affordable Punch | 2
PhotoImpact 5 Packs an Affordable Punch
It's when you get into the Web-targeted features of the program that PhotoImpact 5 starts to really shine. These are geared to make the most common and most tedious Web graphics tasks painless and quick. The Background Designer, for example, is a seamless tiler tool, making the creation and editing of smooth background images a breeze.
The Component Designer makes Web graphics especially easy for newbies. The user is provided with a set of the most commonly used Web components (buttons, banners, etc.), and is then led step by step through the process of customizing these components to their needs. Graphics pros might sneer at this approach, but those with little-to-no background or skills in the visual arts (and a deadline!) will appreciate it.
I especially liked the interactive Image Optimizer. This feature allows you to optimize GIF, JPG, and PNG images, altering parameters (image quality, color depth, etc) on the fly, and making bulky pics more bandwidth-friendly. Both the original and optimized images are displayed simultaneously, allowing you to evaluate the changes that are being made to your image before you commit to them.
Admittedly, a lot of comparable tools are available in other software packages, but PhotoImpact combines these and other features into one well-conceived program. It's clear that the designers at Ulead put a lot of thought into making this a productive package for Web developers. You can even set up PhotoImpact to automatically publish your images on your site with a single mouse click.
PhotoImpact 5 is bundled and integrated with GIF Animator 3.0. GIF Animator isn't a plug-in; you can run it as a stand-alone program if you so desire. It's also launched automatically from PhotoImpact when appropriate. Several of the effects in PhotoImpact have a "storyboard" feature, for example, which allows animations to be created based on variations of the effect's parameters. GIF Animator is a neat program on it's own, and the tight integration between the two programs adds greatly the usefulness of both.
PhotoImpact 5 doesn't have some of the higher-end features found in Photoshop, but it's not really geared (or priced) for the high- end crowd. You're not going to be using PhotoImpact to do image compositing for glossy magazine ads, or to create photo-realistic bumpmaps for the next Toy Story movie - you're going to be creating your site's interface graphics, making rollovers and banner ads, and cropping pictures of your dog to email to your mom.
Released in 1999, PhotoImpact 5 is not brand new, but it's solid, useful and designed to help Web designers become more productive. Priced at under $80, that's hard to beat.
PhotoImpact 5 is available for Windows 95/98/NT, in either boxed version or via secure download at www.ulead.com/pi/ .
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Revised: May 12, 2000