by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally
published in INPUT, April 1992
Mac envy !!!
Sure, PC's have 90% of the market share for personal
computers. Sure, we've got 90% of the software titles... 100 million
But admit it. You've felt a little jealous watching
those MacIntosh users even if you called their use of windows, icons,
mice, and pictures a'wimp' interface.
So maybe you tried Windows... our very own way to be
'wimp'-y. But those pesky Mac-folks keep finding ways to get under our
skin. One of the latest has been "24-bit colour". You've just replaced
colour, low-res CGA with glorious technicolour VGA, and they're rubbing
your nose in 24-bit colour. (While standard VGA offers 640x480
resolution in 16 colours (4-bit), and most super-VGA systems offer 256
colours (8-bit), 24-bit systems offer 16,777,216 colours (2-to-the-24th
power, math fans). As many colours as the human eye can distinguish.
Real colours, not cartoon colours).
Well, weep no more, PC owners. As hardware like
Hewlett-Packard's Scanjet comes along,providing 24-bit colour
pictures at an affordable price, software inevitably follows. And
amazingly, it even works for the rest of us... the ones (like me) who
don't yet have the (still rare and expensive) 24-bit colour video
Aldus was first off the mark, with the high-end (and
high-priced) PhotoStyler for Windows. Z-Soft, the makers of the
well-known PC-Paintbrush, has followed up with the high-quality, but
affordable PhotoFinish (also for Windows).
PhotoFinish ($199 US list, street price of $179 Cdn in
Vancouver) leads three lives, and does them all well. It's a 24-bit
paint program, that provides a whole slew of tricks. It's a grey-scale
editor, letting the user retouch black and white scanned photos (hence
the name). Finally, it permits the owners of most scanners, both fancy
flatbed scanners, and inexpensive hand scanners, to scan directly into
the program, for cleanup and editing.
The paint program builds on Z-Soft's years of
experience in this area. Users are provided with a wide range of
powerful tools. Some of the winners include the ability to zoom a
drawing from 25% to 1600%; to use a "Magic Wand" tool which
automatically selects an area based on similar colours; a special paint
roller that adds a gradient fill; another roller that fills an area
tiles;bezier curves, like in high end draw programs; and an airbrush
tool. You can have several versions of the same picture open in
different windows at once, or several different pictures.
Users can open and work on 256-colour or 24-bit
pictures, even using a
standard, 16-colour VGA or EGA display... the additional colours are
dithered. Of course, the more colours available on screen, the better
the screen appearance will be. Files can be quickly converted from
256-colour to 24-bit to grey-scale and back. Most popular file formats
Grey-scale pictures can be tinted to colour, or can be
enhanced in 256 shades of grey. Tones can be blended, sharpened,
smoothed, or smeared. Brightness and contrast controls can be used,
like on your TV at home. With a click of a button, you can see your
proposed changes, before making them final in your actual file.
Scanner users can install most popular scanner models,
so that they can scan right into PhotoFinish. They can quickly prescan,
to select just the area that they want to use, then rescan the selected
portion of the page. For most scanner models, they can set the
brightness, contrast, and scaling of the scan right from the software.
Of special use with hand scanners, PhotoFinish lets them quickly stitch
together several narrow scans to create a wider page. (Just be aware of
file size issues-- a full page, 300 dpi, 24-bit colour image requires
meg of hard drive space, or memory !)
PhotoFinish requires a computer with Microsoft Windows
I'd recommend a minimum of 2 meg of memory--- 4 meg or more is even
better. The program requires a minimum of 2 1/2 meg of hard-drive
plus a couple of megs for the several attractive sample 24-bit pictures
included for the tutorial. The documentation, which includes an
Installation Guide, Tutorial Guide, User's Reference Guide, and Quick
Reference Card is comprehensive, and easy to understand.
An outstanding, and affordable cure for 24-bit Mac
(Note from the year 2003): The above
article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from fans hoping that I
could sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where
it is still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am
not a vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for
of older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
you check on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
(And in March 2004...) A reader wrote to let me know that he "purchased
PhotoFinish 4 on eBay and installed it with Windows XP. It runs
flawlessly. Please pass this on to anyone who may inquire".