Business-like, isn't he?


 

 



Print Shop and Picture Wizard

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, April 16, 1993

You can tell that Windows is starting to become taken for granted as the standard operating environment for PCs. Suddenly there are a bunch of programs that clearly weren't designed for the big-business context.

Even in the old days (read before Windows 3.0), some of the nicest programs on the PC were designed to run in the Windows environment. But PageMaker, Excel, CorelDraw... they were all great software, but they were, well, productive. And adult. In those days, even Solitaire didn't come with Windows, just an odd little game called Reversi. And the only game that ran under Windows was something called 'Balance of Power', and that was more like a political simulation than a game. Again, kind of serious.

Now things have clearly changed. Computers being marketed for small business and home users come with Windows pre-installed. Even Microsoft's arch-rival IBM has Windows installed on their PS-1 series (which finally has enough speed and memory to run Windows-- another sign of the times).

And with this has come the first of a new breed of programs-- software designed for use at home and for small businesses. Software that can be used by kids as well as adults. Software that's a little more loght-hearted. But using the abilities of the Windows environment lets that same software pack more power than its DOS equivalents.

I'm looking at two products in this article. They've got some similarities, but also have two very different approaches. Both are new products with a longer history behind them. Both are working in the broad area of graphics design. Both are designed so that they can be used by kids or beginning users, yet both are surprisingly capable. Because of their different focuses, however, I'm not going to declare a 'winner'... they're trying to do different things.

PRINT SHOP DELUXE FOR WINDOWS is the latest of a line of software that's almost as old as personal computers. For at least ten years, there have been versions of Print Shop for Commodore 64s, and Apple 2s,  as well as plain-DOS PC's. We've all seen the results: blocky bitmapped cards, posters, and banners, printed on 9-pin printers, and if we're lucky, coloured in with felts. The output has advertised school plays, day-care center garage sales, and lost kittens. The cliched output was the trade-off for ease of use-- any one could produce a card or poster with minimal computer smarts.

The new version, out in both DOS and Windows version is a significant upgrade. Both provide the same set of vector fonts and graphics, spelling an end to the fill-in the box effect from re-scaling bit-mapped text and images in the older versions. Finally, colour capabilities are supported on the PC (which has been true of the Apple 2GS for at least 5 years).

While the DOS version's interface will hold few surprises for anyone who's used any of the older versions, the Windows version manages to make use of that environment's capabilities. While it ships with 300 object oriented, scalable graphics, this version also lets you import pictures, although only in Windows Bitmap format. (As bitmaps, they resize less well than the clipart that comes with PrintShop). As well, a DOS utility included in the package lets you export PrintShops's clipart (but not your completed projects) as EPS, CGM, PCX, or TIF graphics.

While both versions of PrintShop include the same 30 fonts, in the Windows version, they are in TrueType format. This means that they are available to other Windows applications, and that PrintShop can use your other Windows fonts (in TrueType, Adobe Type1 (ATM), or Bitstream Speedo formats if you have the appropriate font managers installed). This collection of display (headline) fonts may by itself justify the purcahse price, though I suspect yet other clones of Times Roman and Helvetica are provided only to provide identically-named fonts with the DOS version.

The Windows interface also means that you're using Windows to manage printing, rather than the sometimes touchy printing capabilities of the DOS version. Finally, the use of Windows pull-down menus, after the first couple of screens, makes it easier to move forward or back in your project than the DOS version's interface, which may require half a dozen presses of the ESCAPE key to back up and re-do an earlier portion of your work.

While early versions of this program offered only a few page layouts for each project, PSDeluxe takes canned design to the max-- without giving you the blank page of a desktop publishing program, there are so many options for placement of text and graphics that you can do almost anything. You can even control the darkness of varying design elements-- useful when you overlap art or text. You also have a variety of text effects, similar to, though less flexible than those provided by Bitstream MakeUp or PowerUp's Text Appeal.

The older 'New Print Shop' will still be marketed for less-capable DOS machines, and is not an upgrade path to either the DOS or Windows version of Print Shop Deluxe. The new program provides good value for many users, not just for kids or kindergartens. Anyone who has a need to design pages now and again, but doesn't want to start with the grim blank page of a DTP or traditional graphics program should give it a look.
 

PICTURE WIZARD has almost the opposite ancestry from PRINT SHOP DELUXE. Print Shop started life as a modest program running on modest computers, but has grown up. Picture Wizard, however, started out as ARTS AND LETTERS GRAPHICS EDITOR, one of the original generation of Windows high end illustration programs, along with COREL DRAW and MICROGRAFX DESIGNER. This powerful, but quirky program had its adherents, but never became a big seller, and its creator, Computer Support Corp. came up with a new marketing strategy.

Arts and Letters evolved into not one, but three separate programs. The original Graphics Editor remains, aiming at the high end. Still powerful, but somewhat scaled down, is the $169 A&L APPRENTICE. This program eliminates the most sophisticated and complicated features, while still leaving what most users need in an illustration package.

Picture Wizard took the same drawing engine, but has turned it into something unique:  a powerful package taking aim squarely at 'kids of all ages'. For half the price of APPRENTICE, it provides the bulk of its features, but adds a kid-oriented clip-art package, along with an innovative set of 95 'activities', just for the young at heart.

As a drawing program, its bargain price still gives you plenty of features: bezier curves, good text handling and effects, and a big symbol and clipart library. Some limitations: a fixed 126 colour palette, and support for A&L's proprietary fonts only (16 are included). The program only saves in A&L's format, although you can import TIF, WMF, Lotus PIC, and text. And beware: this inexpensive kids program makes high-end hard drive demands: 10 megs are required.

The drawing program works well, and has a reasonable manual. It's an easy way to get kids (or adults) working with sophisticated illustration tools. The real fun, however, comes from the activities library. Here, the included clipart has been used to create a wide range of kid-oriented projects, ready to open, change, and print out. There are mazes, games, treasure maps, cards, banners, and calendars. Christmas ornaments and cut-out dolls. Music paper and 'How things work'. The package even includes a bundle of projects already printed out to give a taste of what's available.

When I child tested this program, there was some disappointment, however. My 11-year old Kate though that she'd get to make mazes and puzzles that she could actually play on screen; the reality, that these were for printing out seemed a bit of a let-down. Still, she quickly got over this, and happily printed out a range of pages to give away or work on herself.

Like PrintShop, Picture Wizard comes with pre-packaged cards, banners, and stationary. If this is all you want, go with PrintShop; the range of canned projects is far larger. Picture Wizard, however, is at heart a much more powerful program. Despite its move from jagged fonts and art, PrintShop only lets you make the projects that it's preset for. Picture Wizard comes with its range of activities to get you started; it lets your output become more sophisticated as your skills grow.
 

Print Shop Deluxe for Windows
$79.95 (US) list
Broderbund Software
500 Redwood Blvd
Novato, CA
94948-6121 USA
800-521-6263

req:
Windows 3.1
2-4 meg memory
approx. 5 meg hard drive space
VGA
laser, inkjet, or 24-pin printer

Picture Wizard
$89.95 (US) list
Computer Support Co.
15926 Midway Rd.
Dallas, TX.
75244 USA
214-661-8960

req:
Windows 3.x
2-4 meg memory
approx. 10 meg hard drive space
 


(Note from the year 2003): The above article was originally published in 1993, as a review. A decade and more later, I've gotten a series of emails from Printshop 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 copies 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.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)



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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan