Poor Person's Photoshop-- Paint Shop Pro 4.0
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1996. First
published in Computer Player, August 16, 1996
Among graphics professionals, a whole culture has
grown up around Adobe
PhotoShop? sure, there?s the core program, available in Mac and Windows
versions, but there?s also an entire sub-industry, devoted to serving
needs of PhotoShop users. There are PhotoShop software enhancements,
as plug-ins, and hardware optimized for PhotoShop users.
PhotoShop users even have specialized vocabulary.
Alpha channel. Masks.
But all that power comes at a price. $10,000 is not
out of the question
to outfit a serious PhotoShop user with all the hardware and software
Most of us, however, don?t have the budget and don?t
really have the
need. We may work with graphics from time to time, but we?re not
graphics professionals. In particular, we may be working with Windows
and while there?s a Windows version of PhotoShop, there?s far less of
PhotoShop add-ins, both hardware and software, for that platform. Most
graphics pros continue to stick to their Macs.
Still, we may need to work with graphics. And PC
graphics can be pretty
confusing. For instance, there are probably a couple of dozen common
formats and sub-formats. PCX, GIF, TIF, BMP, WMF, CGM? the list goes on
and on. Your application may only support a few of them?Web pages, for
example, typically want GIF or JPG files only? inevitably the wrong
The shareware graphics program, Paint Shop Pro, from
JASC, started life
modestly a couple of years ago, allowing users to convert between
graphics types. (Raster or bitmapped graphics store information about
colour and position of individual dots, as opposed to vector-draw
which store math formulas for shapes and outlines). It also included
ability to resize and flip pictures, change the number of colours used,
and included a nice screen-capture feature. It was a handy way to
input from a scanner, and clean up the edges of the picture.
Later versions added formats supported, including
being able to read
popular vector-draw formats. And last year?s version 3.0 added basic
tools, and support for standard Adobe filters. Now users could put a
on Sir Wilfred Laurier, after scanning a $5 bill. But even though there
was a 32-bit upgrade, it lacked basic Windows 95 support.
The new version 4.0 is a real Windows 95 version? it
uses the Win 95
standard file open and save dialogue boxes, for example, and only runs
under Win 95 or the new NT 4.0. Windows 3.1 or NT 3.5 users will have
be satisfied with the previous version. It adds features, taking it
to becoming PhotoShop for the Rest of Us, while keeping the modest $69
(US) cost of previous versions.
In addition to Adobe filters (and it comes with over a
dozen basic filters),
it now supports sophisticated masks. These allow users to apply effects
to carefully selected portions of a picture, while leaving the rest
The painting tools are enhanced, as is the user interface. Two pictures
can be combined mathematically?adding or subtracting pixels to create a
unique combined result. Gradient fills, subtly blending two colours,
be applied in a variety of ways.
JASC sells a separate Media Center, which creates
of multimedia files. A version, with fewer features was included with
previous PaintShop version. In this upgrade, it?s integrated right into
the main program?rather than opening files one at a time, users can
the Browse command, from the File menu, and view mini-versions of all
graphics in a folder? opening, renaming, or deleting pictures right
the viewer. The thumbnail view can be saved for faster opening in the
Other nice graphic features include a Print Preview, and the ability to
view the effect of many of the plug-ins, before they?re applied.
New special effects include drop-shadows, hot wax,
and 3-D buttons. It?s easy to select circles and ovals, in addition to
the standard rectangle-shapes. Selections can be deformed into
and circles, along with motion blur or pinched, punched or skewed.
nice feature, carried over from previous versions, allows for batch
And a couple of new features will be especially useful
to people designing
Web pages. Seamless tiles can be created, to be used as tiled
behind your pages. And finally, you can set a colour in GIF files as
so your graphics will appear to grow right out of the background of
page. (Also handy is interlaced GIFs, which appear on the page more
feature has been supported since version 3.0).
As a shareware program, users can try it before buying
version is fully-featured, adding just a modest reminder that this
is not yet registered. The latest version can always be obtained over
Internet, directly from JASC, at http://www.jasc.com.
If you register the program, using their Internet
secure server, you
can also order a limited-version of Kai?s Power Tools (ver 3.0). KPT is
probably the best-known of all the PhotoShop add-ins, and it works just
fine with this shareware program. KPT-SE 3.0 includes four plug-ins:
Designer, Video Feedback, Texture Explorer, and Gradient Designer. This
special edition is available for $29 (US), only when ordering the main
PaintShop Pro package, (or the $24 upgrade for registered users of
With its additional features, along with its better
Windows 95 implementation,
JASC?s PaintShop Pro version 4.0 is a better deal than ever for PC
who need to work with graphics but don?t need to become full-time
of the Adobe PhotoShop subculture. And as shareware, it?s easy to try
out and see if you agree with me.