Graphics programs offer something to everyone
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Microsoft Graphics Studio Home Publishing Suite 99
US$85 (approx $130)
(CDN$45 mail-in rebate if purchased by 9/30/99)
Windows version only
Adobe Image Syler
US$144 (approx $210)
Mac and Windows versions
Adobe Illustrator 8.0
US$412 (approx $600)
competitive upgrade: US$199
Mac and Windows versions
I remember working on a local newspaper in the late
and illustrations to the typesetters and getting back columns of
text and screened photos. Laying out the paper, using hot wax to stick
the copy onto large sheets, to produce camera-ready pages.
The graphics and desktop publishing revolution on the
all that for good. At first, jobs that had been sent out could be done
in house. More recently, capabilities that once required a graphics
moved in-home, coming in easy-to-use versions aimed at amateur home
Here are looks at three products, each offering
advanced graphics capabilities,
but aimed at a different segment of the market.
Graphics professionals have been relying on Adobe
Illustrator for over
a decade. At first a Mac-only vector-draw product, early Windows
were far-inferior to the Mac original. As has been true for several
however, the latest, version 8.0 offers virtually identical features
interface for both platforms.
It?s still aimed at pro-users. They will find that the
offers some 100 improvements, while making the interface and operations
more compatible with Photoshop, Adobe?s industry-standard photo-editing
software. The neatest improved feature is the Brush tool, which can now
paint with patterns and artwork. If you have a graphics tablet, the
are pressure sensitive, for a nice, natural-media touch.
Also new is the Gradient Mesh, providing a smooth
gradient fill to an
object. Live blends let you smoothly combine two objects. Finally, you
can resize type by dragging its handles. A pencil tool simplifies
paths. (Users of competitors Freehand and Corel Draw will recognize
Photoshop users will welcome the Action palette to
tasks and the Navigator palette to help find your place on large
The program also borrows PageMaker?s Links palette for better control
imported graphics. Missing, however, is Photoshop?s useful History
Still, 15 palettes can lead to a pretty cluttered screen.
Add all this to improved performance, and high end
graphic pros will
want to add this one to their toolkit.
While Illustrator is a venerable classic, Adobe
ImageStyler is all new.
It?s aimed at web designers and non-professionals looking to spice up
look of their web pages. As the name suggests, it allows users to apply
styles to images?easily adding combination of colours, textures, and
This is a powerful notion, making it easy to create
pages with a look
that is rich and sophisticated, but consistent throughout.
Built using Adobe?s PhotoShop technology, ImageStyler
also shares that
products now-standard interface. But don?t expect to use it to create
edit raw graphics. Instead, its power lies in taking graphics (both
and vector), and spicing them up by applying styles?either pre-made or
user-created. Its power is easy to use?draw a square, then drag and a
file and drop it onto the shape?the contents of the graphic file the
neatly cropped off.
your graphic or
text change when the mouse passes over it, for example, without knowing
any programming. Easily link text, shapes, or graphics to web
Create multiple aliases?clones of an object that are connected so that
changes to one are repeated in all of them. Then detach the aliases, so
you can edit each separately. Active Preview lets you see how your
degrades as you shrink file size.
Aimed primarily at non-professional users faced with
creating web sites
that need to look professional, the product succeeds admirably. And its
power should prove attractive to many professionals as well.
In contrast, Microsoft?s Graphics Studio Home
Publishing Suite 99 is
aimed squarely at the home user. It offers a huge amount of content in
its five CDs?70,000 graphics, 3,200 video clips, 8,400 templates, and
The suite combines the company?s Home Publishing 99 with Picture It!
The two product are not particularly integrated,
coming on separate
disks with separate manuals. Despite this, they work well together.
It! aims at taking scans or digital photos, and offering the most
used photo-enhancement features: red-eye reduction, cropping, rotating,
tinting, colour adjustments, and so forth. Automatically clean up scans
of old, cracked photos. Add effects like posterization and embossing.
and distort. Output into templates for greeting cards, calendars, or
Yes, lots of other programs offer these features,
PhotoDeluxe. Picture It! offers an easy to use interface, doing a good
job of making lots of power easily available.
The Home Publishing part of the package lets you take
or any of the thousands of bundled graphics, and use them in
the range and sophistication of the templates included with Picture It!
Custom stationery, flyers and posters, animated greetings for web
and more. Coordinate all the elements of a project, matching your party
invitations to your banners to your thank you notes?and the program can
automatically remind you, in advance of birthdays, holidays, and
From professionals through to home users, there?s
something for everyone
in one of these three programs.