Microsoft stakes out mid-range graphics
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1999. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000
requires: Pentium 90 or better, Windows 95/98/NT, 32
MB RAM, up
to190 MB drive space
Think graphics software companies and you may think of
of high end favourites like PhotoShop and Illustrator, or of
Corel, with its popular CorelDraw suite.
While software-giant Microsoft controls big hunks of
the operating system
and Office suite markets, they haven?t been a force to reckon with in
graphics market?not until now, at least.
Microsoft?s new PhotoDraw 2000 may change all that,
however. It leaves
the professional market to companies like Adobe, Corel, and Macromedia
while also avoiding the low end, where products are often bundled free
with digital cameras and scanners.
Instead, PhotoDraw 2000 combines a lot of power with
interface, and aims for a hitherto mostly ignored middle
professionals, many of whom already use Microsoft Office, who need to
produce high quality graphical output.
Crossing the boundaries between high-end and low-end,
crosses the boundaries between bitmap photo editing (like Adobe
or Corel PhotoPaint) and vector draw programs (like Adobe Illustrator
CorelDraw). Like Deneba Canvas, PhotoDraw supports both bitmap and
graphics commands in a single program. In fact, PhotoDraw users don?t
to know about these two basic sorts of graphics?they can simply get
to work. Similarly, users don?t need to know what sorts of file formats
to use for different projects?the program offers options to ?Save to
Web? for example, which automatically converts files to the proper
Like Microsoft?s Publisher desktop publishing
software, PhotoDraw tries
to simplify the often complex task of creating or enhancing artwork.
a toolbar item produces a bar full of icons of related tasks?this can
for a busy screen, but makes it much easier to make a selection without
learning a lot of specialized graphics jargon. And like Publisher, it
packed with templates, making it easy to customize someone else?s idea
for your project?300 templates for business cards, letterhead,
flyers, Web banners and buttons, and more.
The program excels at letting you reposition existing
alter your letterhead into your business card, return envelopes, and
graphics. The CD is stocked up with 20,000 clipart?much of it easily
200 fonts, photos, and more. Of course, it also works fine with your
artwork, scanned photos, or what-have-you.
The program includes all the standard photo-enhancing
reduction, dust and scratch removal, contrast and brightness controls,
and so forth. Drawing and painting tools can be used when starting from
scratch, or on existing artwork. These include a wide variety of
including some interesting photo brushes, letting you ?paint? with a
Text can be easily manipulated including easy 3D
effects. The program
supports multiple undo and multiple layers?so text is always editable.
My favorite PhotoDraw feature is the collection of
This includes a diverse collection of ?painterly? effects that can be
to an existing photo, with results that vary from the unviewable to
to artistic to cliched. Most of these effects have been available
as extra-cost plugins) for some time for high-end photo editing
but Microsoft includes too many to count together with an easy-to-use
At the same time, this showed off the program?s
no way to preview the effects before applying them for example, and no
settings?you can?t vary the intensity of the various effects.
I suppose this is intentional?if you want high-end
control, get a high-end
program. All in all, Microsoft is successful in producing a graphics
with lots of power, easily accessible by someone who isn?t a graphics
A 30-day free trial version is available as a 31 MB
download, or on
CD. PhotoDraw 2000 is included, along with FrontPage 2000 in the
version of Microsoft Office 2000.