options give big bang for a small buck
by (c) 2003 First published in
Business in Vancouver
, Issue #708 May 20-26, 2003 High
Tech Office column
In issue No. 701, we looked at Adobe's Photoshop
Elements 2.0. It is aimed at users who have outgrown the software
that came with their digital cameras but don't have either the needs
or the budget to take on Adobe's pro-level graphics software.
85 per cent of the power for 15 per cent of the cost of the full
Photoshop. But its interface, closely resembling its pro-level
sibling's, may seem too complex for many.
Those users may
want to take a look at Microsoft's Picture It! Digital Image
Pro. The program combines ease of use with a wealth of features that
used to be available only in complex and expensive high-end software.
comes in Basic ($50) and Premium ($75) editions, but the best features
are found in the $160 Pro version. These include the ability to alter
the lighting in a digital photo, adding fill flash or reducing
backlighting. Photos can be tinted, wrinkles can be removed, and
there's now support for Adobe-style plug-in filters (150 filters are
While the Pro
edition's power has moved into Adobe's territory, the program's
interface is much friendlier. It starts up with offers to help with
common tasks, including scanning or importing photos from a camera,
and shows thumbnails of recently used photos. The Mini Lab lets users
work on multiple photos at once (handy if you need to rename or rotate
a bunch of pictures).
includes thousands of potential projects, helping users make stickers,
albums, calendars or cards, adding fancy borders and edges. Within the
program, you can e-mail the results or connect on the Net for
printing on anything from fridge magnets to baby bibs.
Elements offers more power and sophistication, but Microsoft's Picture
It! Pro is easier and more fun, at least for Windows users.
flagship application CorelDraw has a 15-year history bringing graphics
power to Windows users. The company has pretty much accepted that
graphics pros are not about to abandon their infatuation with Adobe's
high-end products, and is now aiming CorelDraw at non-professional
refocusing, CorelDraw Graphics Suite 11 ($400) packs a lot of punch.
CorelDraw remains a powerful illustration program in a class with Adobe
Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand. The new version has been
optimized for Windows XP and Apple's Mac OS X. The user
interface is easily customized, letting users keep the most-used tools
right at hand while putting less-used tools out of sight.
Corel has put a
lot of effort into its import and export filter. Users can open files
from Adobe's Photoshop or Illustrator, or send CorelDraw files to
those applications and expect to have everything show up as expected.
CorelDraw has always done a good job applying spectacular graphics
effects to text; the new version continues that tradition. The ability
to create libraries of frequently used artwork, saved as symbols, is
new. It's quick and easy to drag a symbol from a library and drop it
into your illustration.
Also in the
package is PhotoPaint 11, the latest take on this photo editor and
paint program. A new CutOut tool simplifies making complex masks for
applying filters and other changes to just part of a picture. The new
Image Stitching feature creates panoramas from multiple photos. Image
Slicing does the opposite, cutting a large image into pieces, letting
an online picture load faster.
creates simple animations and Web rollovers, compatible with the
popular Macromedia Flash format. As well, Corel bundles huge amounts of
fonts, clipart and photos. CorelDraw Essentials (about $150), which is
the older CorelDraw 9.0 repackaged, is also available.
the sort of handholding Microsoft's Picture It! provides. But if
you're prepared to spend a few hours learning it, CorelDraw provides
more graphics bang.
Buy Picture It! from Amazon.com
Buy Corel Draw 11 from Amazon.com