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ISSUE 514: The high tech office- Aug 31 1999


Adobe's high-end graphics programs are improved but still expensive

Last week, we took a look at Corel Draw 9, the latest version of Corel's graphics suite for Windows PCs, which claims more than 10 million users.

But while Corel Draw is a powerful package that offers the most stuff in the box, it has not been able to steal serious mindshare from Adobe's collection of high-end graphics products. Unlike Corel's suite, Adobe's suite is marketed as the separate applications PhotoShop and Illustrator.

At about the same time that Corel came out with the new version of its graphics suite, Adobe (www.adobe.
) premiered an upgrade of its flagship application, Photo-
Shop version 5.5, available in virtually identical PC and Mac versions.

Last year, the company released PhotoShop 5.0, with a number of nice new features, such as a History list, which makes it possible to review earlier versions of your work. At about the same time, Adobe released a separate application, ImageReady, which while almost identical to PhotoShop, focused on features designed to get graphics ready for the Internet.

With PhotoShop and Image-
Ready offering different sets of features for working with photographs and bit-mapped illustrations, it seemed like many designers would find themselves forced to buy both, as well as yet another product such as Adobe Illustrator to work with vector graphics.

The new version of PhotoShop puts all the features of Adobe's two photo-editing programs into one box. While ImageReady is updated to version 2.0, it will no longer be sold as a separate product. Instead, it's been made part of the PhotoShop package. It's still a separate program. However, users can install either or both of the two programs and each starts up with its own icon.

But each adds a Jump-To icon on its toolbar to start up the other program, loading the picture that you're working on right into it and making it easier to switch from one to the other as the need arises.

Some of ImageReady's Web smarts are integrated into the new and improved PhotoShop.

Now, for example, both programs make it easier to get just the right balance between picture quality and size. "LiveView" lets you see what gets lost in the exchange for small-
er size files.

PhotoShop can now warn you if you try to work with a shade outside the 216 colours of the standard Web-safe palette that can be viewed both on PCs and Macs.

A Save For Web option lets you play with different colour choices and see how they will appear on both Mac and PC screens.

Not everything new in PhotoShop is Web-focused. New masking tools such as the Background Eraser makes it easier than ever to pull a foreground image out from its background. With a little practice, even wispy hair can be cleanly masked-out using the new tools.

While ImageReady now has a new version number, I couldn't find much changed, other than the improved ability to switch back and forth between it and PhotoShop. No printed documentation is included in the package for ImageReady. I suspect that the next version of PhotoShop will merge all of Image-
Ready's functions into the single, core program.

That program remains expensive, especially since graphics professionals will tend to need both PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator. It costs $960 (list) for new purchasers and $320 to upgrade either PhotoShop or ImageReady to the new version 5.5. Users who can't justify that, but need more than the basic graphics applications that come bundled with digital cameras and scanners, may be interested in Adobe's plans for its scaled-down version of PhotoShop, LE.

While lacking the full feature set of PhotoShop, such as colour management, channels, working with CMYK colours or those Image Ready Internet features, LE still packs a lot of power. Previously available only bundled with some hardware products or with other Adobe programs such as PageMaker, LE will now be sold retail for about $300.

PC graphics users may want to take a look at Paint Shop Pro, a powerful program with its roots as downloadable shareware, but now also available retail for about $130. Its creator, Jasc, is put-
ting the finishing touches on version 6.0. Beta versions with a limited lifespan can be freely downloaded from www.

Also new, from Vancouver's Multiactive Software Inc. (of Maximizer and ecBuilder fame) is Entice! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name). Aimed at mid-sized companies doing business on the Web, according to the company Entice! unifies an organization's Web activities with its front office -- that is, its sales, marketing and customer service divisions. It automates traditional business processes and also helps businesses generate, qualify, distribute, process and respond to online customer and prospect inquiries. (www.
) *

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