Graphics Software at an affordable price

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Toronto Computes, December 1999

Paint Shop Pro 6.0
Jasc Software (
Requires Windows 95/98/NT, 32 meg RAM, 30-75 MB drive space, Pentium or better processor

For a while, computer graphics software has tended to fall into one of two camps?either it is inexpensive, and aimed at the novice user, with a dumbed-down interface, or it?s wildly expensive, and aimed at the professional market.

Jasc?s Paint Shop Pro, places itself squarely in between. Available both from on-line shareware sources, and in a professionally-packaged version available in stores, it offers much of the power of pro-products like Adobe PhotoShop at a relatively affordable price. Think of it as ?PhotoShop for the rest of us?.

The new version 6.0 stays firmly in that tradition. It adds a wealth of features, while retaining the look and feel (and price) of previous versions.

Version 6.0 takes a big leap forward. Like Deneba Canvas, but unlike products like Photoshop, it allows users to mix smooth vector lines and fills with the more traditional bitmap painting tools in a single picture. Like programs like Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator, vector objects can be individually resized and edited.

Also new to version 6.0 is fully editable text?every individual character can be formatted separately.  Text can be flowed onto a vector path. Pictures can support multiple gradient fills.

The program can optimize JPEG and GIF files for improved performance over the Web. Multiple pictures can be printed at once on a single sheet of paper (hoorah!), while the program offers built-in support for a wide range of digital cameras.

Back in this version, much to my pleasure, the Save Files dialogue box can be set to remember the last file format used?in the previous version, every save reverted to the default (and proprietary) Paint Shop Pro format. JASC would rather you left it that way, since saving in a format such as JPEG loses many of the program?s features?collapsing layers, and during vector lines into bitmap lines, for example. (They?re right?users working on creative projects should keep their work in the PSP format as long as possible?only saving as, for example, JPEG when they?re done with the file.

And while users are working on a project, they will appreciate new improvements like the multiple-level undo/redo and the Command History, allowing them to quickly get back to a previous version of the picture. And the improved colour control and special effect dialogues make it much quicker and easier to preview the effects of proposed changes.

Also included in the package is Animation Shop 2?which can be run on its own, or in conjunction with PSP. Animation Shop is designed to create those little animated buttons and banners that make it hard to stay focused while visiting far too many web pages. (Or am I letting my prejudices get the better of me?) In any event, Animation Shop offers a filmstrip-like environment for creating bitmap animations. It includes a collection of transitions between frames, along with image, and text special effects. Animation Shop can be purchased on its own for about $60.

True to its shareware roots, fully-functional trial versions of both PSP and Animation Shop can be downloaded from and other on-line sources. But after trying it out, if you?re going to continue to use them, register them?helping to keep this feisty company in the business of offering high-quality, lower cost alternatives.

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