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    Graphics freebies give Adobe dominance a run for its money

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business in Vancouver

    June 5-11, 2007; issue 919

    High Tech Office

    Two weeks ago, we looked at the release of Adobe’s new Creative Suite 3 versions of Photoshop and its companion programs for graphics, print and web publishing. Powerful industry standards, but at a price – CS3’s design premium package will cost US$1,799 or so. Last week’s column looked at more affordable alternatives from Corel and from Adobe itself.

    There are also a growing number of free graphics and publishing alternatives, often available in feature-equivalent versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Graphics and publishing professionals will probably stick with the high-priced spread, but if you find Adobe’s CS3 prices daunting, some free alternatives worth considering include:

    The GIMP image editor offers most of the power of Photoshop, including filters and effects, layers, RAW photo support and the ability to work with files saved in Photoshop’s PSD file format. The Gimpshop add-on makes its menus and toolbars more Photosho-like.

    • Paint.NET
    is Windows-only and less powerful than the GIMP (no RAW support, for instance), but many users will find it easier to use.

    Inkscape aims to be a replacement for CS3’s Adobe Illustrator to create diagrams, logos, maps, drawings and more.

    If you need to create Adobe Acrobat-style PDF files, there are many free options, at least if you don’t need Acrobat’s high-end features. I routinely install the free CutePDF on Windows systems.

    Like CS3’s Dreamweaver, the free KompoZer lets users create and edit web pages without needing to immerse themselves in raw HTML code.

    Flash animations are common online; Synfig Studio offers a free alternative to Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. Installing it can be challenging, and it has a relatively steep learning curve, but then so does Flash.

    Adobe’s InDesign has been increasingly successful at challenging Quark XPress for print page design. Scribus is less full-featured but free. It uses the GIMP for image editing and imports documents from the free, making free software more than the sum of its parts. Also free and worth noting: Jahshaka video and Audacity sound editors.

    All these programs are just a Google-search away. While bundled spyware has made many users understandably wary of so-called free software, these can all be downloaded and installed worry-free.

    Just starting to sprout up: free online photo-editing services.

    Fauxto (pronounced “photo”). It can open photos on your local drives or virtually any online photo, but doesn’t support Photoshop-style PSD images. Options include most standard image editing tools, layer support and a growing list of filters and effects. Images are limited to a maximum of 1,000 x 1,000 pixels, and there’s no option to print, at least from within Fauxto.

    Picnik has fewer features, but includes integration with the popular Flickr online photo site. As well, it seems to work with images regardless of size. A premium (i.e. paid) service with more editing options is in the works.

    Picture2Life limits free bandwidth to 25 megabytes per month, but uploaded photos are compressed and scaled, making it possible to work with a bunch of them within this limit. .

    Other online image editing services include Pixenate and Snipshot. Adobe is promising a free (ad-supported) online image editing service next fall. Details have not been announced, but expect it to build on the Photoshop brand. 

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