By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Last week I wrote about an excellent graphics viewer and basic image editor for Windows 95 and Windows 98—the freeware IrfanView32, available from a link at http://www.winfiles.com/apps/98/graph-view.html. IrfanView32 is about as good as image viewers get.
But for more advanced image editing, you need a full graphics editor. This week I'll consider five of the best inexpensive editors—Microsoft Photo Editor, Thumbs Plus, VuePrint, LView Pro and PaintShopPro. I'll also discuss a more expensive editor worth considering, Adobe ImageReady.
Microsoft Photo Editor isn't free, but many of you already have it. It's part of the Office 97 suite of programs. Install it from the setup menu, or look for it on the CD-ROM. It's very easy to use and provides 14 built-in image enhancements and effects. If you're an Office 97 owner and use Word 97, be sure to install Microsoft Photo Editor and configure Word to use it as its own graphics-editing program. (Open the Tools menu, then Options, then Edit.)
Thumbs Plus, from Cerious Software, is a must-have program if you want to make sure you can view and edit any image created on any kind of computer. It puts every other image editor and viewer to shame in the number of graphics formats it can handle. (The number is probably past 100.) It excels at creating thumbnail catalogs of everything from photos to fonts and can do extensive (although basic) image editing on a single file or thousands of files in one operation.
Unlike most graphics programs, Thumbs Plus knows how to function properly across any kind of network. Because of this and because all images can be annotated, Thumbs Plus could work well as an image-cataloging program in a library, newspaper or small graphics service bureau.
You can download a trial version of Thumbs Plus from http://www.cerious.com/. The registered version costs $60.
VuePrint, created by Ed Hamrick, is unusual in many ways. It has a slick slideshow program, handles many editing functions, can create and save separate pages of thumbnails and has no trouble dealing with thousands of images. It costs $40 and is available from http://www.hamrick.com/.
LView Pro, by Leonardo Louriero, is one man's vision of what a fast graphics editor should be like. It can perform enhancements and tweaks faster than Adobe Photoshop, and it has a vast collection of effects. Download it from http://www.lview.com/.
PaintShopPro, from JascSoftware (EDITOR: JascSoftware is correct), is often thought of as an inexpensive alternative to Photoshop. It is able to use most of the plug-in filters and special-effects modules designed for Photoshop. And, like the current version of Photoshop, PaintShopPro is specially coded to work very quickly on a Pentium or Pentium II system.
Go to http://www.jasc.com/ for more information and a link for a trial version of PaintShopPro that you can download. The software costs $99, so be sure to try any of the less expensive image editors, also. You might find one of them I just as good for your needs.
If you want a good image editor mostly for creating Web pages, download the trial version of Adobe ImageReady, from http://www.adobe.com/newsfeatures/tryadobe/main.html. ImageReady does nearly everything Photoshop does, and costs $219—a lot, but only a fraction of the cost of Photoshop. (ImageReady does not have any of the so-called pre-press functions of Photoshop, but it has just about everything else.)
A caution: Some of the downloads listed in this review are quite large. ImageReady, for example, is 19 megabytes. If you are still using a slug-a-bug service such as America Online for Internet access, you'll probably be shut out of trial software such as this. Upgrading to a faster Internet provider is a good way to make some of the best software easily available.