Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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May 2003, Week 3 -- Digital Pictures


   We're going to talk about some graphics programs and books here, and add a few choice words about reviews and expectations.


Photo editing and all that jazz

   PhotoSuite 5


   We just got through looking at Roxio's "PhotoSuite 5 Platinum" for Windows and we liked it a lot. Then we went to the web and looked at user and editor's comments from CNet, Amazon, and PC World Magazine. They were decidedly mixed. In fact two-thirds of the users on CNet hated the program. The other third loved it.

   So what's going on here? Several things, all of them instructive.

   First of all, PhotoSuite 5 is a $50 program (that's the list price). But the complaints seemed to center on its not having as many editing tools as Jasc's Paint Shop Pro or Adobe's Photoshop Elements. Those are excellent programs, but they cost twice as much. So a big part of the problem -- and we see it a lot -- is expectations. If you get a cheap shareware drawing program or a copy of Star Office, it seems pointless to complain they don't have as many features as Corel Draw or Microsoft Office, both of which cost hundreds of dollars.


   The second problem is who's doing the reviews. A spokesman for admitted a while back that a glowing review of one of its books was written by the author's sister. Furthermore, they acknowledged that other reviews were sometimes written by parties who had a connection with the product. The reverse is also true: some negative reviews are written by people associated with a competing product.


   Additional problems are that there are many different computer configurations and operating systems out there. There are users whose problems with a particular program may stem from a virus or from another program occupying a memory block or some other mysterious interference.


   So how do we know which user comments are unbiased and which not? Well, we don't for sure. We read between the lines as much as possible. Does the complaint make sense? Does the praise make sense? I become suspicious of comments that are unusually technical. That makes me think it's someone in the business. The complaint may still be valid but I now read it very carefully.


   Meanwhile, back at Roxio PhotoSuite 5 ...


   What we liked was how easy it was. We never opened the manual and never needed to. It has all the commonly used photo editing tools, like removing red eye, scratches, smoothing skin wrinkles, "auto fix," etc. And there are hundreds of templates for things like printing multiple photos to a page (something we have had trouble with in far more expensive programs), making calendars, greeting cards, postcards, magazine covers, gift tags, etc. It was a cinch to use the program's own routine for creating a photo CD. It is what it is and it's well done. More info at




   Ulead's "Cool 3D Studio" is out in a new Windows version with lots of tools for three-dimensional effects and animations.

   The inclusion of templates has become a staple of most new software and Cool 3D is right in line. They call it "easy palette" and it's a set of templates that make your life with graphics easier and faster. If you want to see your company logo as a ring of letters circling the globe, for example, just select that feature from easy palette and its done.


   This is a professional level tool, with a few easy features for beginners. You can import video as a backdrop for animated titling effects. Effects like rolling titles or ones that enter and grow and then move off and diminish into the distance are no problem. In fact any kind of motion can be determined with the "path editor."


   Cool 3D Studio can import files from Adobe Illustrator and other programs and make those objects three-dimensional by turning them on the "lathe tool." They can also be reshaped with freehand drawing. There are hundreds of preset special effects: cartoon shading, psychedelic colors, fire, snow, smoke, bubbles, etc. Output can be to commonly used video formats or the web.


   We've always been a little partial to Ulead products, not because we have any connection with the company but because we've been using them for years. The list price for Cool 3D Studio is $129. More info at

Digital Illustration


   We've just looked at two stunningly beautiful digital art books from Watson-Guptill Publications

The first is "The Complete Guide to Digital Illustration," by Caplin and Banks; $35. The book was created by Ilex Press in Cambridge, England, and printed in China. I mention all this because the result is so impressive that I literally could not put it down without leafing all the way through. Digital art and illustration is covered using examples from several graphics programs for both PCs and Macintosh. If you're seriously interested in digital art, you'll want this book. A professional reference section in the back tells readers how to sell their work and obtain agents.

 Digital Calligraphy

   "Digital Calligraphy," by George Thomson, $25, is the second new offering from Watson-Guptill and confines itself to a narrower subject. You would think that the vast array of digital typefaces already available in commercial programs would be more than anyone could possibly want or use in an illustration. But going through this book you realize they're not close to enough. The results produced here with Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Painter, etc., are far beyond anything you'll see from the drop-down font list in Microsoft Word. These are art.


NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or