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September 2000, Week 1 -- Picture This

 

   Graphics is the last great open area of desktop computing. After all, word processing, databases and spreadsheets are dominated by just one or two companies. The leading graphics house is Adobe, but more than a dozen others wait in the wings.

 

Graphics editing for photos

 

   Here are two low cost programs for manipulating digital photos:

 

   The Canadian graphics house, MGI, has "PhotoVista 2," a new version of a panorama program that came out several years ago. This takes individual photos and stitches them together into a 360-degree panoramic view. It's particularly popular in the real estate business as a way of letting a potential buyer view the interior of a house or commercial building. Outside shots allow the viewer to see the full view of the location.

 Platinum Edition Photosuite 4.0

 

   The software is $50 for Windows and works with any digital images, whether from still or video cameras or scanned from standard photographs.

-- Another from MGI is "PhotoSuite III, Platinum," soon to be superseded by PhotoSuite IV, Platinum. This is a delightful program, great for editing digital photos. The rapid pace of digital camera sales means a lot of people will soon be looking for software to improve and edit those photos. The cameras often come with such software, and just as often it is not the best or is in limited versions of what would otherwise be very good programs.

 

   Both versions III and IV are for Windows and have a $50 street price. They allow you to not only manipulate the picture but provide borders that act as frames. You can place your favorite photo into a fake magazine cover if you wish. The process is swift and easy, no learning curve. This was the easiest software we've tried for fixing dark photos.

 

MGI phone: 888-644-7638 or 905-764-7358; web: www.mgisoft.com.

 

Graphics for creating new images

 

  Caligari has a new Windows 3D rendering program called "iSpace," available for just $99. This is a very highly regarded graphics company, with software that produces 3D images good enough for film and TV. It bridges the gap between cheap 3D programs for the desktop and the expensive professional programs like LightWave and SoftImage.

 

   The company's "trueSpace 4" for Windows impressed graphic artists when it came out four years ago and we are looking forward to a new version of that one, equal to or surpassing the power of LightWave and at a fraction of the cost. We'll get to it when it comes out. Caligari phone: 800-351-7620; web: www.caligari.com.

  

   Deneba Software now has a $100 version of its professional drawing program "Canvas 7" for both Mac and Windows. The low cost version is labeled "SE" for special edition, which means you don't get all the features of the full Canvas 7, which costs several hundred dollars.

   This is a powerful program and it looks like it was released in special low priced edition under competitive pressure from Adobe, which put out a "limited edition" of PhotoShop last year. All this competition is good for anyway with a limited budget and wanting high end tools. Deneba phone: 305-596-5644; web: www.deneba.com.

 

Scanning photos

 

   Canon has added film and transparency holders to its new scanners, matching such accessories just released by Hewlett Packard. These come as extras, thrown in with the new scanners, but if you need high resolution results you should buy a stand-alone high quality film scanner.

 

   You can easily spend $1,000-$2,000 for one of these but Canon has a pretty good one for $530. This is the Canon Canoscan FS2710. It can scan a photograph -- positive or negative, at 2,720 dpi (dots per inch). That's not as good as the resolution of photographic film itself, but well beyond what a film holder can do with an ordinary scanner. Scanning time is 10-13 seconds per picture.

 

   Canon phone: 800-652-2666; web: www.usa.canon.com.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.etour.com You can select a major subject area and the e-tour will start going through web sites one at a time, sort of like flipping through a card file. Be aware, however, that it is not going through all web sites but only those selected by the operators of this web site.

-- www.isp.com Tons of information on ISP's (Internet Service Providers). There are lists of free ones, information on how to become an isp, reviews by users, etc.

-- www.odomainstuff.com Domain registration the easy way; $20 per domain name.

 

-- www.imdb.com The initials stand for "internet movie database." Recall a well known phrase from the movies and they'll tell you what picture it came from. Well, most of the time. You can also do a film search for a particular actor, series title (Charlie Chan, for example), etc.

 

-- www.systransoft.com We've mentioned this site many times but still get requests for it. They translate web pages and e-mails between any of a dozen major languages. No charge.

-- www.whowhere.lycos.com  This is sort of interesting because it has been touted in many magazines as a place to find anybody's e-mail address just by typing their name. It couldn't find mine, however, even though I have two e-mail addresses and they appear every week at the end of this column.

NOTE: Readers can search more than four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.