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Software Review of:
Photo Impact 7
ULEAD

 

Bill Hunsicker is a retired computer scientist and software developer who dabbles in photography and genealogy.

From the October, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Let me start by saying this review is aimed at windows users since Photo Impact only runs in the windows environment. Second, I have been working with digital imagery for several years, using several different image editors (including Picture-It, PhotoSuite, and Adobe's PhotoDeluxe and Photoshop packages). The equipment I used in the evaluation was a 1.4 GHz Althon with 256 MB memory and an 80 GB raid-0 disk system. Third, let me say that most of my evaluation time was spent working with the Internet download evaluation version, because Ulead's evaluation package did not arrive until the latter part of August, just before this article was due. As a result, many of my original findings had to be adjusted based on the full package.

According to the Ulead Web page, Photo Impact 7 (PI-7) is a full-featured image-editing package with many advanced capabilities. Ulead says you can easily edit, correct, enhance, and organize digital photos with PI-7's advanced enhancement tools, digital image filters and dedicated photo album management. PI-7 also supports image layering. In addition, Ulead says you can create special Web objects, interactive JavaScript effects, GIF animation objects and even complete Web pages without the need to know-HTML.

On first use, I did not care much for Photo Impact 7's "look and feel." All the advertised features appeared to be there, but it was constantly trying to go to the Internet for some template, font, component or other item. A very annoying distraction, when you are trying to get some work accomplished. Because it was the downloaded trial version, what was needed was the rather substantial (free) download of the fonts, frames, plug-ins, etc. After I decided to download everything (a very large download which took over an hour through my cable connection), PI-7 finally started to shine, but the help file was still quite limited in how to use some of its features. I also noted that the evaluation version has a small, "always on-top" advertisement screen, which you can't kill and must frequently drag out of your way. However, most of my concerns were eliminated, once I uninstalled the evaluation version and loaded the CD version. So much for the petty stuff, now on to the positives.

EasyPalette is the main PI-7 image editing capability and provides a very large number of presets with example icons for each effect all within convenient reach. You can apply an effect just by dragging the icon over the image and dropping. You get a "real-time" display of the effect. If you don't want the result, the undo is just as easy. You can even create and save your own preset effects. An integrated screen capture lets you capture any part of your workspace (image), and then open the captured image component, save it to file, or paste it to the clipboard. The loading, processing, and re-drawing of an image, seemed very quick when compared with other image editors that I have used. But when multiple images were loaded in the editor, processing slowed down a lot. I expect that upgrading my memory from 256MB to 512 MB from would have helped substantially.

PI7's "Batch Convert" tool turned out to be very useful too. Last spring, I purchased a new digital camera that produces 6 mega pixel images. In fine mode, the JPEGs are slightly over 2 megabyte (MB) each. I took several hundred pictures last summer while traveling, and wanted to send my relatives copies of some of the best reunion shots. When I tried to upload them to one of the Internet print processing locations, I discovered several sites have a file limit of 2MB per file. PI-7 made it easy to resize an entire directory of JPEGs using the "Batch Convert" function. I could resize them into another disk directory for uploading without affecting any of my originals. I would also like to note that the external information (Exit) captured by my new camera (like date and time a shot was taken, camera settings, etc.) was all retained and easily accessible with PI-7.

Another positive, PI-7 is the first digital image-editing software package I have encountered that supports the new JPEG 2000 file format. JPEG 2000 uses a new wavelet compression technology to achieve better image quality and higher compression ratios at the same time. If the industry can keep from shooting itself in the foot with patent and copyright infringement suits, I expect that all of the better image editing software packages will soon be supporting JPEG 2000 format images. Currently more than 20 organizations holding intellectual property rights in connection with JPEG 2000 have agreed to allow their use without payment of royalties or license fees.

I also noted, PI-7 has an excellent print management feature for printing multiple copies of a single image on a single sheet of paper. You just click "Print Multiple" under the "File" menu and select the page template you want to use. Admittedly, it took some time to discover the secret of printing multiple source images on a single sheet. The help file was little help at all on how to do this, but once I downloaded the 7 MB manual, the process became quite clear. Yes, PI-7 does have this capability, but it requires you to drag & drop the desired images from a windows explorer window, after selecting the "Multiple print" option for a single image.

Web pages are advertised to be easy to create and they are. Web objects like animated icons and headers and menus were also reasonably easy. I was able to quickly create several objects to be used on a Web page; however, I was not able to divine how to use the PI-7 software package to open one of my existing Web pages for easy editing or adding the new objects. Again, the evaluation version "Help" function proved somewhat obscure and the accessing the manual again proved essential. The manual explained how a .ufo file was created and used during "html" file creation. The reason I was unable to discover how to acquire an existing Web page for modification is because when PI-7 saves the new html file it also saves a ".ufo" file. When you come back to edit the page you have created, PI-7 actually opens the ".ufo" file. If you don't have a ".ufo" for an existing Web page, then PI-7 doesn't know how to separate out the various components and all you get is the Web page as a single image. Essentially, I could build and edit new Web pages, but not open old existing ones for modification. Once I understood the process I understood the limitation. I didn't like it, but I understood it. While, I could have used image splitting to create layers in an existing Web page, any of my complex Web pages that would have been a lot more trouble than just trying to rebuild them from scratch.

In summary, I found a lot to like about Photo Impact, but also found important limitations in capabilities, in the ease of use and in the clarity of the help support. At the near $100 price, I feel it is competitive with packages like Adobe's Photo Elements ($89.95 at Tech Depot or Microsoft's Picture-It Digital Image Pro 7 (97.95 at Tech Depot). While I do not recommend Uleads Photo Impact 7, as a Web page editing tool, it does have considerable image editing power and some excellent unique features, which most experienced image-editors would appreciate. For those of you looking for a Web page editor, look elsewhere, or expect to start your pages from scratch. If you do choose PI-7, then don't expect to use another editor to adjust them. If you do, the changes won't be apparent to PI-7.

Minimum Requirements: 

  • Pentium compatible processor
  • Microsoft Windows 98, NT 4.0, 2000, Me or XP
  • 64MB of RAM
  • at least 350MB of available hard drive space
  • CDROM drive
  • True Color or HiColor capable display adapter & monitor
  • a Windows compatible pointing device.


Availability: 
When I checked, COMPUSA had it for $99.99, Tech Depot was selling it for $88.95 plus shipping, and Best Buy did not have it in stock. Or you could purchase it direct from ULEAD for $99.95 plus shipping.

Vendor information: 

Ulead Systems Inc.
Attn: Ulead Sales
20000 Mariner Ave. Suite 200
Torrance, CA 90503.
(800) 858-5323 between 8:OOam and 5:OOpm PST.


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