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Software Review of:
PhotoPrinter 4



Sandy Brown, an avid amateur photographer since her teens, spent several years as a magazine photo-journalist in the 70s and 80s. In those days, she says, any photo "enhancements" were limited to one's darkroom skills and to black and white photographs. Cropping and sizing involved pica rulers, "photo-wheels" (or good mathematical skills on a calculator), a well-trained "minds eye" - and a lot of time.

From the October, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

ArcSoft's PhotoPrinter makes it possible to print multiple images in multiple sizes on a single sheet of paper in a wide variety of layouts.  It also provides a selection of editing and image-enhancement tools as well as templates for a variety of other photo printing projects, including brochures, calendars, mailing labels, traditional greeting cards, picture postcards, name tags, business cards and more.

The program's strong suit, at least with respect to my own needs, can be summed up in the words "multiple images...multiple sizes...single sheet of paper"!  It also allows you to edit, enhance and crop each of those multiple images individually.  My scanner, on the other hand, offers only "one percentage fits all", so I  inevitably have to compromise my cropping preferences if I want to print more than one photo per sheet. 

A few weeks before before getting PhotoPrinter,  I'd been asked by a dear friend (in whom I'd been trying to cultivate an interest in the PC) to make copies of 19 candid photos taken at his only daughter's recent wedding.  In 30 years,  he'd ever asked a single favor of me, so I was especially anxious to get this one right.  It also presented a perfect opportunity to demonstrate just one of the many benefits of computing, which I knew that, along with Internet access, could be a great help in his consulting work  I confidently suggested enlarging all 19 photographs to 8x10s pointing out how each could be vastly improved with a little judicious cropping.  The photographer was good there were no exposure problems or other technical defects, but it simply is not possible to take perfectly-framed, uncluttered candid photographs at a crowded wedding reception.

In the end, to my embarrassment,  he got only what he'd asked for extra copies of the original sized prints that he could send to family members.  He was happy, but in my opinion I had failed miserably.  My inexpensive, no-frills scanner proved totally inadequate for the job of enlarging to much more than 110 percent.  The 8x10s (215 percent of the originals before cropping) were hopelessly fuzzy, with nowhere near the necessary dots per inch.  My cropping skills on the scanner were so rusty, I eventually ran out of time and had to turn the photos over with all the turned backs, missing body parts,  background clutter and wasted space remaining.

Before the favor fiasco, my pet project had been unearthing some 50 years worth of photographs from storage and displaying my favorites so I could enjoy them on a daily basis (probably an age-related quest). I'd found  some wonderful little silver frames, and wanted to crop and size  20 photos of various sizes and shapes to fit.  Also, I'd  discovered the small 4x6 albums now available perfect for casual placement around the living room.  Instead of being "out of sight, out of mind", I want my  favorite photos to be in plain sight, convenient whenever the mood to look at them strikes. 

PhotoPrinter sounded perfect for my needs and it is, with a few limitations.  It turned out to be just as "easy to use" as claimed.  A word of caution, however.  Remember that the interface assumes no previous layout experience whatsoever.  Don't let preconceptions turn simplicity into complexity!  A little knowledge, as they say, can be dangerous.  I, for example, had just enough experience to get totally sidetracked by the title "Layout" on the opening window.  This is the Main Preview Screen with an album page already in place, using the template at bottom left.  When you start a new layout,  the screen at right is blank, waiting for you to choose a template and "get photo". 

But back to the "don't let experience get in your way" example.  In its strict definition, "layout" is not exactly the first step in producing a page, printed or otherwise.  I was certain I'd chosen the wrong icon for my desktop shortcut, which had not been automatically placed there during installation.  Once I got past that psychological hurdle and began examining the rest of the page, however, I realized that all the functions are indeed part of "layout" in its broadest sense.

So if you have no editing/cropping photo experience whatsoever, you'll be ahead of the game.  If you have any experience at all, I recommend you toss it out the window and start from scratch.  Let PhotoPrinter lead you by the hand, which it's designed to do.  When you open the program and the Main Preview Screen appears, the only readable option is a bright, blinking, neon-green  "Project>" tab that all but shouts "Start Here!"  Until you do creating a new file or opening a saved one no other option is available.  Then and only then will the other options become visible when your cursor passes over them.

The software's image-enhancement tools are rather limited, allowing only slight improvements in brightness, contrast and hue.  Its other tools (for acquiring photos, cropping, framing and other effects) are quite good, and there is an extensive collection of templates to choose from,  including Avery and Kodak layouts, ranging from a variety of album page layouts like the two shown and from one 8x10 to 36 small cells.  With that last one, I can fill every silver frame using one sheet of photo paper!

PhotoPrinter ($39.99) is available at ArcSoft's online store.  You can find a trial version via the "Products and Services" link.

System Requirements:
Windows 95 - XP,  60 MB free on hard disk, 32 MB RAM, and  16-bit minimum color display.  Mac 7.5~9.1, 85 MB free hard disk space, 64 MB RAM (32 MB with virtual memory), 16-bit minimum color.

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