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.
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.