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Software Review of:
Platinum Edition


PhotoSuite Box

Mike Runnels is an Information Security Officer for the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio. He holds CISSP, GSEC, and MCSE certifications, and periodically leads courses for the SANS Institute. He's a computer enthusiast whose hobby is trying to crowd him out of house and home; Macintoshes and Linux are his next goals.

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Ever since Adaptec spun off Easy CD Creator to its software division, Roxio, has been finding more and more things you can burn to CD. A year or so ago, PhotoSuite was added to its stable, from MGI Software, for digital image management. Digital image management can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In this case, it means helping you organize, manipulate, and distribute the pictures you have stored on your computer, camera, and compact discs. PhotoSuite does all this at a fairly reasonable price.

At the time of this writing, the price was the same no matter where I looked ($29.99 after a $20 mail-in rebate); with a promotion going on at Roxio, you can get an extra $10 rebate. A lot of times, you can get a better price if you download a product, but with PhotoSuite, Roxio has fixed the download price at $39.95.

Since you're not likely to be doing serious post-production on your digital pictures (there are professional products for that), the system requirements are fairly modest: Any Windows operating system from 98SE to XP (with IE 5.0 or better), a Pentium 166 MHz or better, at least 32 MB of RAM, an SVGA video card and monitor (800X600, 24-bit color), 200 MB of free hard disk space, a mouse, and a CD-ROM. Optional (though highly recommended) are an Internet connection for sharing, a color printer (photo quality recommended), and a digital camera and/or scanner for getting your own pictures into the system.

Installation is straightforward, especially if you've got your system set to autorun CDs when they're inserted. Like all other Roxio products, you'll need the CD key which is on the back of the CD case; they provide a second label so you can put it in the manual or somewhere else convenient. There's a second CD, too, but it's not part of the installation; Roxio has included some content that you can use royalty-free (non-commercial, of course), including templates, fonts, stock photos and more.

Opening menu
Once you launch the application, just about everything is done with icons and buttons; there are pull-down menus, but you won't need them much. The six main functions are shown by their icons (left-to-right, top-to-bottom): Get, Prepare Photo, Compose Projects, Organize, Share, Print.

Get does exactly that - gets a picture into the system from a camera or a scanner. Prepare Photo is where you go to manipulate the images you have (more on that in a bit). Compose Projects is the section you go to when you're ready to have fun with the finished images (from Prepare Photo); more on this, too. The more serious (?) functions are included in Share, where you e-mail the pictures, make them into Web pages, or just set your desktop to one of them. Print is fun, too, because you're no longer limited to one or two pictures to page.

Last, but my favorite, is Organize. Organize is where you take the pictures you have and put them into albums. Unlike other products, you can collect images from multiple directories under a single named album. You can even share images between albums without worrying about your hard disk filling up. When you import them, you end up with a screen full of thumbnails (one of three sizes) in the same layout as the original pictures; in other words, if you shot it portrait in the camera, the thumbnail will be portrait, too. When importing, PhotoSuite can read 18 different types of images, and can save in 10 of them.

The thing I really like about Organize is that you can do everything else from that window (Get, Prepare, Compose, Share, and Print). True, the buttons for doing everything are on the top of every window, but this window is where everything comes together. This is especially true for Prepare Photo (see, I told you there would be more on this topic). Double-clicking on an image in the album opens it into Prepare.

Working on a single image gives you seven options in Prepare: Rotate & Crop, Touchup, Cutouts, Paint & Draw, Special Effects, Stitching, and Photo Tapestry. Rotate & Crop is pretty self-explanatory, turning the pictures and trimming them. Touchup does a lot of the things you see with other packages, from getting rid of red eye to color balancing to eliminating scratches and blemishes. Like those other packages, it gets rid of the scratches and blemishes by sampling the image on either side of the affected area and making estimations as to what should there. This function can be very time consuming, but it can also be very rewarding when you see the final product.

There's not a whole lot to be said about Paint & Draw, Stitching, and Photo Tapestry; all can be found in many other packages and with more options. Paint & Draw gives you the basics with filled and unfilled shapes, different styles of brushes, and cutout techniques. My favorite is the transparency brush; you use it like a regular paint brush and make the sprayed area a transparency. This comes in handy for overlaying images. Stitching is also known as panorama in other packages. Take several pictures (be sure to overlap them) and then stitch them together into a single wide (or tall) image. They recommend a 20% to 50% overlap for the best results. Photo Tapestry was in another product called PhotoMosaic, where you take an image and then generate another made up of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of very small images. This tool works best when printed on a very fine, photo-quality printer.

The Before Picture The Embossed Picture

My favorite tool under Prepare Photo is the special effects section. There are fewer buttons here (four), but more options under each one. You can make images foggy, appear to be behind frosted glass, painted on canvas, or warp them into funny faces or mirror house reflections. One artsy function is Emboss. With this tool, you can take an image and then make it appear to be embossed into metal. The color goes away, of course, but you won't generally have color on a piece of metal. Figure 4 shows an original image and Figure 5 shows it embossed; since this is a black-and-white publication, you'll miss some of the subtleties of the original image and how it was calculated to appear embossed.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Print function. This function allows you to print one or more images in multiple formats, including 31 Avery and 7 Kodak papers; there are also 31 Package Print formats and 11 generic styles (all also available in A4 European sizes). Together, all of these allow you to pick and choose which pictures and which layout you use, optimizing your (expensive) paper use.

Just one negative, though: The paper documentation is really, really sparse. The only hardcopy documentation is a very colorful, slick "User Guide" which is more like a sales brochure with a few hints. Most of learning this product was by trial-and-error and a lot of pressing the Help key. Using this product is a lot easier if you've used similar applications in the past.

All in all? It's a handy little application that you can't beat for the price. For the price, that is, if you don't mind waiting for the rebates. But that's a subject for a whole different part of the magazine.

Roxio is based in California and can be reached at this address: Roxio, Inc., 455 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95050. Tel: (408) 367-3100 - Fax: (408) 367-3101

The telephone number above is for the corporate offices. Their Customer Service Office has a toll-free number (1-866-279-7694) or you can call them direct (408-367-5200). If you're thinking about buying their products, Roxio has a pre-sales department; they can be reached at 1-866-280-ROXI (7694) or direct at 1-905-482-2000, Monday - Friday, 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M., EST - excluding Roxio holidays (a refreshing comment, that).

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