LaserSoft’s SilverFast PrinTao; Is This “The Path” To Easy, Efficient, And Flexible Photo Printing?

With a digital camera, a computer, and a printer, all that remains to make photo prints is an application that will access and open your photo files and send the images to the printer. That's simple enough. But there are obviously other issues--what about color matching between screen and print? How do you get to the pictures you want printed? There are also questions about how you could print two, three, or four photos on a page and how you can add your name, a copyright notice, or insert text for a caption. It used to be that you had to purchase a moderate to expensive image-editing application to do all this, with a steep learning curve thrown into the bargain. Now, LaserSoft has created a software utility just for printing called SilverFast PrinTao. In my testing I found that it can help you output professional-looking results with minimal effort and little learning required. It is what computer geeks refer to as "intuitive" software.

SilverFast PrinTao provides an on-screen user interface with two distinct windows, a Control Panel on the left and a Preview window on the right. At the top of the left Control Panel there are three tabs, General, in which most operations are executed; Templates, from which pre-configured and custom print templates can be chosen for use in the Preview window; and Options, which includes the choice of a work space default profile. Immediately below on the left is a logo/thumbnail window that will display an image thumbnail to provide visual identification of any file highlighted in the Browser window to the right side of the Control Panel.

The environment provided by the SilverFast PrinTao application supports a logical progression of workflow steps for easy and efficient print setup and execution. And although its use can be learned almost intuitively, the splash screen (accessed from Options) and Help includes a QuickTime movie demonstration, provides a list of function and feature descriptions and online tips, tricks, and advice, making it a quick learn.

To begin the printing process you open a file in the Browser window. This provides easy, direct access to all the files on all drives connected to your computer. Once a file is located, click on it to highlight the file name in the Browser window. Then at the top of the column of action icons in the left vertical frame of the Preview window, click on the green arrow pointing to the right. This will cause the file to be opened in the Preview window, sized according to the selected Image Size Defaults in the next window down from the logo/thumbnail window. You can select any default by highlighting its radio button. The middle three buttons allow you to define either a specific long or short side in inches, as well as the print image resolution.

With an image open in the Preview window, and with its frame highlighted, you can rotate or flip an image vertically or horizontally, as well as center an image on the page. You can also enlarge or diminish its size to the allowed printing size, using the fourth through eighth action icons in the Preview frame next to the Control Panel. In addition, PrinTao's Preview window supports free-floating objects like images and text blocks. It fully supports drag and drop positioning of images and blocks of text using the mouse cursor. You can also add a variety of frame effects to the image by clicking in the ninth action icon from the top. When you are finished printing or decide you want to print a different image, click once on the image with the mouse cursor to activate the frame highlight and then click the second action icon down from the top with a red arrow pointing to the left, and the file will be removed from the Preview.

Once your image is sized and placed as you prefer within the Preview window space--inside the red outline that demarcates the printable region of the page--you are ready for the final choices, controlling print quality and color management in the Printer control section at the bottom of the Control Panel window.

Adding text to photo prints, like a title and copyright notice, are desirable functions. This is made easy with PrinTao using the operating system's installed fonts and native text editor. The text function also includes the ability to use a selected font color, as well as include Metadata in a text frame.

Quality Control And Color Management
Printer control, particularly color management, is often confusing. PrinTao makes it all accessible and relatively easy by providing a simple, direct interface located under Printer at the bottom of the Control Panel window. At the top left under Printer is a drop-down menu which will show all printers installed, so just click on the printer name you will be using. The Page Setup button will then open the Printer's Page Setup dialog that should be set for the page/paper size to be printed and its orientation, portrait or landscape. Selecting these Page Setup factors actually controls how the Preview window is configured, and therefore should be selected before actually opening, sizing, and positioning images to be printed.

If you want to do application controlled color managed print matching, then open the Printer Profile drop-down menu and select the profile for the printer/paper you are using. However, if you want to keep it easy and simple and let the print driver control and adjust print color, select either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998) as the Printer Profile. If you have selected a printer profile to do color managed printing, use the Rendering Intent drop-down menu and select Perceptual for most photographic printing, although some prefer the results obtained by selecting Relative Colorimetric.