New Software For The Digital Photographer

Photos © David B. Brooks, 2000

LaserSoft SilverFast Ai 5 Scanning Software. In a simultaneous release, LaserSoft Imaging is now offering a Version 5 with new features added to their SilverFast Ai scanning software, as well as support for the Microtek ArtixScan 4000t and Polaroid SprintScan 4000 slide scanners. LaserSoft is an independent software developer of SilverFast Ai Photoshop plug-ins and TWAIN drivers for over 70 different scanner models. SilverFast Ai provides a scanner user with easy to use, subject specific, customizable automatic scan correction, as well as a most efficient, complete set of manual color correction tools paralleling the full functionality of Photoshop 5.5, to assure the best possible image quality results from scanner hardware.

The features that are new to the Version 5 release of SilverFast Ai include: Realtime changes interactively in the on-screen preview window to the actual movement of the adjustment sliders in each of the SilverFast adjustment dialog windows. A simple masking facility has been added to the Selective Color Correction function so color changes can be isolated to one object or area in an image. A multi-sampling option is now included, providing the choice to direct the scanner to make four, eight, or 16 sampling passes of an image being scanned, and combining these multi-samplings into a single image. This multi-pass function reduces the effect of erroneous random pixels scanned that produce noise in dark tones particularly in slide and transparency scans. A permanent CMYK proof preview including an individual preview of each of the four separation channels is now included for those outputting image files directly for offset printing. The SilverFast Densitometer function now has the capability to select up to four pickup points in the preview image, displaying the information from each in its own Densitometer display window on-screen. For those scanning for high-bit (12-14 bit per RGB channel) output, there is now a provision for saving these high-bit files in JPEG compressed format. And finally, for Mac users SilverFast Ai 5 supports and interacts with the OS 9 Appearance Manager and Navigation Service.

After receiving SilverFast Ai 5 for the Microtek ArtixScan 4000t, I immediately installed it and made a short series of test scans to check out its performance with the 4000t and try some of the new features. The resulting scans were the best yet I have made with an affordable desktop slide scanner, and that's taking into account I've not really learned all of the ins and outs of this new software running my ArtixScan 4000t. For more information about SilverFast Ai 5, and the packages for the Microtek ArtixScan 4000t and Polaroid SprintScan 4000, visit the LaserSoft web site at:

Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 Digital Camera Edition. Corel's newest version of PHOTO-PAINT is named a Digital Camera Edition, and although it does include support from Ixla for most popular digital cameras, you don't need a digital camera to take advantage of what it offers. At a recommended street price of $79, Corel is providing a next step up in photographic image-editing software from the many novice, consumer photo applications now bundled with scanners and printers as well as digital cameras. Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 DCE has just about every feature and function from the latest full version of PHOTO-PAINT most digital photo enthusiasts would want to use. And in addition to being an ideal image editor for the digital camera user, it will support use with a scanner or any other access to digital photographs equally well, providing a very wide range of manual tools and functions.

Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 DCE comes packed with value in its long list of useful included features. Photo image color correction and adjustment is made easy and accurate with the inclusion of Extensis Intellihance 4.0. This powerful plug-in filter supports easy, automated image optimization that is readily customized to any image quality criteria, including color caste removal, sharpening and noise, dirt and dust removal. Corel Photo Slide Show utility supports the creation of digital slide shows from your images which can be sent over the Internet or used as animated screen savers. Canto Cumulus Desktop LE 4.0 is a sophisticated but easy to use database and thumbnail generation function that supports the organized management of all kinds of digital image files and resources so your digital photos and image resources can be easily located and accessed. In addition to managing image resources, Corel has also included Bitstream Font Navigator 3.0 to provide the same organization, management, and access of the large and generous selection of fonts provided with PHOTO-PAINT 9 DCE. Corel Texture is a custom texture generating utility which supports combining up to seven layers and adding lighting effects to simulate natural textures. Corel Capture is another utility that makes creating and storing screenshots easy and direct. This two CD software package from Corel, besides containing a large useful collection of fonts, has a large selection of graphics, symbols, floating objects, and even stock photos to help in creating all kinds of composite documents.

Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 DCE also has primary tools including brushes, selections, and object tools needed for sophisticated image adjustment and manipulation, as well as an extensive selection of filters from practical softening and sharpening to natural painting effects and special way-out distortions. This comprehensive and powerful photo image-editing software is an extraordinary value for any PC user. For more information about Corel visit their web site at:

Adobe PhotoDeluxe 4.0. From the beginning when I reviewed PhotoDeluxe 1.0, I found it provided the novice digital photographer with superior advantages in ease of learning and use to get into and quickly gain the ability to use image-editing functions to have fun with digital photography. Now the fourth major revision adds to every aspect of its functionality with an even more accessible and powerful interface design taking the user even farther by making their use of digital photos broader with direct support for sending pictures by e-mail or sharing them on the web. This is accomplished with Adobe's Guided Activities. Simply click on an easily recognized icon for what you want to do and then follow the steps, 1, 2, 3, 4. In addition to making acquiring images easy and foolproof, which now supports a large array of digital cameras as well as Kodak Picture CD, any kind of simple fixing like removing redeye is also in steps, 1, 2, 3. Having fun with the photos acquired and improved also extends to imaginative manipulation like clipping a face from one picture and adding it to another, or putting a picture into a neat pre-designed greeting card or calendar, again an easy Guided Activity. Once you've made a picture post card, sending it by e-mail or sharing it on the web is also a guided activity.

Adobe has created its own web site to support sharing called Active Share. The facilities to do this are put on your system with PhotoDeluxe 4.0 when it is installed. The Active Share web interface that supports joining and participating is supported on your computer with an interface design which mimics that of Deluxe, making it a familiar extension of what you have been already doing with your photos. A continued added value in Adobe PhotoDeluxe, once a user has become familiar with its easy use, is accessed by clicking on the Advanced Menus button in the lower left corner of the Deluxe screen. This provides a set of manual tools that is a simplified version of Photoshop. This is by far the easiest way to learn and eventually graduate to becoming a serious Photoshop user. All of this has a price tag of just $49. For more information visit the Adobe web site at:

Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 Version 2. If besides doing photography you also use Windows for any kind of business computing you probably also work with one or more of the Microsoft Office applications like Word or Excel. Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 Version 2 is a photo image-editing and graphics drawing application that is fully integrated into the Microsoft Office family of applications providing two very distinct advantages. First, you can use PhotoDraw 2000 to do all of the things typically associated with photography software functioning, like image adjustment, resizing, selecting parts of the image, and adding other elements of another photograph, as well as printing and sending via e-mail, all with an application interface that is familiar to users of Microsoft applications. Second, you can configure and incorporate your photographic images into all of the other Microsoft application documents like Word or PowerPoint easily and directly. In addition, PhotoDraw contains a great depth of graphics resources including professionally pre-designed graphics to work with your photographs to accomplish all kinds of tasks associated with business like the creation of a brochure or just adding a banner to a web page.

Microsoft PhotoDraw is unusual, providing the advantage of combining and integrating bitmap painting photographic capabilities and text and graphic vector drawing functionality in the same application and workspace. This makes combining your photographs with text, modifying the text, and adding clip art and graphics design elements into a single document easy and seamless. This new Version 2 adds immensely to a broad range of contemporary pre-designed graphics style which will give your finished document a truly professional look. This capability is now extended to include HTML output with full integration with Microsoft's easy to use FrontPage web page creation application. In addition to adding to and improving a large three CD collection of resources, PhotoDraw 2000 Version 2 has received a considerable boost in performance and speed. Microsoft Photo-Draw 2000 Version 2 has an estimated street price of $109. For more information visit the Microsoft web site at:

Extensis PhotoFrame 2.0. Extensis PhotoFrame 2.0 is an upgraded, much more powerful version of their Photoshop plug-in for creating frames around images from a now much larger selection of different styles. When you click on Extensis PhotoFrame 2.0 with an image open in Photoshop you have a fully interactive window previewing how a frame appears applied to your image. There are three dialogs also on-screen that support the selection of a frame style from the three volumes contained on the Extensis CD. These three dialogs support changing the effect of the frames including selecting border color using an eyedropper to choose colors from your image or from a standard color palette. Shading, textured backgrounds, 3D effects, glows, and lighting direction can all be adjusted to suit an infinite range of looks for each frame style.

Of all of the after-market plug-ins that have been made available for Photoshop, Extensis PhotoFrame 2.0 adds the most value from a purely photographic perspective with this new, highly customizable version. It is particularly advantageous for anyone who is using photographs placed in other documents, avoiding the boredom of a sterile sharp edged rectangle. PhotoFrame also supports adding a complementary effect to display photographic prints, and also integrates well with the creative manipulations of photographs. The estimated street price of Extensis PhotoFrame 2.0 is $199.95. For more information visit the Extensis web site at:

DataViz Conversions Plus 5.0. If you've ever received an e-mail you can't read, or an attachment you can't open, you have just one of several reasons to have Conversions Plus on your PC. With the Internet and e-mail such an essential part of personal computing now, the ability to "talk" to other computers is paramount. For the Windows PC user reading a floppy and opening a document created with a Mac is another barrier, or in the same vein sending a document or disk to a Mac user is equally challenging. Add to this, even within the PC environment, file opening can be just plain frustrating if you don't have the same application that created the document on your system.

DataViz Conversions Plus 5.0 to the rescue. This PC Windows application installed on your PC first of all provides the ability to read and write to Mac floppies, Zip, Jaz, and other media written to in Mac format. It also supports formatting media like a Zip or a floppy in Mac format. Conversions Plus will also add the appropriate PC file extension to a file name created on a Mac (which often writes file names without extension as part of the name). When writing or converting files from a PC to a Mac media, Conversions Plus includes the correct Apple Macintosh identifiers in the file. It also resolves illegal character problems in files written by a Mac when accessed on a PC.

Conversions Plus includes filters for converting not just between Mac and PC, but also between several types of documents, including word processors, databases, spreadsheets, and graphics. File compression, particularly to make transmission over the Internet faster, is used extensively these days, and there are many different kinds of compression. Conversions Plus has the ability to decompress many of these including Gzip, Macbinary, TAR, Z, and Zip. And finally, different e-mail applications also utilize several distinct formats when messages are composed and sent. This requires conversion to open if the receiving computer uses a different kind of e-mail client. Conversions Plus includes decoding filters for these. The retail price of Conversions Plus 5.0 is $99. For more information about Conversions Plus 5.0 visit the DataViz web site at: