You have photos to scan, CD-ROMs full of clip art to edit, and animations to create for your Web page. Need help? Ulead's PhotoImpact 4.0 is an excellent image editor that lets you pull in, manipulate and create art you can use everywhere--especially on the Web.
PhotoImpact has a clean, simple interface and solid traditional image-editing tools such as brightness and contrast; however, in PhotoImpact, these tools show you thumbnail examples of how different settings will look on the image you're editing. In other words, you don't have to be a graphic artist to picture the end result. You can preview and adjust 48 special effects, such as Charcoal and Turnpage. There are 125 tools, including Spot Light, Edge Sharpen, Age, Apparition, Reflection, Bricks, Smoke, Meteor, Particle String and Chinese Calligraphy, on PhotoImpact's Easy Palette, where you select by viewing graphic examples, not by guesswork. And once you work the magic, you can change your mind with multiple levels of Undo.
What makes PhotoImpact spectacular for Web images is its SmartSaver feature. In order for Web browsers to display inline images (images that don't require plug-in software), the images must be in GIF, JPG or PNG format, and squeezed within an inch of their lives so they'll download quickly over a modem. SmartSaver takes images in a huge variety of formats and color depths, and automatically converts them to your choice of GIF, JPG or PNG format, making the file size much smaller without changing the size of the image or damaging its quality.
"Because I'm a photographer, the JPGs that Web visitors end up seeing are of vital importance," says Reid Stott, owner of Reid Stott Photography in Atlanta. "PhotoImpact's SmartSaver is kind of a secret weapon for me. PhotoImpact allows you to dial in compression in 1 percent increments while viewing a real-time preview of the effects the compression has on your image.
SmartSaver also makes it easy to create transparent areas of a GIF so a Web page's background will show through, and to specify whether a GIF or JPG will begin to appear clearly line by line or out of focus all at once.
PhotoImpact includes 3-D Button Designer, Background Designer, Frame Designer, a thumbnail album for your image collections, a screen capture program, and GIF Animator, which lets you create animations for the Web. The HTML Image Assistant generates HTML code for Web page color schemes. You can even create point-and-click Web image maps. PhotoImpact 4.0 is one of the best software values on the market in any category, and an absolute essential for people who work with art for the Web.
List price: $139
Requires: a Pentium processor, Windows 95 or NT, 16MB RAM, 30MB hard-drive space, a 16- or 24-bit-color display, a CD-ROM drive and a mouse.
Ulead Systems Inc.
Rebecca Frances Rohan has been a computer and Internet journalist since 1988. She is a contributing editor for Sm@rt Reseller.
When it's time to add sound to your presentation, your Web site or your e-mail messages, consider creating, editing, bending or just cleaning up that sound with 64-track CoolEdit Pro, the sound editor by Syntrillium Software. CoolEdit Pro handles about 25 sound formats (they're listed at the Web site); more than two dozen special effects such as echo chamber, flanger and chorus; and clean-up tools that reduce or eliminate hisses, clicks and pops. CoolEdit Pro shows files in waveform or spectral views and offers a frequency analysis window.
The program also includes a "Brainwave Synchronizer" feature that lets you create sounds that reduce stress by inducing pleasant brain waves. It simulates the frequency of pleasant brain waves by creating a difference of just a few Hertz between two stereo channels. The brain picks up the discrepancy between the headphones and recreates that pattern. Syntrillium's Web site offers $25 and $50 shareware versions of CoolEdit, and a free demo version of CoolEdit Pro.
List price: $399
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 95 or NT, 8MB RAM (16MB recommended), 6MB hard-drive space and a sound card; also recommended: a mouse, and speakers or headphones; optional: a multi-track sound card and a microphone.
Syntrillium Software Corp.
Road trip! Sooner or later, you'll probably have to stuff your home business into a car and turn over the engine; one thing you may want on your laptop is Rand McNally's two-CD StreetFinder 1998 Deluxe Edition. This program draws maps around any address and shows nearby hotels, restaurants, services, night life and more-- information on 1 million businesses is included. Larger cities have additional information, and the package includes the Mobil Travel Guide to restaurants and lodging.
StreetFinder Deluxe lets you create a personal address book and display the addresses on a map. If you've been turned off by cheesy mapping software, you'll appreciate how fast and easy it is to produce StreetFinder maps, as well as the convenience of graphical "map pins." You can print maps of your office location for out-of-town clients and send directions from their starting point. Drawing and text tools let you personalize information on maps while maintaining a professional look. With your laptop and Global Positioning System service (not included), local attractions appear on your laptop screen as you get near them.
RAND MCNALLY STREETFINDER 1998 DELUXE EDITION
List price: $44.95
Requires: a 486 computer, Windows 95 or NT 4.0, 8MB RAM, 24MB hard-drive space, and a 256-color display.
Rand McNally New Media
Lighten The Load
When you've been siphoning a file off the Web for two hours and it suddenly cuts off and disappears, you'll wish you had Headlight Software's GetRight 3.02, the utility that works with your Web browser to resume blown downloads and even schedule downloads for the middle of the night. An easy configuration box lets you decide the maximum number of files to download at the same time and whether to automatically download certain file types, periodically check for the fastest server, and switch servers if the transfer drops below a given speed. You can pause downloads and even arrange to stop downloading and hang up in the morning when phone rates increase.
List price: $17.50
(Download a free trial from the Web and pay to register.)
Requires: Windows 95, a Web browser, 1MB hard-drive space (Java version available for Macintosh, OS/2, Unix, etc.)