The Software Market
The Comfort Level is Rising With Digital Consumers
by Theano Nikitas
From tourists in downtown Seattle to airplane fans at a summer
air show, digital picture-taking is much more noticeable than ever
before. Digital images are not yet ubiquitous, but the increasing
presence of digicams in the hands of everyday people - from teens
to seniors - is evidence that more and more people are, at least to
some extent, becoming comfortable with technology.
Not surprisingly, as consumers' comfort level rises, so does the desire to do more with their digital images. Digicam users need and want software to take their pictures to the next step - manipulation, project creation, sharing and taking them on the road.
At the same time, technology continues to expand, right into the hands and pockets of consumers and software is keeping pace. PDAs are becoming more commonplace (3 out of 4 people pulled out their Palm Pilots the other night at dinner when we were trying to set up our next get-together) and, thanks to MGI (see below), digital images are going mobile.
The iMac and its easy-to-use movie-making feature has helped bring Apple back into the consumer fold. Affordable, easy to use video software from MGI, Ulead and now ArcSoft brings new meaning - and sophistication - to home movies.
And the introduction of OS X has software publishers working hard to carbonize applications for the new Mac operating system (remember, most graphics artists and many photographers are - and always have been - on the Mac platform). Case in point: Corel is introducing OS X optimized versions of Bryce 5, Corel Painter 7, CorelDRAW 10 for Macintosh, Corel KnockOut 2 and KPT 7 this fall and, according to Steve Houck, executive vice-president of sales, Corel is "committed to delivering the tools that Macintosh users need to fully empower their creativity." Other software publishers are following suit and we expect to see more OS X-compatible software in the near future. (Keep in mind that already-existing software will probably operate under OS X under "classic mode.")
We've also seen some movement to optimize programs for Microsoft's new Windows XP, though we expect most initial optimization to occur for business programs.
With so much going on in the hardware world, we thought we'd take a wider view of software than usual. Rather than limiting this round-up to image-editing programs, we've included an assortment of applications that address the expanding world of the digital consumer.
ACD Systems, recently announced a new version of their digital imaging/multimedia management program - ACDSee for Mac 1.6. This new Mac version, which costs $39.95, is compatible with OS X and offers two new features: read support for EXIF JPEG, for viewing metadata and TWAIN support, for access to TWAIN-compatible scanners.
Also new from ACD is FotoSlate, a printing plug-in for ACDSee. FotoSlate eases the task of creating and viewing different layouts for printing. Preparing multiple image layouts is drag-and-drop simple. The program offers more than 450 layout templates and images can be quickly cropped to standard print sizes. Users can also add captions as needed with this $19.95 application. www.acdsystems.com
Photoshop Elements is Adobe's latest entry into the image-editing arena. While there are similarities between Photoshop LE and Elements, i.e., priced at $99, based on the Photoshop engine, there are a number of substantial - and very exciting - differences. A number of new features have been added, including learning tools that provide users with extensive context sensitive help as well as "Recipes" for performing image-editing tasks.
File and filter browsers and automatic straightening and cropping of scanned images are only a few of the new features that make using Elements both convenient and easy. In addition to image-editing capabilities, GIF animations, Elements also makes short work of optimizing images for the Web. This is a great program for photographers and business people alike, especially those who want to step up from a more basic program but don't want to invest in the full version of Photoshop. The details are worth a look at: www.adobe.com
Alien Skin is at the top of our list for the utmost in fun and creativity with their very cool plug-in software. Eye Candy 4000 has a new and highly intuitive interface, with tons of added features. In addition to all the Eye Candy 3 filters, five new filters have been added: Marble, Wood, Drip, Melt and Corona. Seamless tiling, a bevel profile editor and color gradient editor, the ability to save and swap settings, along with unlimited undo/redo makes this an awesome update. The software is well worth the $169 price (upgrades are available for Eye Candy 3 owners for $69). www.alienskin.com.
Andromeda has an interesting new Photoshop plug-in filter, ideal for photographers who want to add some depth and perspective to their images. Not to be confused with LensDoc, which fixes perspective, the new Perspective filter adds perspective into the image. Utilizing the perspective tool, users can produce consistency across multiple images and in text characters. And settings can be saved for future use.