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-- by Serdar Yegulalp
Ulead's PhotoImpact 3.01 with WebExtensions gives Adobe Photoshop a run for its money. For $199, PhotoImpact is a well-designed and powerful alternative to the tried-and-true program. In some respects, it surpasses Photoshop.
Originally, PhotoImpact was targeted for the home-office and light desktop-publishing environment. With this upgrade, Ulead proposes it as a total solution for designing Web graphics, whether you're working on Windows 95 or NT 3.51 or later. To this end, the new version has several wizard-like add-ons and plug-ins.
For instance, the Background Designer lets you interactively create attractive low-contrast backgrounds for Web pages quickly. The results compare favorably to those of Fractal Design Painter. The HTML Image Assistant lets you produce HTML tags for given color combinations or image files-perfect for giving Web pages an integrated look and feel, and for generating image-map files and tags for navigation bars. With the Button Designer, you can create embossed or framed 3-D buttons from selected image objects.
The most notable add-on of the bunch is the GIF/JPEG SmartSaver. You can interactively edit the way JPEG or GIF images are compressed and saved, and see real-time previews. Options include compression, color reduction, JPEG subsampling, progressive JPEG and even transparent GIFs. To help create bandwidth-friendly Web pages, you can compress images to maintain a certain quality, or to a certain size (in bytes)
You can customize any of the effects, and then save custom options into a user palette. Effects from the palette can be previewed on part or all of the image, as well as combined, reused and edited to your heart's delight.
Version 3.01 also streamlines and refines the rest of the program. Adding value and usefulness are customizable tear-off toolbars, a broader range of image formats and the ability to use Photoshop plug-ins. Also, PhotoImpact has been rewritten to allow tremendous flexibility with objects. You can treat selected portions of an image, text or drop shadows as objects with their own independent properties.
If you can't afford Photoshop, consider PhotoImpact. It will make an impressive impact on your work without draining your budget.