Photoshop 5.5 maintains graphics edge

Photoshop 5.5 maintains graphics edge

Graphics professionals have long relied on Adobe Photoshop for creating compelling printed images.

The software's image creation and editing tools not only save designers tremendous amounts of time, but also let them get results that are nearly impossible to do by hand or by using competing software.

But, producing the best but smallest online images has in the past required extra work in Photoshop and has often necessitated separate utilities.

With Version 5.5, Photoshop becomes my first choice as a Web-graphics tool. It continues to offer design capabilities that are superior to other products on the market, while integrating and automating steps to post images on the Web, thus making webmasters more productive.

It also stays ahead of its closest competitor, Macromedia Fireworks 2.0, which doesn't, for example, transfer files as smoothly among other Macromedia products such as FreeHand.

Photoshop 5.5 adds optimisation features for saving high-quality Web graphics. In addition, new masking and painting tools speed image editing and yield more imaginative results.

Moreover, the new ImageReady 2.0 package, which is bundled with Photoshop 5.5, helps you more easily build dynamic animations and add interactivity to pages, such as JavaScript rollovers.

The Save For Web feature leads the list of these changes. Using the LivePanel view of this feature, I compared my original image with three other optimised variations; each thumbnail conveniently displays the compression settings along with the file size and project download time.

Most importantly, I was easily able to manipulate the optimisation settings to select different file formats. Next, I minimised the number of colours saved with GIF and PNG-8 images by using the Color Table tab.

The new Lossy GIF feature let me adjust GIF compression, resulting in file sizes as much as 10 to 50 per cent smaller than standard GIF techniques. The net result: I reduced a 70KB image to 5KB with hardly any difference in quality from the original. This means that companies can greatly reduce the download time for their Web pages with minimal work.

Although Version 2.0 of ImageReady still performs graphic optimisation, its role has changed: it now handles more advanced production tasks, such as slicing up an image and creating the underlying HTML code for reassembling the graphic on a Web page.

I especially liked how well Photoshop and ImageReady worked together. Pressing the Jump To icon in Photoshop's toolbox instantly transferred my graphic to ImageReady, preserving layers and other attributes.

Furthermore, changes made in ImageReady can be undone in Photoshop, and vice versa. And ImageReady's Slice palette effortlessly chops up an image into small pieces.

To have the tool produce an HTML table as well as individual graphics, I merely had to drag rectangles over the original illustration. I could similarly link slices to other files and Web sites. Next, I copied this HTML code into a more complex HTML file. What's nice here is that ImageReady recognises its own code.

Also, working with complex JavaScript rollover effects is equally painless. For example, I created an effect in which rolling the mouse over one image displayed a graphic from another part of the page.

ImageReady's strong suit - animation - is now even better. When selecting layers from a Photoshop file to appear in an animated frame, I could now apply special effects, such as drop shadows and bevels.

This feature alone adds efficiency to the frantic Web production cycle.

In addition, I imported Apple QuickTime movies within animations.

In the end, Photoshop remains the pre-eminent tool for creating print and online images.

This version's functions for optimising Web images and producing interactive effects easily justify an initial purchase as well as an upgrade.the bottom linePhotoshop, Version 5.5Summary: Adobe's Photoshop expands its role as an essential tool for creating Web graphics by adding features that generate high-quality images with the smallest file size. Additionally, this package now includes ImageReady 2.0 for performing complex Web-production tasks, such as creating sliced images.

Business Case: By delivering a complete, integrated solution for producing print and Web graphics, you don't have to purchase multiple applications. Furthermore, seamless image transfer among other Adobe software saves time and effort, yielding higher productivity.

Pros: ¥ Smooth workflow between Photoshop and ImageReady 2.0 ¥ Live optimisation of Web graphics ¥ Superior colour control ¥ Advanced JavaScript, rollover effectsCons: ¥ None significantPrice: $1495 RRP; upgrade from Photoshop 5.0 or ImageReady 1.0, $249; upgrade from any other version of Photoshop, $349.

Platform: Power Macintosh, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 95/98Adobe (02) 9418 8488

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