PhotoSuite II

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Type of Product
PhotoSuite II is a photograph image editor that allows you to capture, edit, and share photographs using the PC. You can input photos from a scanner, digital camera, Photo CD, or use images downloaded from the Internet. Finished projects can be printed, e-mailed, or posted on a Web page. This is a second generation package that has been redesigned with a new interface that has a look and feel like a browser, and is fully integrated with the Internet. It has fun projects for the family, such as putting an image in a one million dollar bill, but then has enough features that it is useful for business applications and semiprofessional graphics work. Price: $50. Web Site:
User Level    
Templates and guides make this an excellent program for beginning and intermediate PC users and photo-hobbyists. For users who don't need the guides, the program offers a higher level of manual control over effects, even letting you create slide shows with sound added.

PhotoSuite II is easy to install. Since it is integrated with Microsoft Internet Explorer 4, it will check you system and install it if necessary. You will also be prompted to install or update Microsoft DirectX drivers and Windows Media Player. There are an additional 127 photos and over 500 project templates that can be installed or used directly from the CD. And the packages comes with 18 fun fonts, such as Creepy, Eraser Dust, and Space Toaster.

Interface--The interface is fairly intuitive, with a four-step workflow or panel setup.

  1. On the left part of the screen is the Navigation panel which accesses all the functions. The buttons on the top part are mode selectors. These are six modes of functionality that are always present so you can quickly jump from one task to another:

    • Photos--capturing, editing, transforming, enhancing and adjusting pictures.
    • Projects--launches creative activities such as making greeting cards, magazine covers, and collages.
    • Albums--managing, organizing and searching for photos and other multimedia content.
    • Slide Shows--brings your photos into a presentation complete with music and transitions.
    • Internet--access to the Internet for source content, updates, online photo services, tips, and tricks.
    • Guides--step-by-by step tasks and activities.

  2. Below the modes are the activities which change with the mode selected.
  3. To the right of the Navigation panel are various tools you can use with each activity.
  4. Along the bottom of the screen is the control panel. It also changes with each tool you select. It includes various fine-tuning settings and options for a particular tool.

The center part of the screen is the work area, and on the far right is the Library, which tracks all the Photos, Projects, Albums, and Slide Shows that are currently open. There is also a common Windows button bar above the photo workspace. It can be used for creating new files, opening and closing files, saving and printing files, as well as providing editing tools such as cut, paste, and copy. Two arced arrows provide unlimited undo and redo options. The Help system is easy, but I missed the option of keeping it open while I performed the steps as in Microsoft Publisher.

As the cursor moves over a tool or button, you are given tips. PhotoSuite II lets you select between short and long tool tips. You can also change the look of the Navigation Panel from text view to icon view. To maximize your workspace, you can use the icon view and close the Library.

Getting Photos--You can get photos from a variety of sources. Scanners and cameras are accessed through TWAIN, but PhotoSuite II also supports a number of digital cameras directly through their Application Programming Interface (APIs). Agfa, Epson, Kodak, Olympus and Sanyo are such cameras. With API support you can download and delete all the images from your camera at one time; save video files (AVI) from cameras that take successive photos; and save sound clips attached to pictures.

PhotoSuite II supports eighteen image formats: BMP, GIF, JPG, PCX, TGA, TIF, EPS, PCD, PNG, STN, WMF, PIC, FPX, SFW, IMG, KQP, RAS, and PSD.

Getting photos from the Web is extremely easy with PhotoSuite as it has a new type of application called Dynamic Client which is based entirely on the embedded browser, Internet Explorer. This feature gives PhotoSuite its look and feel of a browser; lets you access the Web directly from the program's display; and drop and drag Web photos directly into the program Library.

Edit Tools--PhotoSuite II has an impressive array of editing tools, similar to more costly software.

  • Zoom & Pan--zoom free-hand, by increments, fit to page or by percentage. Other programs should copy PhotoSuite's zoom tool. You just drag the zoom tool onto a photo and pull it up or down with your mouse to zoom in or out. Great feature.
  • Selection Tools--includes round, square and rectangular selection tools; Magic Wand; and Smart Edge. The Magic Wand selects an area based on the color content. The Smart Edge tool identifies an edge within a bounding box and is excellent for cutouts. You can add or subtract from a selection using the Shift and Ctrl keys. Inverting a selection is also easy, just press Ctrl I key.
  • Eye Dropper--set foreground and background colors from your photo.
  • Clone Tool--replicate one part of a photo onto another part. You can set a lower opacity to clone objects with a ghost-like quality. The clone tool uses two cursors instead of one; the larger cursor reproduces what the smaller cursor highlights. This features gives you additional control as you know what you are cloning as you reproduce it.
  • Unfilled Shapes--add lines and shapes to a photo.
  • Filled Shapes--add shapes to a photo with foreground and background colors.
  • Paint Brush--can select from 8 different brushes and paint with a lower opacity. There are also 9 brush effects: normal, tint, colorize, lighten, darken, remove red eye, remove blemishes, soften, and sharpen.
  • Flood Fill--paint entire areas with the Flood Fill.
  • Eraser--undo areas you have painted with the Eraser. I especially liked the eraser tool. You can apply an effect to a total image and then use the eraser tool to undo areas where you don't want the effect to show. You erase and get the original image not just a background color.

Touch Up-- You can select from 7 automatic touch ups which can be applied to specific areas of a photo or the entire picture. They are: auto enhance, brightness and contrast, fix colors, scratch removal, sharpen, soften, and invert. Each touch up includes its own specific set of adjustments.

Special Effects--The 26 special effects are organized into several categories:

Natural: fog, glass, snow, wind, and smoked glass
Artistic: mirage, emboss, posterize, cartoonize, paintings, crystallize, splatter, swirl, ripple, and spherize
Geometric: mosaic, randomize, and tile
Enhancement: gaussian blur and smart blur
Lens: warm, cool, sepia, tan moonlight, and antique

All effects can be applied to the entire photo or selected areas, and there are controls that manipulate the effects. They can also be applied over each other. The special effects are easy to apply and fun. I used a photo that I had dropped into PhotoSuite from the Web, applied different colors to leaves and trunk, then used the cartoon effect on it. With another photo, I applied the splatter effect to the whole photo to make the background more interesting, then used the eraser on the face to take the effect off face.

Warps--There are manual warps or presets. Presets are vertical wave, horizontal wave, horizontal Funhouse mirror, vertical Funhouse mirror, bulge, and last effect that was not labeled on my computer. In manual warp you can grow, shrink, drag and melt parts of a photo.

Projects--Under projects, you can choose from 4 different types: photo layouts; cards & calendars; fun; and business. Projects allow you to print your photos on a prearranged template. The photos exist under the template layer, with the template cutouts allowing the photos to show through. The size, orientation, opacity, and edge fading of the individual photos, and the template itself, can be adjusted. You can also add text, word balloons, props, and drop shadows. There are numerous props organized under different categories: animals, art, business, fruits, home, office, sports, tools, toys & games, and vegetables. Body parts that can be added are: female, male, general, multiple, wigs, and hats. Objects are well-organized and easy to drag onto your page and combine with other elements or images. When working in the projects mode, you add objects in a layered mode so you can put the objects in any order by dragging them into place.

  1. Photo Layouts--Collage from Current Photo; Collage from other Photo; Photo Packages; Group Photos; Comic Book Pages; Photo Albums; Posters; and Edge Effects. I created comic book pages with word balloons for Christmas presents. They were easy to do and fun.

  2. Cards & Calendars--Bookmarks; Yearly Calendars; 3-month Calendars; Monthly Calendars; Greetings Cards; Postcards; and Wedding Collection. When I started this review, I telephoned numerous friends and told them to send me photos that I could use in various projects to test the program. Well, I created wonderful personalized calendars with the photos that were just in time for Christmas. Great for creating a calendar utilizing different photos of children in appropriate setting or costume for the occasion, such as Halloween costume for October, opening Christmas presents for December. The pages can be spiral bound and given to grandparents or used by the children themselves.

  3. Fun--Backgrounds; Sport Cards; Magazine Covers; and Fun IDs. You can cutout an image of a friend or family member and place them in a unique background, on a sport card, magazine cover, or make fun IDs. Fun projects that can be used for parties, presents, or for a sick friend. Put their image in a funny magazine cover and see how it cheers them up.

  4. Business--Business Cards; Certificates; Labels & Stickers; Page Layouts; Promotions; and Name Tags. PhotoSuite II includes practical templates for professional use, as well as templates for fun projects. It is a snap to put an image on a business card or certificate. Under the promotions category there are a variety of layouts for flyers, displays, coupons, and tickets & passes. Label templates include CD sleeve, CD tray, Zip disk case, and Jaz disk case.

Albums--PhotoSuite II allows you to create photo albums for storage, retrieval, and organization of photos. Thumbnails of images are used. You can add labels or titles to thumbnails. Detailed notes can be attached to a photo using a built-in text editor. You can drag and drop thumbnails into any sequence; sort and display them in ascending or descending order; and search through them based on different recorded attributes. Other files can be assigned to albums: graphics, clip art, images, sounds, video. The same photo or file can be assigned to different albums or you can create different categories of albums.

Slide Shows--With PhotoSuite II you can create slide shows for family, friend or business. Audio and video files, sound effects and narration can be added. The show controls behave like common VCR controls. You can play the slide show on your computer screen, and if you have a TV tuner card, it can be viewed on your TV. If the Slide Show is saved in ASF format, it can be placed on a Web site for viewing using Microsoft DirectShow or RealNetworks RealVideo. Slide shows can be e-mailed via the Internet. Also, shows can be saved to a CD and given to family and friends for presents. You can designate a sound file to play continuously during the show or just for individual slides and/or transitions. Transitions are used between slides to provide interesting ways of changing from one slide to another. There are five types of transitions provided by the program:

  • Push transitions--a new slide pushes the previous one out of the viewing area in a vertical or horizontal direction.
  • Wipe transitions--a new slide appears behind the previous one as it disappears.
  • Cover transitions--a new slide moves in from a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal direction to cover the previous one.
  • Box transitions--a box opens from the center towards the outside or closes from the outside to the inside.
  • Mosaic transition--a new slide appears in a random pattern behind the previous one.

Different transitions can be assigned to each slide, matching mood and flow of the show. Each transition has a number of configurable options, providing individuality when building the slide show.

Internet--The Internet features are one of the most impressive items in this program. Because PhotoSuite II is built on a browser, you just drag any picture off the Web directly into the Library. You can surf the Internet within PhotoSuite II by just typing in the URL or using your Favorites. There is direct access to MGI's photo portal--PHOTO STREET, where you will find links to more than 1000 photo related sites. This special Web site includes:

GuideBook--a list of the Internet's top photo and video sites. You can visit, view and vote on the quality of the sites.

MGIzine--online magazine for MGI users. It contains articles by MGI editors about company news and industry trends, the latest information on PC photography, video and publishing and reviews of MGI products by international publications.

Photo Showcase--displays the best work by MGI PhotoSuite II users. You can submit your work to MGI for consideration.

Tips and Tricks--contains examples of effects, templates and ideas for enhancing photos.

Cool Stuff--has downloadable content and theme packages for use in PhotoSuite II. Some of the items are free.

Updates--get the latest version of PhotoSuite II. Can find patches and automatic updates.

Access to Lycos Pictures & Sounds is also built into MGI PhotoSuite II. The Lycos P&S site includes more than 40,000 royalty-free photos. Another benefit, is that you can access many photo retailers who offer online photo services. You can take your photos to be developed and retrieve your pictures on the Web through the PhotoNet service, usually takes about an hour. The Internet features alone make this program an excellent buy.

Guides--The guides are organized around four main activities: Get Photos, Fix Photo, Create, and Save & Share. Once you choose an activity the workspace changes to display a series of tasks with hypertext links. You then follow the links to the required task, then follow the step-by-step instructions.

Personal Comment    
This is an amazingly easy-to-use program with an impressive array of image-editing tools. MGI claims that you can run the program on a low-powered 133MHz PC with just 16MB of RAM. You can but it would be very slow. The program is best run on a fast Pentium II with at least 32MB of memory. Because of its design, every aspect of the program is parsed into components that can be individually acquired. This enables users to download updates, new features, project templates, and content on the fly.

Some features can be improved. (The paintbrush tool is versatile, but to resize the brush you have to click through the full range of possibilities.) Updated Note: The statement about the paintbrush tool, to my chagrin, is not accurate. You can resize the paint tool by doubling clicking on the size indicator which is a dot. The brush cursor stays a crosshair, providing no information on what size swath it will paint until color is applied. (There are numerous templates for posters, business cards and calendars, but they are not editable beyond the photos and text.) Updated Note: MGI has informed me that 90% of their templates are completely editable, well beyond text and photos. The modular aspect of the program creates some awkwardness. Selections can be made and copied to the clipboard for pasting into other pictures, but you can't drag and drop another picture into them. Selections can't be saved, nor do they remain active when you move into another mode. In the Projects mode, you can drag and drop your photos as object layers into a composition, but then you don't have selection tools for shaping or cropping them. And those layers disappear when you switch back to Photo Edit mode to apply special effect.

The above problems by no means diminish the excellence of the program for what it does do. It automates a variety of very mundane chores, saving you time and effort. It can provide many hours of fun for families and friends and provides a great way for people to express themselves with personalized greetings. And the price is right!
Wish List    
  • Help section that stayed open while you performed the steps.
  • Ability to use cut, copy and paste when using warps and funhouse mirrors.
  • Ability to use thumbnails of images, when acquiring photos, rather than Windows' standard File Open dialog box.
  • Paintbrush feature that indicates size of swath rather than crosshair.
  • Smoother integration of modules.
System Requirements    
Processor: Pentium 133MH
Operating System: Windows 95/98/NT 4.0
Memory: 16MB (32MB recommended
Hard Disk Space: 80MB
SVGA Video Card
800 x 600 Screen Area
16-bit Color

Graphics: DeMorgan WebSpice 1,000,000 Page Design Edition
Web Page Editor: Symantec Visual Page