April 1999

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This wonderful Photoshop training series was listed in the March reviews as published by IDG books. This was incorrect. It is published by IDIG, Inc. Watch fore reviews of more of these extradordinary programs.

Adobe ImageReady, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Most people will agree that the Internet is great. It puts tons of information and entertainment available from a standard home or office computer. However, it has one major problem. It can get to be really S–L-O-W. Most people think the only solution to this problem is to get fast modems. However, the problem is primarily due to the site. Most sites like to be visually appealing. To accomplish this, most designers use a lot of large images on their site. However, thanks to Adobe ImageReady, they can keep the quality of these pictures, but decrease the size of these images. The lower the size, the lower the download time. Adobe ImageReady should become a required application in every web site designer's arsenal.

The main purpose of Adobe ImageReady is to compress images for use on the web. Adobe ImageReady allows the user to output the images to the standard web formats, GIF and JPEG. However, unlike most other compression programs, it also supports PNG 8 bit and PNG 24 bit graphics. PNG is an emerging image format, which is starting to become common on the web. Compression for each image time is slightly different. JPEGs have an overall image quality rating, but GIFs are optimized by reducing the number of colors used. Through the "Optimization" Palette, You can easily experiment with these settings and view them live on the screen. For JPEG compress, it allows you to use set an image quality rating of "Maximum", "High", "Medium", or "Low". Additionally, you can use a sliding bar to select a rating on a scale from 1 to 100 to further optimize.

With regard to GIFs, Adobe ImageReady can automatically select the best color palette. However, it also allows you to view to tell it the number of colors you want it to use, or sort through the colors individually. It can also automatically save it to the "Web" palette of non dithering colors, the Windows system color palette, or the Macintosh system color palette. To help the user decide what settings are best, it will tell you the download times for varying connection speeds. In addition to allowing you to view the "optimized" image live, ImageReady also lets you preview the image with "Browser Dithering" (the way it will be viewed in a web browser on a monitor set to 256 colors) and with The Gamma coloring of Either Windows or Mac (based upon which one you are not using). Adobe ImageReady provides the user with image compression control above its competition.

Adobe ImageReady also has another advantage over other image compression programs in its interface. Users of Photoshop should feel right at home with ImageReady. Adobe ImageReady is based upon the Photoshop interface to provide an easy learning curve for its users. Most of the menus and their content are the same as Photoshop. However, some of the high-end features of Photoshop are not in ImageReady. For example, the Filters menu does not contain all of Photoshop's filters, nor does it have the stamp tool. But it has many of Photoshop's features such as editable text, layers, and the Actions palette. It even will work with native Photoshop files and allow you to save to Photoshop. Adobe ImageReady should be easy to use for any Photoshop user.

ImageReady also provides the features that web designers need such as superior animation controls and image maps. The Animation in ImageReady is actually based on the layers and movement with in them. When designing an animation, you can place an object in its own layer and simply move it with in that layer to the desired positions. All that has to be done is to coordinate the layer palette with the animation palette. The program will also automatically fill in frames if you like through its "Tween" command.

Another feature of ImageReady that is superior is its handling of image maps. When it produces an image map, it bases it on the image's layer. This makes it easy to convert any image made in Photoshop into an image map if you set each hot spot or button to its own layer.

People who work with larger sites will find ImageReady is automation features the most impressive. The application allows you to save your optimization settings to a "droplet". A droplet is an action, which is saved on the hard drive. You can then take a series of images or a folder of images and drag and drop them to the droplet. ImageReady will automatically "optimize" all of these images without having to work with each one individually. This can be a great time saver when you have a lot of images.

ImageReady is a fantastic program for anyone who is doing web design. It is easy to use and does a phenomenal job with image compression. Personally, it has cut some images by more than ten times. By cutting down image download times, a designer can reduce the download time of a page. In turn, this should result in less people leaving while the page loads and should also result in happier surfers.

Matthew Gall
Webmaster, MacLife and Internet Online Providers


Real World Photoshop 5: Industrial Strength Techniques, by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser. Peachpit Press, $44.99.

Fortunately, this is not just a book about how to use the tools and functions in Photoshop 5, but how to make those tools and functions generate the kind of output needed for a specific task. The authors cover the most common problems in image editing, color casts, sharpening image detail, and color correction using examples most users work with and provide intelligent solutions to the problems. If in the process you learn how to use Photoshop to solve your problems, that's just another bonus which comes with this valuable and easy to understand book. It's real strength, however, lies in its clear and extensive treatment of those issues most of us face daily in attempting to transfer images from the scanner to print or Web.


Pagemill 3 for Macintosh and Windows, by Maria Langer, Peachpit Press, $17.99.

Whether you're new to the Web or new to Pagemill, you will find much useful information in this Visual Quickstart Guide. It covers all the new features in version 3 while giving you a good background in preparing Web pages, especially those with images and multimedia objects. The step-by-step lessons through the process of creating and editing pages along with the usual abundance of images and screen shots will save you from ever having to wade through the Pagemill 3 manual!