Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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Photopaint Versus Photoshop

As you may recall, last month we pitted the two reigning vector graphics packages, Adobe Illustrator 8 and Corel Draw 9 against one another and Corel's product emerged victorious by a slim margin. This month we will investigate bitmap generation software with round two of Adobe vs. Corel in a fight to the finish.

Why Bitmap?

If you have been paying attention over the course of the last few months, you know that bitmap image formats (including JPG, PNG, GIF, PCX, BMP etc.) are most widely used to render complex images such as photo realistic art, and are by far the most common graphic format utilised on the Internet - although with the increasing ubiquity of web based vector packages including Macromedia's Flash, this may not remain the case forever. Bitmaps (also known as raster graphics) are composed of rows of individually coloured pixels arranged in a grid which combine to fool the eye into perceiving a single cohesive image.

The Contenders

In this issue, we will be contrasting Adobe PhotoShop 5.5 and Corel Photo-Paint 9. The battle will be won or lost by rating the relative ability and ease of operation each program exhibits as I attempt to create the same image (a web page) in either one.

Let's get ready to rumble!

As I open both applications (Corel loads faster), I am eventually greeted by their respective interfaces. While, as I have said in previous articles, I am no fan of Adobe's floating palettes, in this case I'm going to have to choose them over Corel's confusing interface, wherein options seem scattered all over the place and icons are less than clear as to what their function might be. Although, to be fair, Corel does provide the option of text labels beneath the icons; however, this significantly reduces work space. Score one for Adobe.

First off, as I am designing a web page, I want the document to be precisely 620 x 435 pixels, in order that it might accommodate a the average browser using the 800 x 600 resolution while not forcing those using 640 x 480 to have to scroll horizontally. This is easily accomplished in either application; however, in PhotoShop, you may select different measurement standards for either width or height. I find this flexibility useful as sometime I know I need to create an image that is for example 2 pixels in width but I'm not certain how many pixels are in the "about 5 inches" notion I might have in my head for height. Point for Adobe.

Next, I wanted to create a 50 pixel wide black border along the entire top length and left hand width which will act as the foundation upon which I will create navigational devices. Additionally, I desired a rounded inner corner to enhance the look of the border. In PhotoShop, I selected the rectangular marquis tool, punched the exact dimensions into the corresponding palette, and with a click, created the top border marquee. Next I entered the appropriate values for the side border and hit "shift" when clicking on the top border to add the new selection to the whole - easy as pie. To achieve the rounded inner corner, I simply chose "smooth" from the "selection" menu and entered 20 pixels. After this I selected the paint bucket and filled with black. Viola, the whole operation took less than 30 seconds.

In Photo-Paint, the operation presented little difficulty, in fact practically mirroring exactly the process described above - although I did find it a little more difficult positioning the marquee in Corel's product. The next step was to enter some text which I wanted to use for navigational cues along the left border. Text was entered equally easily in either application, however, Corel's font selection menu blows Adobe's away. As with Illustrator, you have to remember what your all of your fonts look like in PhotoShop - I HATE THAT! Corel has a handy preview pane which lets you view the character of the font you currently are mousing over in advance of selecting it.

Where PhotoShop text handling does shine over Corel's product is in the automatic effects which may be associated with any textual layer - rendered or not. While Corel does provide excellent effects, the implementation leaves a little to be desired. The canned effects available right in PhotoShop's layer menu are not only simple to use, but allow you to duplicate complex effect combinations over as many layers as you wish with a few clicks of the mouse. For example, if your text layer has a drop shadow, and an embossed effect which you have fiddled with until it's finally perfect, you merely "copy effects" on that layer, select the other layers you wish this to be applied to and "paste effects" from the same menu - you're done. Score a point each for Adobe and Corel.

Next I wanted to import a JPG file which I was going to use to draw the viewer's attention to an item of interest on the page - no problem for either program. Where I did discover a difference was when I made an error attempting this in Corel, I was able to hit "CTRL-Z" multiple times and step backwards through the various changes I had made in the document. PhotoShop allows you to accomplish this task as well; however, if you want to go backwards any more than one step, you have to go to the "history" palette... a bit of a pain if you only want to retrace a couple of steps. Rack up another one for Corel.

The score?

Well, here's how things are looking so far: Corel's behind by a point with Adobe leading three to two - however, the contenders have only just finished the second round. It's certainly way too premature to speculate on who shall emerge the victor. Be sure to tune in next month when we'll delve a little deeper into the more advanced features of either application and see who ends up on the canvas and who'll bring the "bitmap belt" home.

Photoshop versus Photopaint - Part 2

Originally published in HUB: Digital Living magazine, May, 2000, by technology columnist, Ray Richards.

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