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Copyright 1998-2024, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - December 1996

Terry Hamilton Joins TrueSpectra

Monkeying Around With Photo>Graphics

by Peter Skye

COSTA MESA -- Just when I'd decided I wanted nothing to do with brochure layouts, photo retouching and designing ads and packaging, along comes an absolutely wonderful (and cheap!) program to do just that. It's called Photo>Graphics and it's from TrueSpectra Inc. in chilly Ontario, Canada. Aahh, developing software by firelight on a winter's eve sounds delightful.

Terry Hamilton, TrueSpectra's Product Manager, certainly gave us a pretty nifty demonstration of Photo>Graphics at our November meeting, and he and I stayed up late the previous night discussing the product at Amici's Trattoria Italiano. Being from New York City, I'm always a little suspicious of Italian restaurants, but a careful perusal of the clientele failed to spot any patrons with heavy eyebrows and bulges under their jackets.

Steal This Program

Photo>Graphics is a steal at the "COMDEX special price" of $39.95 through December 31st. It's quite different from (and arguably better than) ColorWorks in one very special technical way, and I'll get to that in a minute. When I questioned the low price, Terry assured me that it was simply a short-term marketing gimmick. TrueSpectra is almost three years old, well funded and developing additional products.

Terry, by the way, is quite a character. This guy's hobby is paintball. In the snow. In subfreezing Canada. Paintball, for you couch 'tators, is where you arm yourself with a loaded weapon and sneak around trying to blast someone who's sneaking around trying to blast you. The projectile is filled with paint so you can see just how dead you really are. In civilized societies like Southern California you do this somewhere that's been specially built and cordoned off for such activity, but who knows what they do in the frozen north.

To Be (A Mouse) Or Not To Be (A Mouse)

The major reason I'd decided to never again touch a graphics program is mouse problems. You move the mouse a little, and it doesn't budge even a pixel. Move a little more and it suddenly jumps to life and zooms past where you want it. Yup, must be time again to clean the mouse.

I've never really understood why it's called a mouse, anyway. It jumps all over the screen when I move it, not at all as a quiet timid little mouse would really do. Mouse is the wrong name; with this kind of on-screen hyperactivity, it should be called a chimpanzee.

From now on, chimpanzee it is.

Photo>Graphics intrigued Terry (he told me it looked like a "fun job") and he hired on as Product Manager last October. Prior to that he was with IBM (he was the Team OS/2 coordinator for COMDEX Canada in 1995) and worked with SQL and DB2 on VMAS and MVSAS ("AS" was a new one to me -- it stands for Application Systems). He was born in Montreal, which isn't too far from TrueSpectra's home city of Ontario. Both are in the eastern Province of Quebec.

The Photo>Graphics brochure that Terry was handing out is a knockout (did you pick one up?), even more so because it was done on Photo>Graphics by the office secretary, who had no prior art training. Now that's impressive, and shows how easily the package can turn out an eye-catching quality layout. And Terry's business cards, done by himself with the program and printed in his office, have a color photographic image "full bleed" (edge-to-edge) behind his name and info. This program is hot.

Time to clean my mouse, er, chimpanzee. The first thing you do is clean the chimpanzee pad, because every chimpanzee should have a clean pad to live on, or in, or whatever. Just as I suspected; right here in the center of the pad is a greasy spot where I'd set my lunchtime banana peel. Let me clean this off real good so I can get back to work.

The New Version

The Pro version of Photo>Graphics should be out by the time you read this, and its price is $249. What you get with the Pro version is scanner support (the $39.95 version requires you to scan to a file, then read the file), scripting with REXX, an image library (TrueSpectra bought an entire photo library just for this goody), a few additional effects, and an undo function (for $39.95 you undo by objects rather than by effects). Plus, Pro is an OpenDoc CORBA-compliant component so it can be seamlessly embedded into a larger system.

But you don't need the Pro version to get started and, if you want it later, Terry promises that the $39.95 you spend now plus the upgrade price will be cheaper than buying the Pro version later on.

Hey, want to put a "hazy shadow" behind some text? Here's how: Copy the text to a new layer, set it to black (if it isn't already) and throw it out of focus. Next pull it down and to the right just a bit. Now grab the original text layer and put in on top of the "hazy shadow" layer. Voila! Done.

On the $39.95 Photo>Graphics CD-ROM you also get 75 MB of TIFF photos, plus a small library of clip art images.

Still some skittering here with my chimpanzee. I've cleaned the pad, so next I'd better clean the chimpanzee's bottom. Just as I suspected! Disgustingly filthy. There, that's better. Let me just go wash my hands and I'll get right back to writing.

The Major Difference Between Photo>Graphics And ColorWorks

Let's get technical for a moment. In ColorWorks, if you create an image and save it to disk, go home and come back tomorrow, when you reload that image it will be a bitmap. The image you created is a big sheet of colored pixels. The bitmap image doesn't remember that you originally drew an angled line from here to there; it just contains black pixels where the line is and white ones where the line isn't. Bad news.

Because if you decide that your nice logo, which you created for the top of your letterhead, would look great if blown up to a landscaped 8-1/2 x 14, you're in for a rude surprise. That angled line, so smooth when small, becomes ragged with stairstep jaggies since each little square pixel is enlarged to a big square pixel. That's how a bitmap image is made "bigger". Bitmap-based image programs lose and can't restore resolution when increasing (and decreasing) an image's size.

But no such problem with Photo>Graphics. Instead of a bitmap, the image is stored as the commands used to create it. Want to put your logo on a forty foot semi-trailer? Consider it done. Knock the image down to postage stamp size and then up to the size of a barn? Not a jaggy to be found. That's the power behind Photo>Graphics' image engine (TrueSpectra calls it "ColorWave"). The same holds true when importing images. Bring in a TIFF or BMP file (both are bitmaps) and reduce the size, and ColorWorks will throw away bits while Photo>Graphics won't. When Photo>Graphics outputs your finished art, it rereads the original source image files you imported and puts the maximum possible resolution into the output.

Terry told me they were going head-to-head with the Mac platform for art work, and it looks like they've got a winner.

My chimpanzee is much better, now, but it's still a little ornery so there's one more thing I have to do. That's cleaning the little round roller thingy underneath it. Cleaning the chimpanzee thingy is a very delicate operation; if you clean too hard you can permanently damage your chimpanzee.

A Cheesey Closing

Photo>Graphics is object-oriented and multi-threaded. The rendering engine and the screen interface are independent and you can choose which one should have the higher priority. Its closest competition is Corel Draw and Corel PhotoPaint combined, and that's a lot more than $39.95. You can order from Indelible Blue (since it's the "Warp 4 Upgrade Offer" promotion, they'll need a photocopy or fax of something like the Warp 4 box to prove you own Warp 4) or directly from TrueSpectra (remember that they're in Canada -- shipping might be a little slower). Use it for business cards, web graphics, 3-panel flyers and 4-color slicks. You get unlimited layers to work with. In-image text editing and text special effects. Bezier curves for drawing and tracing/outlining.

My clean chimpanzee is working perfectly now, and doesn't jump around at all like it used to. I can give it a little push and have it creep over a pixel or two with no problem, or a bigger push and have it scurry across the screen. Quiet and controlled; not at all like a chimpanzee.

Sort of like a mouse.

Terry Hamilton, Photo>Graphics Product Manager,

TrueSpectra, 4950 Yonge Street, Suite 802, North York, Ontario, Canada M2N 6K1,416/224-2787, 416/224-0309 fax,,

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1996 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.