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The Southern California OS/2 User Group

SCOUG OS/2 For You - January 1997

True Spectra's Photo>Graphics

by Ron Moy (

So, what does it do?

Way cool special effects and image processing. Great for building very complex and eye catching graphics using clip art or pre-existing images (from just about any source or format). For those of us that are new to the subject, it's a great way to alter scanned holiday pictures to add captions, birthday wishes, and collage effects to make posters, cards, or anything else you can imagine.

Just think what you can do with the ability to change a day photo into evening (or vice versa), make color photographs black and white, stretch features of objects, or add or subtract various elements from images or photographs. There are many many things you can do with photos and other graphic images... but I can find myself getting carried away with the details of tattooing my name on a Cindy Crawford calendar image, or eliminating some teeth from a co-worker's picture.

Want to join multiple pictures into a collage, fade out the edges of some pictures, add glowing text, crop images with various geometric or irregular shapes, and bind it all in an interesting border or fancy frame? You can do it all in minutes with Photo>Graphics, learning as you go. Print it, e-mail it, or add it to a web page. You're limited only by your imagination. I found Photo>Graphics to be the only reason I would scan vacation photos, or get pictures developed into electronic images. (I would even consider a digital camera now.)

Why would anyone want to turn their beloved computer into an expensive version of a slide projector? With Photo>Graphics all those old boring images can be recycled into works of art, business cards, humorous greetings, posters, advertisements, web pages, game components, you name it.

alas, I always want more.

As flexible and powerful as it is with images and photos, I was a little disappointed that the product doesn't lend itself very well to generating various images from scratch. Although it appears very capable of doing just that, I found it a much more tedious and demanding task than manipulating and processing images, or portions of images, with the standard tools.

What would make the program really killer is a full set of object generation tools that can be used to render 3D images, or paint creative original scenes with electronic airbrushes, etc. Well, I guess I just can't have everything.

Not to worry, I am impressed

TrueSpectra designed many great features into Photo>Graphics. I probably will need to seek treatment for image processing addiction (now it's time to worry). Did I mention that I now need a color printer? I never seemed to feel the need for one before. How curious...

Photo>Graphics has just about every tool I could imagine that I could want, and some tools that took me a little time to understand (but are well worth the investment of reading the documentation first). The only thing I didn't find is a tool that allows the user to define regions for editing by contrast or hue or some other tunable value. This capability is useful when you don't want to take the time to trace a very irregular shaped region or object, or you just don't have the skill. You can select a contiguous set of points that fall within a user definable range of values (for color, brightness, etc.), and then perform a function on that 'object' (like change the color of a model's fingernails). What can I say?... Maybe it's there and I just didn't find it, or maybe I'll just have to do it the old fashioned way.

Photo>Graphics makes photo manipulation easy with access to multiple tools at the same time.

Standard tools and effects that jump out at you are many: collage, wave, pixelate, contrast, brightness, black and white, emboss, sharpen, and text. There are a variety of other tools or effects including freehand tools (such as line draw, etc). Of course the standard geometric shapes are always available such as hearts, stars, rectangles, and so on. Just as shapes can be solid color, color gradations, or contain bitmaps, so can lines and user defined areas.

What I found a standard tool doesn't accomplish, a combination of various effects (via overlaying), or changing an effect's properties, will. Also encouraging is the ability to create custom tools. I haven't really explored custom tools yet as I'm still working with the standard ones and haven't found the need.

Before I forget - Photo>Graphics supports a wide variety of formats seamlessly: JPEG; OS/2 and Windows Bitmaps; PhotoCD; GIF; Targa; and most implementations of TIF.

Again, you won't be disappointed in the power of the tools to manipulate or process images, or the ease of learning how to use those tools (practically intuitive). But when it comes to rendering a car, or a realistically wood grained broomstick from scratch, you're in for some hours of work. Having a comprehensive library of images to work with or sample from will help greatly, but it still requires a moderate amount of skill.

For example if you want to add highlight to a solid rectangle to give it some cylindrical depth, you might have to first draw a line of the highlight shade, then manipulate it until it has the characteristics or properties that you want. I found that if I then changed the line's 'softness' and 'thickness', I could change the appearance of the line to achieve an airbrushed look. Not as intuitive as grabbing an airbrush-like tool and going at it, but just as effective. In fact, maybe more so, because I could pull on the line and stretch it or flex it to get even better results after it has been created. Now if I can just get it to give me a flexible gradient... I'll keep searching.

Ok, what comes in the package? The box contained 2 manuals (one User and one Tutorial) and a CD ROM Disc. The manuals are easy to read and informative, however, the tutorial is much more interesting. The tutorial manual is full color and outlines 32 step-by-step tasks ranging from simple navigation, to adding professional looking special effects to photographs. Various clipart objects are provided so that you can follow the tutorials, as well as the fully developed project examples. The Tutorial Guide also invites you to visit the TrueSpectra Web site ( to obtain more clip art. In contrast, the User Guide is a little dry (also lacks color with black and white pages/images), but is very comprehensive, providing all the details that the tutorials might miss.

Installation was flawless on my machine with Warp V3 taking approximately 15 minutes from the CDROM. I installed everything I could see, which is basically the program, examples, and desktop icons.

Soon after installation under Warp Version 3, I installed Warp Version 4 over it, luckily without incident. Running the program from the 'previous desktop' at that point was flawless.

My hardware consists of an IBM 686 P+ 166 CPU, Amptron PCI motherboard, 32 Meg EDO RAM, 512k pipelined cache (but disabled since I still have not resolved a video problem which is unrelated to Photo>Graphics), Matrox Millenium 4 Meg WRAM video card, and a NEC Triple Speed (internal) CD ROM drive.

How easy is it to use? Very easy.

To load graphics and modify or add special effects is basically intuitive. It's more difficult to generate images from scratch, but it's still very powerful and flexible. I found the rendering to be fairly responsive on my hardware, and in most cases, the rendering of an effect or change to an object would adjust itself as I worked on the items, even before I finished the operation (many thanks to multi-threading).

Another nice feature is that original bitmaps are never compromised or permantly altered in any way. This makes it easy to add or remove effects to a graphic without destroying underlying pixels.

Ever wish you could make a graphic or portion of a photograph into a button for your web pages or applications? With just one click of the mouse, Photo>Graphics makes the transformation effortless and professional-looking.

If you're looking for a nice set of tools to spice up your web page, or your latest Delphi project, the possibilities appear endless. I'm not into creating advertisements, fliers or greeting cards, but if I were, I would give Photo>Graphics some serious consideration. Keep in mind that its strengths are in enhancing and combining an unlimited number of digital images, but when it comes to creating images totally from scratch, I found it to be a little weak. But then again, it's called Photo>Graphics.

If you are interested...

TrueSpectra is located at 4950 Yong Street, #802, North York, Ontario M2N 6K1, Canada; 416-224-0076;

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

Copyright 1997 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.