Photoshop 5.5, ImageReady 2.0
by: Doug Reed, send
by: Adobe, go to
the web site
64 MB RAM
Photoshop has long been the premiere graphics design
software on both Mac and PC computers. Adobe maintains
that lead by constantly releasing new versions with
new features while still maintaining the same basic
interface, allowing you to feel instantly at home.
Adobe's stated goal in the Photoshop manual is for
this software to be a comprehensive environment for
designing graphics for print or the web. Included
with Photoshop 5.5 is version 2.0 of ImageReady,
an application which can optimize graphics for the
web as well as create some of the nifty effects and
animations you see on the web. Photoshop is as powerful
and comprehensive as anyone could possibly wish;
ImageReady is probably perfect for graphics designers
migrating to the web although to this web designer
it feels a little rough around the edges.
Installation Photoshop comes with two manuals, a hefty User's
Guide and a Supplement that describes how to use ImageReady.
The software itself comes on a single CD, and includes the
latest versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader, Quicktime, and a
postscript print driver for Windows. A second CD provides
the tutorials, essential for anyone who is a newcomer to
using Photoshop. Installation requires about 100 MB of space,
although this can be customized; installing the optional
extras (like Quicktime and Acrobat Reader) require additional
space but I would recommend finding the space to install
them. The two applications are real hardware hogs - Adobe
recommends 64 MB RAM minimum for running one of the two,
and 100 MB or more if you want to run both at the same time.
In my testing on my 48 MB RAM Pentium I noticed no excruciating
lag, so that RAM estimate by Adobe must include virtual memory.
Tutorials The two manuals and the tutorial on the 2nd CD
are more than enough to teach anyone how to use Photoshop
and ImageReady. While they don't describe every feature in
detail, anyone who uses these resources will certainly know
how to navigate and use the interface to find what they need.
Meat-And-Potatoes In terms of the layout and interface,
Photoshop remains basically unchanged from my previous review
(version 4.0). Various palettes and toolbars are placed on
the left and right hand sides of the screen, leaving the
middle for display of your images. Creating those images
works by using layers, placing one on top of another and
arranging for the look you desire. Effects can be performed
on various layers, as well as changing the layers with the
various tools. New tools include one that's been on my personal
wish list for some time: a background eraser tool. The background
eraser can erase more than just a single color; by setting
the sampling and tolerance options you can erase everything
but the portion of the image you want to retain. In the example
given in the book, you can erase the meadow background from
around the body of a horse.
Photoshop has substantially improved support for web graphics
than the previous version I reviewed. Now you can directly
save images in GIF format! JPEG and PNG support is also much
improved - including background and transparency effects
ImageReady is a really interesting new addition. In the
example provided in the User's Guide Supplement, you take
a Photoshop image that looks like a web page and carve it
up into 'slices'. These slices can then be manipulated, for
example, you can ask ImageReady to make an image 'rollover'
to display a new image. For example, you could make a navigation
menu with buttons that change color when the user moves their
mouse over the button. ImageReady does all the coding for
you. The possibilities are quite enormous for the kinds of
effects you can make. ImageReady also gives you the ability
to make animated GIFs. This works very well - you simply
open the animation palette and put each image in sequence
in the palette. Then you can change the timing of the image
display, or the number of the loops, or ask ImageReady to
add additional images to create effects like gradual fades
between frames. Very cool!
Flies in the ointment The problem I have with ImageReady
comes when you save this document as a web page. The page
displays fine in every browser I could test it. Those browsers
that support the special effects appear to do so nicely.
The page even 'degrades' nicely in older browsers - no, you
don't get the effects - but at least the full page appears.
The problem is that the entire page is sliced into nothing
but graphics. Yes, it does display nicely. Yes, the page
and the graphics are optimized for quick loading. But what
about users who are blind, or who don't want to look at your
pretty pictures? They would only see one giant blank page!
From a graphics designer's standpoint the page might be considered
beautiful. From a web designer's standpoint - Yikes! And
unfortunately, ImageReady does not allow you to start with
graphics on a webpage - you start with a graphic of the entire
page and slice it up. You can use ImageReady, however, to
design portions of web pages. You can, for example, design
a button with a rollover effect and save it as a web page,
then cut and paste the necessary code (as well as the link
to the images) into your actual web page. And I think this
is what the software designers intended. You should note
however that the example given in the Adobe manual implies
you can design an entire page, when the truth is the page
you design would be an egregious sin in the eyes of most
Summary Photoshop is still the best and most comprehensive
graphics software around. New features make Photoshop a much
better tool for designing graphics for the web. The additional
ImageReady software is a very useful tool for web graphics
design, including animation effects and dynamic HTML effects.
The problem I mentioned with ImageReady is a minor one -
and one easily avoided by the serious designer. Although
it is a point worth mentioning (IMHO), it hardly negates
the value of this software. Bottom line: if you are a serious
graphics designer, you probably already have this software.
If you are a web designer looking to make the leap into professional
design, this is the graphics software you need.
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