Reviewed by: Matthew Carson, send e-mail
Published by: TUFALA LLC, go to the web site
  Requires: Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000 (sp 1)/XP, Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or greater (English version included on the PixMatrix CD and in the PixMatrix electronic download), 64MB RAM, 250MB of free hard disk space, 300MHz or faster CPU, 800x600x16-bit color, CD-ROM drive, Windows compatible sound device, Web space with FTP access (access restricted to supported hosts only)
MSRP: $19.95

The premise of Pixmatrix is simple: A web site design program that focuses on laying out digital images in a web page and uploading the web page quickly and efficiently, without requiring any real technical knowledge about web site construction. The point is to be able to share your photos online using a decent looking layout.

When first installing Pixmatrix, I was shocked at the size of the program itself. It was, as my father commented, a “great-big-jeezly-damn thing.” I assumed that the reason for this was perhaps because the software had other programs packaged with it, maybe an FTP client for uploading, or some large tutorial videos. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw that the program had both.

Pixmatrix comes packaged with at least a hundred templates. After a while though, these templates all begin to really look the same. Same couple of image boxes, same border trim, same size – the colours and formats are slightly different, but essentially you’re still staring at the same thing you were several templates ago.

On the other hand, the toolbar is simpler than MS Paint’s, which makes it very easy to use. Every single button in the toolbar was either self-explanatory (Add Images, Upload To Web) or just obviously familiar (Cut\Paste, Save, etc.). The Upload To Web function doesn’t leave you on your own, either.The very first time you upload something, a wizard dialog pops up, asking you to choose your ISP from a list on the right, which will presumably provide information for the wizard to create a bookmark for you. Then, after choosing an ISP and inputting your Internet account logon details, Pixmatrix uses webspace provided with your Internet e-mail account to set the page up. 'Grand idea', I thought to myself, until I realized that I couldn’t find my ISP on the list, and there was no "Other" category for me to quickly add my own ISP to the master list. You have to use the bookmark wizard hidden in the Quick Connect dialog - click the Create New button in the dialog. We suspect PixMatrix is set up this way because there are still plenty of ISPs that don't provide a usable amount of webspace with e-mail accounts. But it's a marginally bad idea to provide even a limited list of ISP in the software because of the frequency with which ISPs go out of business, merge, change and simply disappear on a regular basis. A simple set of instructions about determining whether or not webspace is available to you and how to access it should suffice for most users, especially if you're also supplying a simple and effective, dumbed-down FTP client.

The FTP client that Pixmatrix is built around is quite intuitive. Four windows cover files on your computer and files uploaded to your webspace; two for each. All the controls concerning file management are, again, ridiculously self-explanatory, and the FTP client itself is set up efficiently. In terms of user-friendliness, no program could possibly be easier to pick up. Note that PixMatrix creates standard HTML files which you can also upload using your own FTP software (WS_FTP, CuteFTP and a variety of others).

Cons: Going through the tutorial videos was informative, but no mention is ever made of anything other than the exact steps required to get your web page up and running. There is a FAQ available, and a section with tips on web page design. Unfortunately, the FAQ reads more like a listing of ways to overcome bugs and design deficiencies, and the web design tips link focuses more on explaining Pixmatrix’ operational quirks than it does on providing solid design fundamentals. Perhaps the reason is that PixMatrix really doesn’t require any sort of design knowledge whatsoever. We'd really like to see a few more web page design functions and some real variety in the templates.

Pros: Pixmatrix is definitely not a program meant for web designers, but it's a great choice for their kids or computer-dumb relatives! It's a fast and easy way to assemble a whole bunch of digital images and put them online in a web page. For most causal home users, it's a perfectly decent approach. Worth a look.

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