Users can choose from a wide selection of presets or create their own using Perfect B&W, part of Photo Suite 7. (click on picture to enlarge)
Continuing my series of best software upgrades for designers, I look at the latest overhaul of OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 7. Starting life as a series of plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, Elements, and Lightroom, Perfect Photo Suite 7 has evolved into a powerful and scalable stand-alone image enhancing suite. This review was first published in the February 2013 edition of Print Action magazine. You can read the entire article in PDF form here if you like, or you can keep checking back at SoftCircus for the next installment.
Perfect Photo Suite 7
Full version from US$149.95
Upgrade from US$79.95
Free full function 30-day trial
When last reviewed in PrintAction (August 2010), OnOne Software’s impressive Plug-in Suite 5 promised to make digital photography “faster, easier, better”, and in most ways lived up to the promise. Since then, the crew at OnOne have been busy improving an already robust photo editing product aimed at the imaging professional who needs just a little more than Photoshop can provide on its own.
Being a plug-in developer can be a tough job when Photoshop is constantly evolving to hold its spot as top pixel editor, especially when its newest features are often ‘inspired’ by the very plug-ins it hosts! While Perfect Photo Suite 7 functions can still be accessed individually through the plug-in architectures of Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom or Aperture, it’s evolved into a powerful standalone workflow for improving images, applying artistic effects, precise masking, creative focus, and black-and-white conversions. Additionally, the Genuine Fractals image enlarging technology has been incorporated into Perfect Resize within the latest iteration of the suite.
The focus-bug at work creating a very cool tilt-shift blur. (click on picture to enlarge)
When first launching the Perfect Photo Suite 7 application, the user is presented with the intuitive Layers interface flanked with an image browser to the left of the workspace and familiar Navigator and Layers panels on the right. The workspace contains basic editing tools including transform, crop, trim, mask, retouch, move and zoom tools. Within this environment, users can jump to each of the suite tools by selecting the clearly marked function in the menu bar, automatically repopulating the workspace with applicable tools. Aside from combining all the plug-ins in a harmonized interface, OnOne has spent considerable time and effort improving each of the products.
Perfect Mask greatly improves on the masking capabilities first introduced in Mask Pro with a range of powerful tools, including Keep, Drop and Refining Brushes, Automatic Background Removal, as well as a variety of cleanup tools to enable users to mask very complex images such as hair with relatively little effort. New to Photo Suite 7, Perfect Portrait provides re- touching and correction tools specifically designed for dealing with the imperfections of human skin. Additionally, users can adjust eye and teeth whitening as well as detail – far easier than a trip to the dentist!
Perfect Effects brings everything from antique film grains through edge manipulation and artsy frames to your image editing workflow with real-time previews and bespoke controls to make each effect unique. The Perfect black-and-white plug-in steps users through an archive of historical mono- chrome print processes, again allowing each to be customized in a variety of ways to suit any taste.
My favourite suite plug-in is FocalPoint 2 that enables users play with focus in order to recreate the look of very fast lenses and to precisely control depth of field, especially when used in conjunction with Perfect Mask. It can take a bit of practice to get the hang of using OnOne’s innovative FocusBug to adjust size, blur and vignette but it’s worth the effort. Once you get FocusBug, Photoshop’s Blur Tools seem downright primitive in comparison. In addition to circular focus adjustment, FocalPoint 2 includes planar focus necessary to create the trendy tilt-shift miniature effect.
Historically, OnOne Software’s best-known application has been Genuine Fractals, its renowned image enlarging software. Now rebranded as Perfect Resize 7.5, the app still harnesses OnOne’s proprietary fractal-based interpolation algorithms with much faster processing speeds than earlier versions. In plain English: It makes pictures bigger and sharper more quickly! Additionally, Perfect Resize offers presets covering every- thing from social media and video through massive gallery wrap canvases. In a prepress workflow, this tool can be invaluable for improving those horrible 72-dpi images your customers keep asking you to throw on press.
As well as the customary user guides, OnOne University hosts more than 100 online video tutorials in addition to a vast knowledge base. For my money, this is far more useful than a static PDF user guide. Each plug-in is available for purchase individually should you only require a single function, but buying more than one can quickly out-price the standalone version of the entire suite. At $499, Plug-in Suite 5 (2010) was a solid product at a good price. Starting at $150 for the standalone version, Perfect Photo Suite 7 (2012) represents an astounding value that can add profitable new capabilities to the prepress department with a relatively short learning curve.
Best software upgrades for designers? Lets face it, 2012 wasn’t exactly a banner year in the premedia software multi-verse. Aside from the much anticipated launch of Adobe CS6 back in May 2012, most new software releases during the past year tended towards incremental improvement rather than life-altering new features. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – after all modest progression is better than entropy in the software world.
And at some point we’ve all been guilty of neglecting to keep our collection of aging software current, stoically holding the status quo. It’s easy for busy designers to miss incremental improvements in their favourite applications, especially given the evolutionary nature of the software industry. Consequently it’s good take a look at some of the latest iterations of the software stalwarts many of us use every day.
I’ve been using Suitcase in one form or another for years and have been vigilant with my upgrades. This short review of the latest release is an excerpt from The SCSI Awards, first published in Print Action magazine (February 2013).
Suitcase Fusion 4.0
Full version $99.95 USD
Free full function 30-day trial (download).
Extensis has been around for nearly 20 years and some version of Suitcase has resided on my design workstation for nearly as long. The current incarnation of this respected font manager was born of a synthesis of Diamondsoft’s Font Reserve and Extensis Suitcase back in 2006, validating the ‘Fusion’ suffix. Last reviewed in Print Action (July 2008), the 2012 incarnation of Suitcase Fusion has undergone substantive changes to reflect the new digital content landscape.
Perhaps most significant of these is support for web fonts in Fusion 4.0. When embedded within a web page or specified in a cascading style sheet, web fonts enable the display of fonts not present on the end-viewer’s computer. Fusion users can now access the entire Google web font collection through Suitcase, enabling greater typographic control of online content. Similarly, Suitcase Fusion connects to WebINK, Extensis’ commercial web font site with thousands of fonts from well-known foundries. Users can browse and utilize the entire WebINK collection free of charge while designing online assets, only paying the appropriate licensing when the site goes live. This added capability to work with web fonts ensures that cross-media designers will be able to better match their print and online work.
Also new in Fusion 4, Extensis Font Panels bring font browsing and management to Adobe Creative Suite applications including InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Besides being able to search and preview typefaces without leaving the host application, users can also activate new fonts. Custom Font Digests enable users to build font collections containing fonts from any source including both local and web fonts that will work within any of Extensis Font Panel. When a designer builds a Font Digest in the Photoshop for example, it will be available in both the Illustrator and InDesign Font Panels.
The Suitcase Fusion 4.0 application features user interface improvements including the addition of new toolbar commands, custom preview colours and the ability to create font sets from selections within the Fusion interface. Additionally users can now specify particular fonts as “Favourites” for easier access. Similarly, users can create automatically updating Smart Sets of fonts determined by a variety of states and attributes, similar to the Apple iTunes Smart Playlist feature.
All in all, the newest version of Suitcase Fusion delivers an enhanced user experience, streamlined workflow for Creative Suite users in addition to full cross-media font management and production tools. For legacy license holders of previous versions of Suitcase migrating their design business into online content, the $50 upgrade provides substantial new features and capabilities for a relatively small investment.
Acrobat Pro has long been considered a key application for prepress and premedia pros. However, with the release of Acrobat Pro XI, Adobe seems to be refocusing their efforts with a plethora of new features aimed squarely at the business and eCommerce user. You could have read all about it in my Acrobat Pro XI review in the December 2012 issue of Print Action magazine had I been proactive enough to tell you about it back then, but now that its springtime you’ll have to be satisfied with a PDF version.
Join me as I wander the halls of the cavernous Las Vegas Convention Centre in search of the perfect gadget at Consumer Electronics Show 2013. This years event showcased more than 3,200 exhibitors over 1.92 million square feet of gadgetry. Based on the high number of huge 4K resolution TV screens I saw at CES 2013, by my abacus-assisted calculations I gazed upon more than a googleplexian of pixels! You can check out my photo feature in the February edition of Print Action magazine, or download a PDF here!
In the February 2013 edition of Print Action magazine I take a look at the best software upgrades for designers and premedia/prepress professionals released during the past year. From font management and Photoshop™ plug-ins to emulators and digital asset management – its all here.
I can’t believe I nearly killed my own blog! I won’t bore you with a bunch of computer-ese blah-blah-blah, but basically I took the site down by creating a circular redirect in the WordPress settings. What’s a circular redirect you ask? Remember when you were a kid and you wrote “How to keep a moron busy… turn paper over” on both sides of a piece of paper? While your buddies probably figured out the circular redirect within a few page flips, MySQL databases are much less pragmatic when analyzing instructions.
As a result, I was locked out of the blogs admin function meaning I couldn’t post, update or edit anything. To make matters worse, while ineptly trying to rectify the situation I managed to take the blog completely off-line for about a day! Obviously, if you’re reading this I got everything working again!
Nerd Alert – If you’re not a WordPress geek you don’t have to read past here! Go watch a few TED talks…
Fixing the mess was far more complex than I was ready for. I’m posting the methodology here more for my own benefit than yours – I’ll never remember how I did it otherwise! Read more…