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PhotoImpact 7 provides a great graphics bargain.

Ulead’s PhotoImpact 7 is a classic image-editing program. With its roots in the wonderful Image Pals program, and with Ulead’s experience creating the late and lamented Aldus PhotoStyler, this company knows image editing for Microsoft Windows. A Mac OS version? Every time I ask, the answer is no.

It’s been a while since Ulead updated its flagship product, and I was excited to get started testing the new long-awaited version. I especially liked the new version’s Quick Install feature. Once you enter your serial number, you can click the Quick Install and the software does its job. Installation, even on my flaky Windows Me system, went flawlessly.

Calling PhotoImpact 7 an image-editing program is selling it short. It has more in common with multifunctional graphics programs like Deneba’s Canvas, and includes design and Web capabilities for less than $100. Because of these many features, the program’s interface can get a little busy. While pop-open palettes help, this latest version screams BIG MONITOR.

The Browse manager is a pop-open palette that lets you instantly see thumbnails of all of the images in a folder. To place one in PI’s workspace, just click on the thumbnail, drag it, and start working. Many controls offer a large dialog box complete with before, after, and sometimes choices in between so you can simply click to apply specific effects. Even on a 128MB system, everything happens instantly.

In addition to the image-editing capabilities you might expect, the program includes built-in image-management functions. You can use PhotoImpact 7 to manage photographic databases and create digital albums. The program includes JPEG 2000 capabilities for improved quality when compressing images, and supports almost 40 image file formats, including TIFF, PSD, BMP, and even FlashPix. Color management is provided through the Windows CMS2 color system. You can “package print” multiple photographs on a single sheet in various preset configurations, and even print Avery, Kodak, or custom labels for disks, CDs, and videocassettes.

PhotoImpact 7 keeps one foot in the bitmap world and another in the vector world and offers freehand vector drawing. The vector side includes such special features as Crystal Effect, which simulates looking through glass surfaces. The program has great text-handling abilities that Adobe Photoshop has yet to match. On the Web side, the package bundles Ulead’s GIF Animator software to help you add action to your home page.

With all this multifunctionality, you can get lost in the interface, especially on a 15-inch monitor; and I had to look hard to find the Magnifying Glass tool. But everything you need to use for bitmap, vector, or Web applications is either on the desktop or snuggled up under one of the sensibly arranged and named menus. PhotoImpact 7 has a street price of $99.95 and a download version is available for $89.95. It’s hard to find so much graphics power for such a bargain price.

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