Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Software Reviews 


Get the Picture and ScionImage
by Dunc Petrie

At the April meeting Jean Vaumoron's Graphics SIG enjoyed an enthusiastic launch. Anyone who wants to join the fun will need some digital imaging software. For those on a budget you do have freeware options. These are full-featured applications; they are not watered-down demonstrations, shareware with de-activated modules (until purchased), or time-restricted (number of days or uses) offerings. 

Unlike my previous suggestion (March 1999 newsletter) for a low-cost image editor (Painter 3), you will not have to search the magazine racks for a magazine and CD-ROM combination that had already disappeared (embarrassingly for me) into the ether. Instead, this is "realware" that club members (a benefit of membership!) can download from the files area of PUB II. 

Image Management Software

Get the Picture from Telepix Imaging Inc., Saint John's, Newfoundland was a commercial product; however, when it was replaced with a newer program (FotoPoint) the company generously offered it as a free download. Once you have installed the software application on your hard drive you will have to go to Telepix' website (www.telepix.com) to obtain an individual unlock code. 

Get the Picture was designed as the first "goof-proof" digital image management software product. Use the on-line Photo Wizard to guide you step-by-step. The archive does include extensive help files; the company does not provide support (the program is discontinued, after all) and there is little, if any, support material remaining on its website. 

Its integrated technology allows you to capture images (from digital cameras, scanners and many fixed or removable storage devices), save, find, view, convert or print images readily and store them in electronic photo albums. Other modules enable image compression, slide shows and even e- mailing images. Over 40 different image formats, including PhotoCD and Flashpix, are supported. Combine images with other data (personalize each image by adding text information or attaching a sound clip) and transmit the composite across the Web. Individual images or entire albums can be password protected. 

Manipulate images between libraries using OLE drag and drop; other features include the ability to flip, rotate and zoom any image. A built-in batch processor automates a variety of routine tasks. Get the Picture uses a powerful database engine to provide fast search capabilities. This program is devoid of image editing functions; however, read the following section. 

ScionImage

Originally created as NIH Image (NIH is the National Institute of Health located in Bethesda, Maryland.) the program was used for medical imaging on Macs. System requirements are modest: a Pentium processor, Windows (95, 98 or NT), 32 MB of RAM and an 8-bit video card. Microsoft's DirectX (no version specified) is required. Scion Corporation (www.scioncorp.com) offers the PC version as a free download. The Mac site (http://rsb.info.nih.gov/nih-image/) has some additional documentation that might prove useful. 

The program offers the usual image editing toolset (for example, brushes, eyedropper, zoom) and features (for example, sharpen, contrast, and histograms, TWAIN scanner support); even many of the Adobe Photoshop plugins are supported. A scripting language offers batch processing of images. Video capture from digital cameras and VCRs is supported; animations can be created as QuickTime movies. 

The scientific origins of this program are thinly disguised in certain areas. On startup on my computer, the program appeared as several, seemingly-unrelated, boxes on screen. You must drag the main window to create your background canvas - something every other image editor/paint program does automatically. For my first foray I thought that the program had failed to initialize correctly. The manual - and other, more technical documents - are written for the technically-oriented and tend towards sparseness. ("As a scientist, you already know this stuff - right?") 

Some of the features will likely stump the casual user. For example, Fourier Transforms offer an original, technically sophisticated, and extremely powerful method to manipulate images. It can readily achieve results that would be painfully slow and labour intensive in all other programs; however, this power does demand, at least initially, "techie" knowledge and skills. Another example: surface plot massages image data to portray a 2-D image as a 3-D surface contour. These are reminiscent of those exotic graphic representations of mathematical equations to "warp space." 

Leaving the exotica aside, however, neither detracts from the program's abilities as an image editor nor does it diminish the value for money. 

For the adventurous

In closing, there is another alternative. Linux users have the GIMP! This program is readily available for users of that operating system and promises to be "Photoshop for Linux." Better, it is claimed that it offers all the power of Photoshop with none of its cost. I have not personally used this program; I understand that it has devoted followers. An extensive users' manual is available for download; like all things Linux it is in a process of continual upgrade and improvement. A quick look at Amazon Books (www.amazon.com) lists at least two commercial titles. 

Join the fun! 


Bottom Line:

Freeware packages: 

Get the Picture from Telepix Imaging Inc.
Web site: http://www.telepix.com

ScionImage from Scion Corporation
(No longer available)


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
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Page created: 27-May-99