WEB AUTHORING TOOLS
PART THREE: GRAPHIC PROGRAMS
Creating graphics which will work well on a website is a very important part of the design process. Sometimes, you'll be lucky and be able to use graphics which have already been designed for a print medium. Then you will only need to scan them into the computer in GIF or JPEG format. Even luckier still is if you already have the graphic in a computer format such as TIFF, PICT or EPS. Then a simple conversion program such as Graphic Converter can instantly (almost) turn your file into a format suitable for the Web. If you have to start from scratch or need to make extensive changes to a scanned image, then you may need to use one of the commercial graphics programs. Programs for producing QuickTime videos and other higher end web graphics are not included in this article.
I asked Bill Sveinson for his thoughts on web graphic programs. He commented: "To create really nice web graphics, you need the same tools that it takes to create really nice print graphics. Which is to say, you need the one and only Adobe Photoshop and either Illustrator or Freehand. This doesn't have to be incredibly expensive, as both Photoshop LE (and SiteMill) come with PageMill. Those with aspirations toward `professional' status also need Equilibrium DeBabelizer. ColorIt!, from MicroFrontier, is known as `the poor person's Photoshop'. GIFConverter is an OK program, but it doesn't do anything Graphic Converter won't do better. Transparency is an excellent little utility. GIFBuilder is remarkably good for a free program, although there are commercial programs that are more complete, notably GIFmation. I'm nuts about Graphic Converter for graphic conversions, it's not so hot as a paint program. Also, there's a VERY low-priced ($19.95 US) Web paint program from MicroFrontier called wwwART 2.0."
Most commercial graphic programs now allow you save your files in the main web graphic formats of GIF and JPEG. While the premier programs are Adobe's Illustrator and Photoshop, MacroMedia's Freehand, CorelDraw and Canvas there are some other good (and not as expensive) commercial graphic programs available, such as Color It!, wwwART, etc.
Illustrator & Photoshop (Adobe)
About these products, Adobe says: Adobe Illustrator software combines the finest illustration tools with extensive typographic control and image support. With Adobe Photoshop software, you can create original artwork, correct colour, retouch and composite scanned images, and prepare professional-quality separations and electronic output. With a wealth of powerful painting and selection tools, plus multiple layers, special effects filters, and lighting effects, Adobe Photoshop is a camera for your mind.
Color It! (MicroFrontier)
MicroFrontier says "Color It! is an award-winning fully-featured 32-bit photographic image editing program with sophisticated painting tools that is easy to learn and easy to use. Work with existing images and photographs, scan in new ones, or create original works of art from scratch. Easily manipulate and blend images in ways limited only by your imagination. This award-winning software offers everything needed to produce the same quality and effects as other high-end programs (and more), without the high cost. Ideal for users with smaller RAM configurations, Color It! runs in as little as 2MB on 680x0 Macintosh computers and 3MB on Power Macintosh computers."
Automated Graphics processor for images, animations and digital video.
MacroMedia says that Freehand is the tool of choice for designers creating and producing illustrations and layouts for print and the Web. Freehand's uses range from commercial line art illustrations and newspaper infographics to mixed media pieces that combine line art with bitmapped images and typography, as well as graphic elements, interfaces, and animations for the Internet.
GIFmation (Boxtop Software)
GIFmation is a cross-platform GIF animation application. It has an intuitive, easy to use interface and provides browser compatibility checking which warns you when your animation settings won't work correctly in one or more browsers.
MicroFrontier says "wwwART is a 32-bit image editing and paint program for the Mac designed specifically for creating and modifying graphics for the World Wide Web. Designers may create original graphics, work with existing images, or scan in new ones. Images may be easily manipulated and blended in ways limited only by your imagination! It has an easy to learn / easy to use interface with before and after previews and sliders." Bill Sveinson says "it IS good, and may be THE way to go for people who just want to dabble in Web art without spending a lot of money. It is certainly an order of magnitude better than ClarisWorks for this purpose, being an extremely sophisticated paint program specially tuned for Web use."
PUBLIC DOMAIN, SHAREWARE & FREEWARE PROGRAMS
If you just want to perform fairly simple manipulations of graphics to get them ready for the web, or you can't afford the big bucks required to purchase a commercial program, then check out the following free or almost free programs.
This program will work by itself or in conjunction to convert EPS graphics to PICT format. It also assists Graphic Converter to open EPS format graphics.
Do you love the animated GIFs which are popping up all over the web? GifBuilder is a simple program for creating these files.
Graphic Converter by Thorsten Lemke converts pictures to different formats and contains many useful features for picture manipulation. This is by far my favourite program for website graphic work. The shareware fee is $35 US and well worth the small expense. I recommend registering and paying the fee because this program is so good, that it just has to go commercial before long.
JPEGView, by Aaron Giles, is a flexible image utility designed to allow quick, high-quality viewing of the most common image formats.
Transparency, by Aaron Giles, allows you to designate one colour in a GIF image which is to be treated as transparent so that a Web browser's background will show through wherever that colour appears in the image. The Lycos Resource Guide says "Now that so many more general graphics utilities can set transparent colours in GIF files, there's probably not much point to downloading this specialized Macintosh program. Call this a tribute to its early appearance on the scene, its speed and its classy interface: drag a GIF into the program, click on the colour you want to disappear, and that's it."
While researching this article, I found several interesting sites with Macintosh software and/or website design information.
Hotlist - Web Design
Lycos Resource Guide on Web Design
Mac Web Page Design Tools
Macintosh Internet Server Cookbook
Tucows on the Internet
Royal Fraser's GIF Animation on the WWW
(Thanks to Bill Sveinson for this one)
This article was published in the February 1998 issue of the Victoria Macintosh Users Group's monthly newsletter "MACtalk" in Vicky's monthly article "VMUG On-Line" and in the Spring 1998 issue of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria's quarterly on-line newsletter.
Vicky Vickers is the owner of Word Crunchers, Etc. which specializes in website design and HTML training. She is a past-president (1994-6) and former webmaster (1995-8) of Victoria Macintosh Users Group (VMUG). She also founded and was the first president (1996) of the Web Enthusiasts Association of Victoria (WEAV).
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