Category Archives: Graphic Software

Ashampoo’s “No Charge” Five App Giveaway – Continues

imageI first reported on this Ashampoo giveaway in early January, 2012, and while driving around the Internet today, I found that the original free offer is still valid. If you missed out – now is your chance to take advantage of this super offer.

If you’re wondering if you should bother; here’s what regular reader, super user, and good friend, John Bent, had to say following the last free offer.

I can endorse your comments about Ashampoo, particularly Burning Studio. I installed this a couple of years ago and liked it so much I upgraded to the paid-for version. Subsequent upgrades are a bit more than one third the cost. It’s not something I use daily but, when I do want to do some copying, it’s good to know I have something reliable in the locker. Anyone who is not familiar with Ashampoo’s products should certainly grab this offer.

Original post:

Ashampoo, is noted for developing top quality, easy to use applications, and periodically makes available free, current or previous versions of their retail products. This time round, Ashampoo is offering 5 of their applications, gratis (retail value $110, or so). I believe this a limited time offer and, there is no guarantee the offer will not be withdrawn without notice.

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Click to expand graphic.

Applications include:

Ashampoo Registry-Cleaner – Update your registry and optimize the performance of your PC.

Ashampoo Photo Optimizer 3 – Click-and-go editing for point-and-shoot photos.

Ashampoo Photo Commander 8 – The only tool you need for organizing, editing, presenting and sharing your digital photos!

Ashampoo Photo Converter – Your powerful tool for photo conversion, size adjustment, watermarking and lots more!

Ashampoo Burning Studio Elements – Get your burning projects done – fast and simple.

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If you’ve not used Ashampoo’s applications in the past, then you’re in for a treat. This company develops absolutely first class applications, and I recommend that you give all of these applications a try.

To take advantage of this offer, go here and enter coupon code – merryxmas.

I must point out that registration is required to unlock any application past the original 10 day trial period. You might consider this process a bit of a hassle. But, then again – maybe not.

System requirements (all applications) – XP, Vista, Win 7.

Ashampoo loves to remind you occasionally of the value of their full software lineup, so if you find it bothersome to receive this type of email, you’d be better off passing. Personally, I find it easier to stay in the loop on new software developments.

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Filed under CD/DVD Tools, downloads, Free Full Versions, Giveaways, Graphic Software, Image Editors

Free Paint.NET 3.5.1 – Maybe Not A Photoshop Killer But…….

image This latest release of Paint.NET (October 9th, 2011), might not be quite Photoshop in disguise, but it’s a pretty serious contender.

While it can’t perform some of the more esoteric functions of Photoshop, it can certainly assist even an average photo hobbyist achieve spectacular results – results which are generally not achievable in a free photo application.

I’ve always been a big fan of Adobe Photoshop, the trendsetter/innovator for all photo editor and image manipulation software, but I stopped buying Photoshop at version 7, and in 2004 switched over to Paint.NET.

The downside of Adobe Photoshop, especially for typical users (other than its price – which is formidable), is it’s huge size on disk; it’s very challenging platform requirements, and an extreme learning curve which demands time and training.

Most of us don’t need the flexibility, or the power of a high end (read: expensive), photo editor. Instead, we’re generally looking for an application that’s small (at less than 4 MB, Paint.NET is small), fast, and free, with an intuitive interface that’s very easy to use; especially for those with only modest previous experience. Incidentally, for everyday basic photo manipulation, Irfanview gets a real workout on my machine.

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You don’t have to take advantage of all of the powerful features built into this impressive application of course – see fast facts below. You can just stick to those tools you are most familiar with, including resizing, cropping, correcting red eye, flipping, and rotating. As well, you can perform a wide variety of additional image adjustments, including brightness, contrast, and applying special effects such as sharpen and blur.

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Fast facts:

Interface – Simple, intuitive, and innovative user interface. Every feature and user interface element was designed to be immediately intuitive and quickly learnable without assistance. The interface is also enhanced for Aero Glass if you are using Windows 7 or Vista.

Performance – Extensive work has gone into making Paint.NET the fastest image editor available.

Layers – Usually only found on expensive or complicated professional software, layers form the basis for a rich image composition experience. You may think of them as a stack of transparency slides that, when viewed together at the same time, form one image.

Special Effects – Many special effects are included for enhancing and perfecting your images. Everything from blurring, sharpening, red-eye removal, distortion, noise, and embossing are included. Also included is our unique 3D Rotate/Zoom effect that makes it very easy to add perspective and tilting.

Adjustments – Adjustments are also included which help you tweak an image’s brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, curves, and levels. You can also convert an image to black and white, or sepia-toned.

Powerful Tools – The facilities for creating and working with selections is powerful, yet still simple enough to be picked up quickly. Other powerful tools include the Magic Wand for selecting regions of similar color, and the Clone Stamp for copying or erasing portions of an image. There is also a simple text editor, a tool for zooming, and a Recolor tool.

Unlimited History – Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody changes their mind. To accommodate this, every action you perform on an image is recorded in the History window and may be undone. Once you’ve undone an action, you can also redo it. The length of the history is only limited by available disk space.

Active Online Community – Paint.NET has an online forum with a friendly, passionate, and ever-expanding community. Be sure to check out the constantly growing list of tutorials and plugins!

Automatically Updated – Updates are free, and contain new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes. Upgrading to the latest version is very simple, requiring only two clicks of the mouse.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Vista, Server 2008, XP, Win 7 – NET Framework 3.5 SP1 (automatically downloaded with the application).

Languages: English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, and Spanish

Download at: Paint.NET

Plugins –  There’s a solid choice of plugins available. These plugins add new effects and the ability to handle new file types. You can check these out here.

Tutorials – Tutorials that describe the use of core features of Paint.NET such as tools, effects, and adjustments. Check them out here.

Unless you have extremely unusual image editing requirements that can only be met with Photoshop, Paint.NET should more than meet your needs, and then some.

BTW, Paint.NET v4.0 is targeted for release in 2012. Features planned for version 4.0 include a new UI, improved extensibility, revamped brushes and shapes system, antialiased selections, and adjustment layers.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Free Photo Applications, Freeware, Graphic Software, Photo Tools, Software

Aviary Application Suite – Free In Browser Creativity Tools

imageI’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of cloud based applications – too old, too staid, too set in my ways, and of course – my dissatisfaction with cloud security. Still, I’m slowly being converted to the idea that online applications are, in some cases, as powerful and as convenient to use, as onboard applications.

A recent discovery – Aviary Application Suite – an impressive suite of browser-based design tools (see the following graphics), has been a bit of a convincer for me -maybe it’s time to get on the “cloud” bandwagon. Could be that this old dog can learn new tricks, after all.

The Aviary Application Suite offers an amazing range of high quality applications including –

Image Editor: Use the Aviary Image Editor for basic image retouching or complex effects.

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Markup Editor: Use the Markup Editor to crop, resize and markup images and web pages captured from your browser.
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Vector Editor: Use the Aviary Vector Editor to create fully scalable vector art.

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Audio Editor: Use the Aviary Audio Editor to remix music tracks and audio clips. Apply sound effects and record your own voice and instruments.

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Additional components.

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First impressions:

The developer has put together a first class set of full blown creative applications that have been designed with simplicity in mind – yet, has managed to retain the power one would normally associate with locally installed applications. I must admit – I’m very enthusiastic about this cloud service. Scores a definite 10/10 in my book.

As part of the package, Avery provides a full range of tutorials (60+), designed to help users get the most “bang for the buck” from each suite component.

There’s much more to be discovered on the site than I can cover in a short review so, I recommend that you drop by the site and wander a bit.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Online Tools, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

MachStudio Pro 2 – Price Cut From $4000 To Zero!

imageA product price reduction is one thing, but reducing the product price from $4000 to zero, zilch, nada – well, that’s a whole other thing. In a rather surprising move, StudioGPU, the developers of MachStudio Pro 2 (which has an excellent reputation in the 3-D industry), has done just that. Sort of beats a Wal-Mart rollback hands down!

If serious animation is your thing, and you have the hardware to support it – then rush on over to StudioGPU, and download their flagship product – MachStudio Pro 2.

I should point out; this application is not a toy – this is the real thing; designed by artists for artists, and shaped by the actual demands of a production environment.

Sample screen captures from video productions available at the developer’s site.

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Fast facts:

  • Real-time rendering on your desktop — say good-bye to expensive render farms.
  • Groundbreaking levels of interactivity giving the power back to the artist instead of the pipeline.
  • Provides revolutionary workflow allowing manipulation of cameras, lighting, ambient occlusion, animation, and materials in real-time.
  • Seamless interoperability with most leading CG software programs including Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max .
  • Resolution independent, allowing renders at any resolution and format (e.g. 1080P, 720P, 16:9, 4:3, NTSC, PAL and even 2K and beyond).
  • Render as final frame, or as passes for additional compositing work.
  • Generate higher quality CGI results for less time and money.

System requirements:

Windows 7 – 32 bit or 64 bit, Vista Business – 32 bit or 64 bit (SP1 or higher).

Minimum Hardware Requirements:

  • Intel Pentium 4 or higher, AMD Athlon 64, or AMD Opteron processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 GB of available disk space
  • 1 GB DirectX 11 compliant video card (tested w/ ATI and NVIDIA)

Download at: StudioGPU

If you’ve got a creative streak, and you have a drive to create imaginary worlds populated with imaginary characters, then this is a terrific opportunity to harness the power of your computer with the magic of MachStudio Pro 2.

Checkout the video at the developer’s site.

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I’m not an artist, a movie producer or director, but I’ve been playing with animation creative software since the days of Autodesk’s ground breaking 3-D applications in the 1980s. You can be sure, I’ve already downloaded MachStudio Pro 2.

Special thanks to Michael F., who brought this to my attention.

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2 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Animation Applications, Commercial Applications, Digital Media, downloads, Enterprise Applications, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

PhotoDirector 2011 – Special Offer – Save $99.95

imageSometime back, I reported on Adobe Lightroom Release Candidate 3.4, which had just been cleared by Adobe for download. In a bit of a twist on this tried and true method in product development – CyberLink, has recently released their PhotoDirector 2011 beta.

Here’s the twist – if you provide feedback on the beta version (takes 2/3 minutes), to the developer’s by June 20, 2011, you will receive the official release version (when available), for free (US $99.95 value).

Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a beta version. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – In the last year or two, I’ve found that beta software can often be as stable as the final release. It may well be, that Microsoft raised the bar for both beta, and release candidates, with reasonably flawless releases of Windows 7 in both these formats.

My understanding is – on or about June 30, 2011, an e-mail from the developer will provide you with download details for the full version of the final release.

Here are the conditions.

Limitations: Participants will receive a 90 day trial version of the software by providing a valid email address.

Feedback:  To receive the full version of the software after it is released, participants must be over 18 years of age and provide feedback to a designated CyberLink email address related  directly to how the participants experienced PhotoDirector by June 20th, 2011.

I have downloaded and installed this application but, have not yet had an opportunity to put it through its paces. Still, based on the following screen shots from my test system, the application seems to be fully featured. What’s with the dark GUI though?

Click on graphic to expand to original.

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Click on graphic to expand to original.

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Click on graphic to expand to original.

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Fast facts: some of the main features.

  • Import and organize all your photos in the library for easy browsing and editing.
  • View each individual photo’s metadata information.
  • Add and embed keyword tags and copyright information in photos.
  • Crop and rotate photos, or apply touch-ups such as red-eye and spot removal.
  • Modify photo color and white balance with easy to use adjustment controls.
  • Sharpen photos and correct photos that contain unwanted vignetting or image noise.
  • Create dazzling photo slideshows and output them as video files.
  • Share photos on Facebook and Flickr, and upload created photo slideshows directly to YouTube.

You can learn much more here (PDF format).

System Requirements (from the developer):

CPU Processor

  • Intel Pentium D 3.0 GHz CPU with hyper-threading or equivalent AMD CPU is minimal.

Screen Resolution

  • 1024 X 768, 16-bit color or above.

Operating System

  • Microsoft Windows 7 (32 bit and 64 bit).
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, Business, Ultimate, or Enterprise (32 bit and 64 bit).
  • Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3.

Memory

  • 2 GB is required.

Graphics Card

  • Intel 945 GM and above (Independent graphics card recommended).

Hard Disk Space

  • 1 GB of disk space for application and documentation.

To download this special offer, go here.

If you’re looking for a free professional level photo application, you might want to consider this offer.

Update: June 12, 2011 – here’s what real world user, and regular reader John B., thinks about this application.

Hi Bill,

I’ve now had a chance to work with PhotoDirector 2011 Beta.

After checking the download with VirusTotal, the software installed easily with Revo Uninstaller; none of the problems I’ve experienced in the past with some other paid-for programs. I did not have to disable or adjust my firewall or other security applications such as WinPatrol.

The program opened with a splash screen pointing out that this is a 90 day trial version. Once inside, I was presented with a familiar-looking GUI in thumbnail view. This comprised a work window for the selected file, with a horizontal scrollable strip of thumbnails beneath. To get pictures into the thumbnail strip is simplicity itself. You click “Import” and navigate to the required folder, either from the generic folders displayed by default or, in my case to one on my desktop. Then select the desired files and they appear in the thumbnail strip, with the first one in the work window ready for editing.

The import took a little time but I had selected 300 photos, each of about 18mb. I usually shoot in Sony RAW (.arw) and was delighted to see that this format was recognised without needing any plugins. In fact there is support for a very wide range of camera RAW versions.

The editing itself was very easy, with a good range of adjustments available under the “Adjustment” tab. The only thing missing from my personal point of view was “curves”, which I find gives excellent results quickly. However its absence made me check out the other available options in some detail. I found them to be very easy and intuitive to use.

As each picture is worked on, its thumbnail is tagged as “adjusted”. Once editing is complete, a click on “Select by Adjusted” under the “Edit” tab allows those photos to be exported to a folder of choice. By default the photos are converted to jpeg files, in my case of about 4mb each.

Unfortunately, after about an hour or so of work, the program suddenly crashed without warning. I had not exported any of the photos I had edited and was concerned that all my work would be lost. However, on reopening the software, I was pleased to see all my pictures present with those I had worked on still tagged. Needless to say I exported them without delay and continued to work on the remainder. The second crash came after about another 90 minutes. This time I was not so lucky as, when I restarted the program, all my pictures were gone, including the tagged ones.

I cannot say whether these crashes were the fault of the software, or because of some conflict in my laptop. What I can say is that I will happily continue with the Beta version and will equally happily accept a free licence after 20 June. Further, I would say that, if others can run the program without crashes, it is well worth the full licence cost.

In conclusion, this program has nearly everything that a high level photographer / editor requires. In addition I understand that a wide range of presets is available on line for those who need less fine control over the results.

Thank you John – as always I very much appreciate your input.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Beta Software, Digital Media, downloads, Free Full Versions, Giveaways, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Software, Software Giveaways, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Nero Kwik – Media Management Application

Nero has just released a free media management application, Nero Kwik Media, that’s definitely worth a look. Richard Carriere, Nero’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing explains the new application this way – “Kwik Media …….. lets you do picture, music, and video organizing, managing, exchanging, putting up on social sites, viewing, and basic editing.”

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Click graphic to expand to original.

The install is a two stage process. In the initial stage, a number of Direct 3D extensions and sundry other bits and pieces, are installed – as per the following screen shot.

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Following the required reboot, the main Kwik Media application is installed. If you’re watching the install carefully, you’ll notice that an Ask Toolbar appears to be installed. The reality is – the Toolbar executable is copied to the HD. However, you will have an opportunity to reject activating the Toolbar.

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The user interface is underwhelming from a styling perspective – a perfect example of form following function.

If simple and unobtrusive is what you want – then, you’ve got it here.

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Media library user interface:

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Media Center user interface:

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Creation Center user interface:

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Burn and copy Disc Center user interface:

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Fast facts:

Move photos, videos and music anywhere – Move all the files your heart desires to and from your PC and mobile devices

Play back Blu-ray movies – View HD video projects on DVD and watch Hollywood Blu-ray movies on your laptop

Burn Audio CDs from MP3s – With just a few clicks, you can create a CD mix from your favorite playlists

Play and rip music – Play back your favorite jams from your laptop and rip Audio CDs to add to your computer

Find and organize friends by faces – Easily organize photos of friends and family by faces

Search and organize – Browse and organize photos, music and videos in one place

Play and rip music – Conveniently create projects to burn and share straight from your library

Edit photos before sharing – Make quick and easy edits of photos before sharing or adding to slideshows

Share videos on YouTube or myNero – Upload your photos, music and videos to social media websites with just a few clicks

Edit slideshows with effects – Add exciting, animated background themes to slideshows

Easy Media Syncing – Sync your music playlists as well as photo and video album contents from your PC to any mobile device with USB mass storage

Download at: Nero

Additional functionality can be purchased (although, some apps are free), from the Nero Store.

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Click graphic to expand to original.

Bottom line:

If you’re looking for a reasonably inclusive free media application, capable of handling videos, music, and photos, then Nero Kwik Media should make your short list.

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Filed under Audio Software, CD/DVD Tools, Connected Devices, downloads, Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Integrated Solutions, Media Players, Photo Tools, Software, Video Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Looking For The Best Free Screen Capture Utility? Checkout MWSnap

I like to use a lot of screen captures when I review an application – a picture is worth a thousand words, and all that. Lately, I’ve gotten more than a few questions from readers requesting the lowdown on the program I use to generate these screen shots.

Since I’m heavily into freeware (85% of my apps are freeware), I’ve been using the freeware screen capture application MWSnap, for years.

MWSnap is a highly rated small, yet powerful, Windows program for snapping (capturing) images from selected parts of the screen. I use it daily to create high-quality screen captures for presentations, documents, and most particularly – application screen captures for my Blog.

I use MWSnap so often, that I’ve pinned it to the Taskbar.

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The user interface is very simple, and very easy to follow. I must admit though, that I rarely see the interface since I generally use the “hot key” function.

mwsnap newf

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Fast facts:

Image editing – basic image editing options

5 snapping modes.

Support for BMP, JPG, TIFF, PNG and GIF formats, with selected color depth and quality settings.

System-wide hotkeys.

Clipboard copy/paste.

Printing.

Auto-saving, auto-printing.

Auto-start with Windows.

Minimizing to system tray.

An auto-extending list of fixed sizes, perfect for snapping images for icons and glyphs.

A zoom tool for magnifying selected parts of the screen.

A ruler tool for measuring screen objects lengths.

A color picker showing screen colors with separated RGB parts.

Fast picture viewer.

Adding frames and mouse pointer images.

Multilevel configurable undo and redo.

System Requirements: Any 32-bit Windows OS. I run this app on both Windows 7, and XP Pro systems.

Download at: Download.com

This application is an excellent choice for everyone –  from casual, to experienced users.

Additional free screen capture utilities mentioned by regular readers.

PicPick – PicPick is user friendly and full of features for creating your image, suitable for software developers, graphic designers and home user.
It is an all-in-one program that provides full-featured screen capture tool, intuitive image editor, color picker, color palette, pixel ruler, protractor, crosshair and even whiteboard.

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EasyCapture – EasyCapture is a easy-to-use free screen capture software that can capture any part of screen from your desktop. It can capture scrolling windows and entire web pages.

With this screen capture freeware, you can edit captured images and save to bmp, jpg, gif, png, tiff image format. You can add text annotation, arrows and other objects to create professional screenshots for inclusion in online tutorials, Word documents, manuals, promotion material, presentations, websites, emails and so on.

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Filed under downloads, Free Photo Applications, Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Screen Capture Utilities, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools