Extensis PhotoFrame 1

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Extensis PhotoFrame 1

Photoshop is the most powerful professional bitmap editor but it doesn't stray far outside its core colour-correcting and image-compositing capabilities. What it does offer, however, is support for third-party plug-ins which allows independent developers to add-in extra features. The company that has taken the most advantage of this is Extensis with its range of add-ons such as PhotoTools and Intellihance. The Extensis range has now been expanded with PhotoFrame, a plug-in that allows designers to apply a near infinite range of creative borders to their images.

The independent nature of third-party development and the lack of quality control mean that many Photoshop plug-ins are rough-and-ready. One of the main reasons for the success of Extensis is that its products seem so professional in comparison - in fact they generally seem a lot more polished and modern than their host! As such it was a surprise to find that, after installation, PhotoFrame wasn't immediately available from within Photoshop. A bit of searching soon solved the problem. PhotoFrame had installed itself into a "plugins" directory rather than Photoshop 5's renamed "plug-ins" directory. After moving the file, PhotoFrame appeared as expected under Photoshop's Filter menu.

PhotoFrame comes with a separate CD of border images either consisting of natural-media Painted Effects or more modern Digital Edges. Each volume is divided into categories, such as Texture Rip or Filmstrip, each of which contains up to 20 variations producing a total of around 175 borders to choose from. The border you want can be selected with the Add Frame command which shows a preview of each file as it is selected. Alternatively, you can use the supplied browser-only version of Portfolio (issue ) to see thumbnails of all available frames and drag and drop the one you want onto the PhotoFrame dialog. A very strong feature of PhotoFrame is the ability to apply up to three frames simultaneously which boosts the number of possible edge effects enormously.

Once the frame or frames have been added they can each be modified independently. The control offered is comprehensive. The frames can be reflected or rotated with the control knob and then interactively repositioned and resized with the dedicated Adjust tool. Each frame consists of a background area, the border effect and a transparent centre where the underlying image appears. The width, opacity, blur and blend mode of both the background and the border can be controlled separately and each can be given its own colour, either from the pop-up palette, or by sampling from the image with the eyedropper tool.

The benefits of Extensis' experience are fully realised with advanced features such as multiple levels of undo, background processing that uses idle time to prepare the final effect and a real-time preview that automatically updates the border colour as the eyedropper is dragged across the image. Even more important is the unique ability to preview composite layers in the dialog rather than just the current layer. This is particularly useful as, to maintain maximum flexibility, it's better to add frame effects on their own blank layer. Finally, the ability to save and restore settings allows all the images in a project to be treated in a consistent way to give your annual report or web site an attractive and coherent look-and-feel.

These are important strengths, but PhotoFrame isn't perfect. As each volume contains only 45Mb of images, there seems no reason why these shouldn't be combined and more edges added. The inclusion of the semi-detached Portfolio viewer, on the other hand, is debatable. This eats up 16Mb of disk space for very little benefit and a simpler, fully integrated thumbnail browser would be a big step forward. Finally, despite the range of modification options available, these are all rigidly rectangular so there is no way to skew the frame, let alone to interactively deform it.

In the future such flexibility will no doubt offer even more control and creative possibilities. As it stands now, though, PhotoFrame 1 is already the best solution for an important and common image effect.

Ease of Use

5

Features

5

Value for Money

5

Overall

5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

July 1998


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