Fireworks 3 (Macromedia)
Now, very similar to Photoshop 5.5 with its multiple previews and comprehensive palette controls. Fireworks also adds PNG-32 format to its armoury allowing multi-level transparency for those who can handle it. Fireworks consistently beat Photoshop on file sizes in every format.
Ignite (Fluffy Clouds)
Once you've got to grips with Ignite's odd-ball interface, you will find that it's Web graphics optimisation is hard to beat and puts most of the big names to shame. Ignite also has a clever 'extended Web palette' that gives a wider range of Web safe colours than other programs. You can simulate this effect using a checker-board technique I describe here, but Ignite handles it automatically.
PaintShop Pro (Jasc)
PSP is popular with PC users because of its low price and many features. It turned-in quite respectable file sizes in most instances too. Its JPEG export feature suffers from a fixed, 'keyhole' sized preview that makes it more difficult to judge quality than the other programs. Web-safe colour locking of specific colours is not possible as it is in the more expensive programs.
PhotoGIF (Boxtop Software)
Before Photoshop 5.5 came along with its Save for Web features, BoxTop's PhotoGIF plug-in made up for the earlier Photoshop deficiencies in the GIF output department. Photoshop 5.5 has now overtaken PhotoGIF in terms of features and file size but if you are using an older version of Photoshop, or the cheaper LE version, PhotoGIF gives better GIFs for a very low price.
Photoshop 5.5 (Adobe)
Photoshop 5.5's Save For Web feature with its ability to show one, two or four side by side comparisons between the original image and the optimised versions with different bit-depths or file formats makes it very easy to use. It also gives a large amount of control over palettes and individual colours.
JPEG (Boxtop Software)
With its before and after views and fine-tuneable sliders, BoxTop Software's ProJPEG gives everything you could ask for to produce small, quality JPEGs. Ignoring the percentage compression values, I found that I could get a smaller file size than Photoshop at the same perceived quality threshold.
SmartSaver Pro (Ulead)
SmartSaver Pro has a good reputation in the Web design community and it certainly did very well when it came to shrinking Web files but it is weak in the area of GIF palette manipulation shifting previously Web-safe colours off by a few percent.