Adobe ImageReady (beta)
It's been called 'Son of Photoshop' and indeed, there is a strong family resemblance, but to pass ImageReady off as a baby Photoshop is missing the point completely.
If you have used Photoshop, you will feel immediately at home in ImageReady. The basic interface is the same and many of the features work in just the same way, but there the similarity stops. ImageReady is pitched fairly and squarely at the web page designer. It has most of the features necessary for producing web graphics and lots that aren't even found in Photoshop 5.0.
Adobe has understood the web designer's needs from the outset. ImageReady will happily exchange files with Photoshop, or other graphics packages, and will save optimized graphics in GIF, JPEG, and 8 or 24-bit variants of PNG formats for web use. A 'before' and 'after' preview version of any graphic is available from a tab in the main window. The 'after' version shows how it will appear on the web page on a Mac or PC in the chosen output format. This allows you to see all the color depth and gamma variations that you are likely to meet in real life, and it shows you the eventual file size at different bit-depths.
One of Photoshop's biggest drawbacks in producing web graphics is the way it shifts web-safe colors if an RGB image is indexed using the Adaptive palette option. Adaptive is useful in that it lets the designer save a GIF file at the lowest possible bit depth with the best colours for the job. ImageReady allows individual colors to be 'locked' to web-safe so that large flat areas won't dither on 8-bit displays yet lets colors with minor occurrences retain their true values. You don't want the anti-aliasing of a block of type all locking to web-safe. It is best to let the browser handle it so that everybody sees the best possible image.
In common with Photoshop 5.0, ImageReady has an editable type layer. Instead of instantly being converted to a bitmap, the type can be clicked upon and changed at character level. Unfortunately, Adobe haven't gone the whole way. I would prefer to have seen the clumsy text editing dialog box disappear and a more Illustrator-like approach to text editing introduced.
And talking of animation, the GIF animation feature is a dream to use, surely the most intuitive solution I've ever seen. The ImageReady layers become the animation frames with a few button clicks and timing delays and transparency can be set with a few more.
ImageReady will undoubtedly be in direct head-to-head competition with Macromedia's Fireworks. Fireworks does have some extra vector drawing facilities and a heap of other textures and stuff but either of them will make the web designer's life a lot easier.
There is no head and shoulders winner here. The choice comes down to personal preferences in the end and because I am more used to Photoshop and Illustrator, I prefer ImageReady - but only just.
|Adobe ImageReady (beta)|
|Ease of Use||90%|
|Value for Money||85%|
|'Must Have' Factor||90%|
|Manufacturer||Adobe Systems, Inc.|
|Summary||If you use Photoshop, you must get this too.|