ColorIt! 4.0 – Review

Color It!™ 4.0
Company: MicroFrontier
Estimated Price: $99.95
Special Introductory Price $49.95
Upgrade: $29.95
http://www.microfrontier.com

ColorIt! Version 4.0 is a very impressive image editing package. Easy to use, great documentation, and low cost–I think I may have found a replacement for Adobe Photoshop.

I first saw Color It! four or five years ago. At that time, MicroFrontier was giving the package away for free. Not being one to pass up a free software package, I sent away for my copy. I had a Performa 400, so needless to say, Color It! ran like molasses. However, I liked what I saw and was very disappointed I wasn’t able to take advantage of the program. Over the years, I made a point of catching the occasional article written about Color It! and have enjoyed seeing the program improve over the years.

Color It! installs like every other Macintosh program. Just double-click on the installer, specify where the folder goes, and you’re done. I also took a moment to install my scanner plug-in, and changed the Memory requirements of the program: Minimum Size to 6459 and Preferred Size to 8459 (the default Preferred Size is 6459). There is mention of a potential conflict with Macintosh’s (or a third party’s) Virtual Memory function. Fortunately, this is well documented in the installation procedures and User’s Manual. Basically, Color It! has its own Virtual Memory which can cause problems on non-Power Macintosh computers. As long as Color It!’s Preferred Size is less than the available RAM, you should be fine. Otherwise, turn off Virtual Memory.

One of the advantages of Color It! is its ability to work with Photoshop; a great money saver on top of Color It!’s already low price. There is a Photoshop Save As function and you are able to use most third party Photoshop plug-ins. However, a few Photoshop plug-ins (like Mask Pro) use layers, which is something ColorIt! does not support, and this could be a drawback for some users.

A nice little documentation feature is The Official “Color it!: Helpful Hints” Document. This nifty list tells you how to optimize your work performance in Color It!. It discusses things like memory requirements, image size, editing patterns, saving documents, and a whole lot more. Yet, the hints are not the long meanderings of a workaholic tech writer. They’re short, to the point, and understandable. It’s a nice complement to the User’s Manual.

Speaking of which…
The User’s Manual installs on your hard drive as a PDF file. If you have access to a laser printer, I recommend printing a copy for reference. But, I wouldn’t advise it if you have an inkjet printer as the manual is 132 pages. However, if you definitely prefer looking at the written word as opposed to a screen, then it might be worth your while.

I found the User’s Manual a wonderfully well written document. Not only does it walk you through a tutorial, but also gives you scanning tips and file format information. This includes the new PNG format. This format, possibly better than JPEG and GIF, was designed specifically for web graphics. The data provided in the manual is basic information everyone needs to know but can be so hard to find. I know I will use this manual as general reference in addition to answering Color It! specific questions.

The manual starts off with a “What’s New” chapter which provides a great introduction into Color It! functions. For instance, there is a new Web Map Palette which makes it possible to create and modify web image maps (those little text files that describe clickable regions in a graphic which links to an HTML page). There is also a new Animation Palette–I created my first animated GIF using this palette!! In addition, there are numerous enhancements to the already existing palettes which, I feel, brings the program on par with Photoshop.

I jumped right into the tutorial which gave me the flavor of the program. I found commands easy to find, and easy to understand. After using Photoshop for several years, I discovered Color It! to be incredibly user friendly and intuitive. Yes, you could say that my familiarity with Photoshop makes understanding Color It! easier. However, Photoshop has a huge learning curve, and I’m midway on that curve. Even so, Photoshop is still very confusing and complex. I find Color It! to be much more straightforward with its commands. Additionally, the descriptions in the User’s Manual breaks down the more complex functions into information that anyone can understand.

After creating my first graphic and animated GIF, I moved on to the rest of the manual. It reads like any other, with explanations of the various tools and miscellaneous functions. So, I ran a couple of my own tests. First, I wanted to see how easy it was to open a Photoshop 4.0 file with ColorIt!. Well, the function was transparent. ColorIt! didn’t even tell me it was converting a Photoshop file. I like that. That means all my formatting remains the same.

I then did several scans. Absolutely no problem. I am even using those scans in a training manual at work. No problem dropping them into a QuarkXpress 4.0 document or printing proofs off of a QMS 860 laser printer.

I tested Color It! on a PowerMac 8500/132, running System 8.1 with a 2 gig hard drive and 64MB of RAM. It ran like a charm. That’s where I did most of the heavy testing, like scanning photos and opening Photoshop documents.

I also tested it on the original Bondi Blue iMac, running System 8.5 with a 4 gig hard drive and 64MB of RAM. Again, no problem! It’s a nice little program that I will be able to use at home, both for work I bring home and for my stepdaughter’s homework. It’s easy enough for them to use–although I will insist on their reviewing the tutorial first!

The best part is for those of you with older systems, Color It! can run in as little as 3MB of RAM and requires only a 68020 Mac running System 7.0. You’ll never be able to do that with Adobe Photoshop.

Two notes
I could not get the Paste to Fit command to work. I followed the instructions in the tutorial, but it just did not happen. Since the rest of the program functions so well, I hesitate to say it is a bug. More than likely, I did not follow the instructions as well as I thought I did.

One regret (mentioned earlier) is that Color It! doesn’t support a “layers” function. In Adobe Photoshop, layers allow you to build a graphic by laying elements on top of one another. What makes layers so great is each graphic element in the document can have its own layer, allowing you to activate an individual layer and editing only the activated layer without affecting the rest of the graphic. However, for what most of us need or want to do with ColorIt!, the inability to work with the layers function won’t really be missed.

Bottom Line
The documentation is superb as is the value. I did not call for tech support as there was no need. My next printing job will incorporate a Color It! graphic so… I may do a follow up to tell you how well it does (or does not!) work.

My recommendation is to buy it. If you need an image manipulation package, Color It! will do the job.

MacMice Rating: 3.5
3.5


Barbara Bell
pr@mymac.com

Websites mentioned:
http://www.microfrontier.com

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