Graphics add-on for Office 95 first to exploit Binders power

Micrografx Inc. has the first graphics suite out of the blocks
that's not only Microsoft Windows 95-compatible but Office 95 Binder-compliant, too. What
does that mean?


If you're an Office 95 user, it means you can store graphics-rich compound document
components together in one file and print everything in flawless order.


ABC Graphics Suite for Windows 95 incorporates ABC FlowCharter 6.0, Designer 6.0,
Picture Publisher 6.0 and the new Media Manager, which makes thumbnail clip art and photo
images that you can drag and drop into virtually any document under Object Linking and
Embedding 2.0. The suite also runs under Windows NT 3.51.


This tool package worked fine for me under Windows 95 and as part of Microsoft Office
95, although I would have liked more speed. As with previous Micrografx releases, the user
interface and procedures weren't as intuitive as I've seen elsewhere.


But ABC Graphics Suite has more tools than some standalone applications and at lower
prices: $495 for new users and $150 to upgraders or Office 95 users.


With a click of an icon, Binder switches among the applications. The document changes,
the menu and icons switch, but you're still in Binder. Say you have a Word document three
pages long, a two-page Excel spreadsheet and a one-page Designer illustration. Binder will
print everything in order: Word's Pages 1 through 3, Excel's Pages 4 and 5, and Designer's
Page 6.


As for Media Manager, kudos to Micrografx for this feature. Just a click away in a
Micrografx or Office 95 application, Media Manager presents its thumbnail collection of
images or clip art in a size you decide. It can handle more than 50 graphics file formats
including .GIF, TIFF, JPEG, .EPS and .BMP. You can create your own graphics library,
mixing various formats.


Drag and drop is seamless. The Media Manager's filter mechanism works in the background
to change file formats to compatible formats if need be, or to OLE 2.0 objects. Besides
all this, you get more than 30,000 clip art and photo images on two CD-ROMs.


Picture Publisher doesn't mount much of a challenge to Adobe Systems' Photoshop, which
is the king of this software category. But for a basic editing and manipulating tool,
Picture Publisher is not bad.


Some nice effects are thrown in--you can convert images into faux charcoal sketches or
watercolor paintings, for example. There are three-dimensional effects as well. With
Photoshop, most of these image manipulators come from third-party developers and cost
extra. However, Picture Publisher doesn't offer or even explain how to turn a
black-and-white into a duotone image.


The arrangement of menus and icons is baffling, and the suite's on-line help lacks
depth for some basic functions. Web authors will be pleased to see Publisher's GIF89a
format, meaning their .GIF images can be interlaced and have transparent color. However,
my search of the on-line help failed to find any relevant hits on "interlace" or
"transparent." On-line help is essential, because Micrografx doesn't supply
detailed documentation.


The Designer module is much better organized. It nevertheless seems to have misplaced
quite basic commands. For example, as you create a complex image, it's good to group the
selections together to keep everything in order. But you must dig down for the Group and
Ungroup commands by selecting Change from the File menu, then Combine before you finally
reach what you're after. It takes a similar number of steps to move object layers forward
or backward.


Designer generally is easy to use, especially for non-artists. The wide selection of
clip art images is editable, so users can easily make custom visual aids for presentations
and reports. In fact, a Web author might want to begin here and export a .GIF file.


The ABC FlowCharter application remains a strong basic for intelligent charting.
Perhaps the most noticeable enhancement is zoom-out to view multiple 8<1>- by 11-inch pages
in a grid. You could tape them together as a large chart to see the big picture.


In my installation, FlowCharter did not integrate into the Office 95 Binder.


Finally, there's Instant3D. From Visual Software Inc., this suite component creates and
manipulates 3-D objects, primarily text. Instant3D, currently in beta testing, is
relatively easy to use but adds little to the suite.


Micrografx Inc., Richardson, Texas; tel. 214-234-1769.



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