Use ColorSafe1.1 filter plug-in to draw up Web-safe palettes

I soon discovered that World Wide Web browsers such as Mosaic, Netscape Navigator and
Microsoft Internet Explorer can use only 216 distinct colors out of a 256-color
palette--and not the most visually pleasing ones, either.


When you design a page that has a color not in the 216, what users see varies depending
on their browsers and platforms.


It's easy to make a good-looking page with colors from an unlimited palette like that
of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Photoshop. Creating a handsome page with the limited palette of
Netscape or Explorer is harder, but that's what you're forced to do if you lack a tool
like ColorSafe and want the page to look the same to different browsers.


ColorSafe 1.1 extends the possible colors from 216 into the millions. It does this by
combining individual pixels of Web-safe colors side by side in a pattern that appears to
the human eye as a solid, distinct color.


ColorSafe runs under Mac OS, Microsoft Windows 95 and Windows NT. It's compatible with
any program that accepts Adobe Photoshop API 2.5 filter plug-ins.


To install, just start the setup program and designate the location of your graphical
application's plug-in directory. It takes only about 120K of storage room.


I disliked ColorSafe's absence of documentation--no user guide, no online help. The
program has only a readme.txt file and frequently asked questions list.


Expert users of graphical applications and plug-ins likely won't miss the
documentation, but novices will be lost.


Although I prefer to have documentation, ColorSafe is fairly simple to use. The
interface consists of a two-part, tabbed dialog box.


The left side lists the name of the palette you're using and all its colors. You can
also make new palettes and new colors within palettes.


There's a button at the bottom of the dialog box that you press to apply a Web-safe
color to your drawing.


The right side of the dialog box has the ColorSafe Color Picker and the Pattern Canvas.


The Color Picker tab displays the Web-safe color, the original color, and
red-green-blue sliders with decimal and hexadecimal values.


Clicking on the original color swatch in the automatic Color Picker tab will bring up
your system color picker. Control-clicking on the original color swatch brings up
Photoshop's color picker. You can set a color using any of the three color pickers, and
ColorSafe will create the corresponding Web-safe color.


Use the Pattern Canvas tab to design your own Web-safe color or pattern. You can vary
the work grid from two by two pixels up to eight by eight.


There are tools to apply or erase colors, and you can select any color palette.


Agencies with large Web sites that generate thousands of daily hits from a varied
audience will find this single-purpose program worthwhile, but smaller sites probably
won't.


ColorSafe is most useful for flat colors, such as logos or single-color images. If your
page has scanned photographs or areas with gradient fills, ColorSafe can't help you.


Those who balk at paying $50 for a single-purpose plug-in might want to look at a
similar but cheaper product, DitherBox from RDG Tools Inc. Visit the company's Web site at
http://www.ditherbox.com.


William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.


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