PhotoDraw opens a mixed bag of illustration tricks

PhotoDraw opens a mixed bag of illustration tricks

Despite being sluggish and time-consuming, this low-end software cranks out some excellent art

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

The mouse becomes even mightier than the pen under Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000, although the pen sometimes works faster.

PhotoDraw 2000 gets an incomplete grade when it comes to filling in its clip art. The wizards' directions are unclear, and the Replace feature, inset, was hard to find.

PhotoDraw 2000 takes too long to render any illustration. It renders and renders. Every millimeter nudge, every new component, every resizing forces a re-rendering of the entire drawing. It gets old after awhile.

Although PhotoDraw does not approach the sophistication of Adobe's Illustrator or Photoshop, I nevertheless did not expect to have to wait quite so long for results on a 300-MHz Pentium II system with 128M of RAM and a 450-MHz system with 256M of RAM. Rendering took almost the same time on both, although the 450-MHz unit was slightly faster. Working on more than one illustration at once slowed PhotoDraw to a snail's pace.

Despite its slothfulness, I still liked this low-end hybrid of Illustrator and Photoshop. It cranked out some excellent art. Effects and complicated filters, even complex 3-D effects, were easy to apply. The extensive selection of filters made an ordinary photo look like a watercolor, stained glass, a charcoal sketching or some other artistic departure.

Wizard weirdness

Processes such as creating a button for a Web site had basic wizards associated, but the instructions for their use were bewildering. For example, one common instruction said, 'Click Replace and then click an object in another picture to replace the image in this template.'

Box Score''''
PhotoDraw 2000

Illustration software for photos and Web graphics

Microsoft Corp.;

Redmond, Wash.;

tel. 425-882-8080

Price: $69 GSA

+Easy-to-apply effects and filters

'Sluggish and time-consuming

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT, Pentium II or faster processor, 128M RAM, 4M video card, 200M free storage, CD-ROM drive and plenty of patience

Huh? It would take a GCN copy editor to parse any meaning from that sentence. More important, there was no Replace button to click. The button did exist; however, Microsoft made it a cute icon instead of text like the other buttons.

Included on an extra PhotoDraw CD-ROM were a limited selection of clip art and templates. The art in Encapsulated PostScript format would not work quite right. Creating a shape usually involves drawing lines and filling them in. PhotoDraw's fillings did not quite stay within the lines and sometimes did not completely cover the interiors.'' Microsoft incorporates all the clip art available in its Office 2000 suite, as PhotoDraw is part of the Office premium edition. If you don't want to plunk down $373 for the suite through a General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule purchase, PhotoDraw is $69 standalone.

I found the Office clip art much better than the PhotoDraw-specific items. Microsoft ought to unify all the clip art for easier access.

PhotoDraw can do a pretty good job for amateur artists, although its wizards should be more helpful.


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