Microsoft makes PhotoDraw a winning app

Microsoft makes PhotoDraw a winning app

Tight integration with Office makes easy-to-use PhotoDraw a $109 deal

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Microsoft Corp. has taken what was a so-so illustration package and made it a winner.

The improvements in the recently released PhotoDraw 2000 2.0 turned my head. I had given an earlier version a C+, but the new release merits an A'.

User feedback apparently convinced Microsoft that its newest addition to the Office suite needed work. The original PhotoDraw 2000 performed at a snail's pace and had some underdeveloped components.

PhotoDraw had been the weak link in Office's chain of applications, but no more. It is a hybrid between a vector illustrator and photo editor, and it still tries to be easy enough for most users. In essence, Microsoft has created a new breed of illustration tool.

Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000 2.0 has a wizard that optimizes saved files for the Web and PowerPoint presentations. Some wizard boxes, however, are confusing.

Don't get me wrong: It won't replace high-end applications such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDraw. But PhotoDraw does have similar graphics filters and can do comparable

3-D effects. The new features combined with improved speed make PhotoDraw a far stronger tool, especially for Web graphics and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

The long rendering delays have vanished. Version 1.0 often took several seconds to render an object nudged by only a pixel. Now there's no pause during moving, scaling or most other operations. Applying filters requires a wait, but not nearly as long as with the previous version.

The older version had some clip art that never quite worked right. For example, fills would leak outside the lines. Version 2.0 fixes that to a degree, but Microsoft still needs to do some fine-tuning. A shape such as a peach with a leaf should depict peach-colored fruit and a green leaf. Instead, PhotoDraw fills the entire shape with only one color.

Another weakness is the dialog boxes for the wizards.

Box Score '' ' ' '''''

PhotoDraw 2000 2.0

Illustration software

Microsoft Corp.; Redmond, Wash;
tel. 425-882-8080

Price: $109

+Great integration with Office

+Easy to use

'Coloring in clip art uneven

'Some confusing wizard dialog boxes

Real-life requirements:
Windows 9x or NT, Pentium II or faster PC, 64M of RAM, 4M video card, 200M of free storage, CD-ROM drive

But Microsoft has integrated other Office applications well with PhotoDraw. You can use it to create PowerPoint slide backgrounds and other components right down to the bullets. If you have ever used PowerPoint to make backgrounds, you know how limiting it can be. PhotoDraw has good tools to customize PowerPoint presentations and make them more dynamic.

Web graphics creation is simple. PhotoDraw can make a Java-animated graphic glow or change color when the mouse cursor rolls over it.

Getting specialty graphics out of an application and into real-life use sometimes is more difficult than one would expect. With PhotoDraw, you choose the 'Save for use in' dialog and state how the picture will be used.

PhotoDraw comes on three CD-ROMs, the first for the application, the second for PhotoDraw-specific graphics and templates, and the third for Office clip art.

The integration with Office, speed and ease of use make this deal worthwhile.


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