Magix Photo Designer 7
 
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Feature: Magix Photo Designer 7
Idea: Searching for a inexpensive, quick, fast, easy to learn/use Photo Editor


I am still looking for an inexpensive, fast, easy to learn photo editor. Don't get me wrong - Adobe has the top 3 bitmap photo editors in Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop CS4. But all of these Adobe photo editors have 4 consistent problems -1)they are not cheap, 2)they are not fast on start-up [but otherwise perform fairly promptly], 3)they are definitely not easy to learn and 4)they depend on online and/or third party sources to fill their documentation gaps. So far I have reviewed ACDSee Photo Editor 2008 and found many things to like there. But I am still on the look out. So here is how I came upon Magix Photo Designer 7.

In the process of reviewing Xara Xtreme Pro 5, I discovered Magix Photo Designer 7 because it is bundled with Xara as its full power bitmap editor. You invoke it directly within Xara and it passes the resulting edit back - a very smooth link. When using Photo Designer I was reminded of of one of the earliest and best photo editors for its time, Micrografx Designer which later became Corel Designer. I am not sure if there is any direct code connection, but Photo Designer 7 shows a similar and proven photo editor layout:
The image is surrounded with a)a toolbar at the left, b)a property bar which changes with the tool chosen at the top, c) an Object panel at the right and d)an image tray along the bottom.

I have found this to be a very productive work layout for a photo editor. But I am looking not just for a complete set of basic core features for my favorite photo editor; but also some topnotch ones as described below.

Basic Core Features of our Lightweight Photo Editor

Perhaps the only way to guarantee a fast start-up and fast running photo editor is to restrict its core features. So here is our core, basic editing features:
0)Drag and drop images from File Manager or any other drag+drop source;
1)cropping+image resizing like in Photoshop's Crop tool;
2)rotate, straighten, flip, perspective-fix commands like in many editors;
3)Color correction like in PaintShop Pro's Manual Color Correction command;
4)Color Balance like in Lightroom's Temperature, Vibrance, Saturation, Hue commands;
5)Lightness control like the Photoshop Exposure and Levels commands;
6)Image touch up like Photoshop's Clone and Healing Brush tools;
7)Text tool like in Techsmith's Snagit Editor;
8)Paint and fill commands like in many photo editors [no gradients or brushmaking tools];
9)Blur/smooth commands like Photoshop's Smart Blur;
10)Sharpen commands like Photoshop's Smart Sharpen;
On the bubble are the following possible commands. However, ease of learning as well as speed of operations should take precedence for inclusion of these commands:
a)Frame tool like in Paintshop Pro's Frame command;
b)Combo of Lightroom's Apply Presets and Photoshop's History Brush;
c)Plugins/extensions like Adobe's basic plugin architecture;
d)masking/selection tools set like Photoshop's Quick Select and Refine Edges.

What is definitely off the operating list are complex graphic ops like layers/objects, animations, vector drawing commands, 3D extensions, compositing tools like panoramas and bitmap fills into polygon surfaces, CAD rendering, etc. One can use the PhotoShops, Xara Xtreme Pro, Painter, AutoCADs and many other graphic tools for these high level animation, compositing and natural media painting/rendering tasks. Our aim is to go from 0-60 in basic photo editing in 5 seconds or less.

How Does Magix Photo Designer 7 Fit the Bill?

When we downloaded and installed Xara Xtreme Pro, Magix Photo Designer 7 was loaded too. Since the latter went quickly and without incident expect the same for Magix Photo Designer 7. In While doing some photo compositions with Xara Xtreme Pro 5 I invoked the Xara's bitmap editor
1a)Cropping - shading, no perspective, no builtin resizing - below par
1b)Resizing - by percentage or absolute value, 3 methods - below par
2)Rotate, flip, perspective correct - precise rotate, flips, straighten, no perspective nor skew, auto crop of rotate - par
3)Manual Color correction - two tools - below par
4)Color balance and toning - several tools - above par
5)Lightness control - basic tools with controls - par
6)Image touch up - clone, healing brush, but not perspective preserving - par
7)Text tool - horizontal, no vertical , some options - below par
8)Paint and fill commands - paint + brushes - above par; fills - on par
9)Blur/smooth commands - good blur set, below par on smoothing
10)Sharpen commands - 4 sharpen tools - above par
Just like ACDSee Photo Editor , Photo Designer is a bit waffling on either side of par for many features. There is no very below par rating. But by the same token there is no well above par assessment. However, Photo Designer is packed with extra goodies.

During the course of testing I came across the Tasks menu command and found a whole menu-full of extra commands that added real artistic impact to Photo Designer:

The program is chock full of goodies as seen in the screenshot. Along the bottom of the screen is a tray of special color effects and routines. Along the right side panel is the Artistic FX which is the nearest clone I have seen to the fabulous painterly plugin, Paint Alchemy. The only problem is that size of the paint brush in this Artistic FX is limited to 100 pixels, which for many of today's 6 to 20mPixel images is just too small. You may have to downsize the images to get into an effective "painterly canvas" size. Finally, hidden under the Tasks menu is a HowTo system similar to ACDSee Photo Editor. Tasks has such hidden treasures as step by step instructions on Creating panorama pictures, Artistic distortions, Transform into painting, among other goodies.

Summary

Is Photo Designer 7 the long elusive lightweight photo editor we have been looking for? Close but no cigar. The features on the Color corrections,Image correction and Cropping gives too much away. Also I found the interface a bit too spare. But Photo Designer 7 certainly enhances Xara Xtreme Pro 5 very nicely - giving a real boost to Xara's bitmap editing facilities. And with all its artistic features Photo Designer 7 is a perfect match to Xara Xtreme Pro during the photo finishing and compositing tasks. Yes, you can do basic photo editing- but the real advantage may very well be the artistic refinements.




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