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Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
Adobe own the graphics mountain. To Adobe no one comes close. That is just a fact. Graphics around the planet are run by Photoshop. Say what you will about the company, but their programs rule.
In the world of the Mac, there is little between the lack of any sort of halfway reasonable graphics tools with the operating system itself and the full-out Adobe Photoshop 7, which retails for a cool $600. GraphicConverter doesn't even come close to doing what similar middle of the road tools do on Windows, and today most of what the program does is done adequately by Preview which accompanies OS X. $25 for such an app? Forget it.
But there is one in-between app, and it's not freeware, but for its price - $89 - it's rather amazing: Photoshop Elements 2.0. If one is not familiar with the full professional package, or with professional graphics work in general (which in this world amount to the same thing), the gamut of this low-price variant must boggle the mind. Random comparisons to Paint Shop Pro leave one with a feeling that the true exigencies of the graphics world were somehow omitted from that latter Windows app.
There are a ton of effects, filters, styles - and all or at least most of it can be done in layers, and with vector graphics, something the cloddy bitmapped world of Windows has never quite got.
But it's not a Cocoa app, and this is a big disappointment. With most of the old crew at Quark now in the Adobe camp, one hoped these veterans could produce a modern application - but no. Even the opening folder view relates back to a time when Mac icons were a couple of kilobytes on disk and everything was - different. The toolbars are dinky just like BBEdit, but unlike BBEdit this application makes itself appreciated through the sheer complexity of the code involved and the enormous attention to detail. Each and every dialog is laid out meticulously and looks right from the get-go - this makes an enormous difference in how the application as a whole is received.
And there are so many hot-wired windows, controls, and views here - not just a few people worked very hard. The application is amazingly consistent and stable - and it's a pure joy to work with.
In the world of graphics, Adobe's Mac programs rule the world. One can only hope that the next version will dispense with this 'Carbon' crud completely and we'll finally have a 100% native OS X application. Disk footprints should go down as well, for 'APE' still ships with tons of megabytes of 'Classic' modules which, frankly, no one wants and no one should be using anymore.