BOOT CAMP 538 (19/08/08)

Freeware Top Tens part 2, Pictures and Graphics


This week’s selection of free software is concerned with pictures and graphics and covers everything from storing and viewing them on your computer to image editing and manipulation, proving conclusively that the camera can and does lie.


This is an area where you can save a lot of money and some freeware offerings are as good and sometimes better than their commercial counterparts. It’s not a particularly fast-moving sector, though, so expect to see a few old favourites, but even if you already have some of these programs it’s usually worth updating to the latest version.


Before we begin off here’s the customary disclaimers. You install these programs entirely at your own risk, we cannot answer any technical questions and please, if you find a program useful show your gratitude and make a donation or pay the licence fee.



AutoStitch, XP & Vista, 1Mb

No matter how hard you try photographs of dramatic vistas never manage to capture the eye-boggling grandeur of the scene. Well here’s a way they can, stand still and take a series of overlapping photographs then when you get home use AutoStitch join them all together. AutoStitch does it all, matching the photographs together – even if they’ve been shot out of sequence – and blend them together seamlessly into one JPEG panorama that you can view on your PC screen or print out.



Fast Batch Resize Crop and Watermark, XP & Vista, 8.7Mb,

Let us suppose that you have a number of photographs that you want to resize or crop in a hurry, convert them from one image file format to another (JPEG, png, gif, tiff etc.), and for good measure add a time/date stamp and a copyright watermark. Well, it might happen, and if it does you’ll be glad of the appropriately named Fast Batch Resize Crop and Watermark tool…


The Gimp, XP & Vista, 17.5Mb

It’s one of the most sophisticated photo editing tools available, but it’s not for absolute beginners. The huge range of advanced facilities means there’s a steep learning curve. Unless you’re familiar with Alpha Channels. Layers and Sub-Pixel Sampling you’ll be better off cutting your teeth on some of the less challenging editing programs we’re featuring.



IfranView, XP & Vista, 1.25Mb

Unbeatable when it comes to opening and viewing obscure image and video file formats and converting them to something useable. IrfanView also has some handy tools for resizing, re-touching and printing images, creating slideshows, batch processing, emailing, and much more



Noiseware Community Edition, XP & Vista, 10Mb,

How many of your digital photographs are spoilt by noise and fuzz? The noise filters in image editing programs tend to be a bit variable and can even pictures look worse. Noiseware does the job properly with variable suppression filters that help to preserve detail and tonal balance. The effects of changes can be instantly judged by clicking on the image to switch between ‘before’ and ‘after’, and if you don’t like what you see there’s an undo function.



PhotoFiltre, XP & Vista, 1.6Mb

There’s really no need to splash out on fancy image editing software, PhotoFiltre does it all, from simple cropping and resizing, to more advanced photo manipulation techniques, including a highly effective Gamma Correction tool, for brightening up dull pictures and bringing out lost detail in shadows. It’s also very easy to use, with all of the important controls right in front of you, on the toolbar. 



Photomatix, XP & Vista, 3.1Mb

Many photographs are spoilt by flat uninteresting skies or dull, lifeless foregrounds. Most cameras have exposure controls that let you capture one part of the scene in all its glory, but usually at the expense of the other. The solution is to take two or three photographs, changing the exposure settings to suit the sky, mid-ground and foreground, then use Photomatrix’s exposure blending and tone mapping tools to combine the best elements into one award-winning image. 

N.B. Free version superimposes copyright notice 



Picasa 2, XP & Vista, 5.8Mb

If you have a digital camera you need Picasa on your PC. It’s just about the best file manager, viewer and picture tweaker there is! It finds, displays and organises all of the images on your PC, helps you to fix common faults, add special effects, print and lets you share your pictures by email, uploading to the web or copying them to CD. 



PC Inspector Smart Recovery, XP & Vista, 6.1Mb,

One day you are going to lose, either by accident or misfortune, irreplaceable images on one of your digital camera memory cards. Smart Recovery can restore deleted and corrupt image files, it works on most common file formats and memory cards, including Smart Media, SD, MMC, Memory Stick and so on. It’s safe and non-destructive, so what have you got to lose?



Watermark V2, XP & Vista, 0.6Mb

Once your images have been uploaded onto the Internet there’s no telling what’s going to happen to them. Putting your name, a copyright symbol or time and date information can help discourage copying and mis-use. That’s just one of Watermark’s many talents, it’ll also batch resize, rotate and rename your images with just a few clicks. This program is still in beta form but it seems stable and safe to use.


Next Week – Freeware Top Tens part 3





Pre-release version of a program



Adjusting the balance between the light and dark portions of an image to improve visibility and reveal detail in darker areas



Semi transparent text or graphic permanently burned into an image





Quick EXIF Editor, XP & Vista, 1Mb

Digital images contain a wealth of hidden information, known as EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format), this little program displays the data and lets you edit details of when and where it was shot, descriptions, camera name, technical info such as exposure settings and much more.



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