Review - GraphicConverter: The Right Tool
by , 10:00 AM EST, February 17th, 2004
Apple's iLife apps are wonderful; they do nearly everything a member of Generation D (digital) needs to do on a computer. With USB, FireWire, 802.11x, and Bluetooth now connecting everything to everything in a seamless flow of movies, music, photos, and words, the iLife apps have indeed become the center of the 'Digital Hub' the crew at 1 Infinite Loop has been promoting.
What is also neat are the supporting applications that abound as freeware, shareware, and commercial products; products that enhance, surpass, or augment the capabilities of the iLife apps. Roxio's Toast 6 Titanium is a great example; it does not supplant iMovie, iPhoto, or iTunes, it supplements the capabilities of the iLife apps by providing more CD and DVD burning options.
If you primarily deal with photos, iPhoto's organizational options are a god-send, but iPhoto can only see certain types of files, and that's where GraphicConverter, from Lemke Software, comes in.
Scroll Through Memory Lane
When you fire up GraphicConverter, after loading up a picture and before you do anything else, click on 'File ->Save As...'. You will be presented with a neat Finder-like window with an area on the bottom that offers several options. Click on the 'Format' select button and you are presented with a seemingly endless list of formatting options. Scroll through and look closely at the different formats; if you've use any type of computer before you bought your first Mac, odds are that the format of the graphic file that computer generated is listed. The Format List should give an inkling of GraphicConverter's history, which is nearly as long as the Mac's. We asked GraphicConverter creator, Thorsten Lemke, for a little bit of history behind the software, here's Mr. Lemke's reply:
It is customer requests that have pretty much driven the development of many of the features of GraphicConverter too, which is why it seems like such a Swiss Army Knife for graphics.
When What You See Is Not What You Want
Snap a picture and bring it into iPhoto, and the first thing you may do is hit the 'Enhance' option on the bottom of the screen. In iPhoto, 'Enhance' can make an OK picture look good, and a good picture look great. Sometimes, however, you may want your picture to be bright, or skewed towards the blue, GraphicConverter can handle that.
Understand that GraphicConverter is not a Photoshop replacement; it's photo editing features are sparse, rather like a toolkit for manipulating photo files. Still, you can do some limited photo enhancing; color shifting, red eye correction, and other enhancing tools are available, as well as some special effects.
The Ins And Outs
As we mentioned earlier, GraphicConverter is primarily about manipulating graphic files. You can pretty much toss any graphic file at GraphicConverter, and it will likely open it. Once opened, you can tinker with the size and resolution of the file. GraphicConverter even offers a Smart Trim feature so that you can pull out only the pieces of a photo you want.
After you have the picture set the way you want it, you can save it in nearly any graphic format. We are not kidding here; for instance, chose to save your pix in a format that cell phones can read. Perhaps you have an old TRS-80 you've tinkering with, and you want to show off its graphics capabilities (or lack of it), GraphicConverter will export files to a format your TRS-80 will understand. How you get your file onto your TRS-80 is up to you. Still, this illustrates how useful GraphicConverter can be at times, because for every obscure format GraphicConverter supports, it supports all of the far more common formats, as well.
Another nice feature in GraphicConverter is that it will convert groups of files in a batch mode, handy when you have a boat load of TIFFs to squeeze into JPEGs. It will also turn a group of images into a catalog for the Web, print, or whatever use you might want, and the options are many. GraphicConverter also supports AppleScript, so you can automate those extremely large and complicated tasks.
If you just want to look through the graphic files you have, GraphicConverter is up to that task too; it has a nice file browser that, in some ways, is better than iPhoto. While browsing, GraphicConverter displays all of the pertinent data about the photos you have, including file format, resolution, and file size. The photos don't have to be imported either, you can look at them wherever they happen to be on your drives, which can be convenient.
The Ups And Downs
There really isn't anything to complain about with GraphicConverter, it's an application that does pretty much what the name implies, and it does it extremely well.
The interface is well laid out and easy to use, though some of the tools do require some up-front knowledge. There's no 'Help' menu, so figuring out how to use many of the options comes down to how much time you have to play around with them. One such example is the "Undo" feature, which is convenient, but limited in that you can only undo the last action you performed.
It's A Wrap!
GraphicConverter is one of those tools that you don't know you need until you need it. Download it the next time you have a graphic file you want to play around with and you may be surprised to find the GraphicConverter is just the tool you were looking for all along.