Microsoft Picture It! 2001

Microsoft Picture It! Photo & Print Studio 2001 was one of the items which arrived in my annual Christmas goodies parcel.

I wasn’t that excited at the thought of another publishing package but I decided to give it a go because it would also give me the opportunity to try out the digital mini-labs that have been springing up around town.
MPITP&PS (pron. Empitpaps) is a one-stop solution for any home user who wants to publish anything. And when Microsoft says anything, it means anything from a CD-ROM label or newsletter to an e-mail greeting or an entire web site.
It is a humungous package, coming as it does with 150 000 images, 12 000 project templates and any number of fonts. It lives on five CD-ROMs and takes up a minimum of 450Mb of hard disk space.
Murphy’s Law says that the template and three pieces of clipart you need will be on four different discs. My early experience confirmed this so I did a full installation which now occupies 840Mb of space on my hard drive, quite apart from anything it put into the Windows folder.
There is a snazzy video to start and then you land on a web-like page which allows you to click and view helpful movies illustrating some of the package’s features.
Other choices you’re faced with include viewing other features for inspiration, picking a project to complete, or opening an existing picture or project.
The interface is amongst the simplest I’ve ever come across and there is no reason for anyone to be at a loss providing they keep their heads and read the instructions on the screen. In case of panic, there is a handy ‘Back’ button for getting out of sticky situations.
At the top of the screen are the usual menu and toolbar with, on the left, the Options List and, on the right, space for whatever you happen to be working on at the time.
The Options List is dynamic and it displays all the possible things you can do to whatever it is that you’ve got selected at the time. The list uses everyday language which is very easy to decode.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that you need to click the ‘Add Something’ button if you want to add something to your project or ‘Change’ to change something.
One very neat touch is the Tray which runs along the bottom of the screen and holds pictures and projects that you have open at the moment. This makes it very easy to find things and switch between them as necessary.
You can, for example, load all the pictures that you’re going to need for your project into the tray and then it’s just a matter of dragging them into your project when they’re needed.
The publishing and image manipulation bits of MPITP&PS are very tightly integrated into a single whole which makes life very easy. All you have do to work on an object, be it text or a picture, is click on it; no chopping and changing between programs here, thank you very much.
Part 2
Last time I featured Microsoft Picture It! Photo & Print Studio 2001 which has about the friendliest interface I’ve ever encountered.
The package is a very tightly integrated home publishing and image manipulation package which comes with oodles of project templates which should provide a starting point for any publishing task from the creation of a calendar to a greetings card.
It would be an excellent tool for home users or small organisations to use to produce printed materials but I don’t plan to delve into all that.
Where the package really becomes interesting to me is when it comes to digital image manipulation of . It succeeds like no other application in demystifying the process and opening up this absorbing pastime to everyone.
MPITP&PS has the tools to use whether you want to add your dog to a family photo, delete nasty Aunt Ethel from your wedding pictures, or just to give free reign to your creativity.
The tools at your disposal include ones to correct colour tint, brightness and contrast, or to fix problems like red eye or scratches and blemishes on the image. There is also a tool which can take years off your age by removing your wrinkles from your image.
There is a tool for adding text, brushes you can use to paint on the image and a wide variety of special effects, like Picture Putty, which you can use to make your enemies look hideous.
The most powerful feature of MPITP&PS, to my mind, is in how easy it makes it for you to select pieces of different pictures and combine them together into something really special.
The way this is done is to make cutouts of the pieces you want to use and then to add them to a background. I tried this by cutting my young niece out of a very indifferent picture and pasting her on top of a sunset.
The process probably took about 15 minutes from start to finish and I ended up with a lovely picture that Granny is going to get for Christmas. I finished up, in all of three minutes, by creating a web-based photo album to display the pictures.
Apart from putting your images into photo albums, however, MPITP&PS also gives you the option of using them in a variety of projects such as greetings cards, flyers, collages, magazine covers, funny money and calendars.
Last week I mentioned that digital mini-labs were springing up around town and I decided to give one a try. I copied the image I made onto a CD-ROM disc and took it down Photo Spectrum at Davenport Centre to see what they made of it.
I must say I was pretty excited by the 5×7-inch print I got back which, considering the file size was just over 1Mb, was of excellent quality and quite acceptable for framing.
The costs of digital prints from Photo Spectrum range from R5 for a Jumbo print to R40 for a 20x30cm. The prices are a bit higher than for conventional prints but I’ll certainly be having my camera club entries done that way rather than relying on my inkjet printer.
In conclusion, MPITP&PS doesn’t have quite the power of Photoshop or other high-end packages but it is far, far, easier to use and potent enough for most people. It only costs about R349 but will certainly be a permanent member of my software arsenal.

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