A Guide to Web Image Compression Software: Adobe ImageReady
Software type: Web image management
Adobe ImageReady is startling: run it and you'll think you're in Photoshop! The interface is very similar indeed. As a result, users of Photoshop will feel immediately at home. My first impressions were favourable, and I have grown to like it more with use. I use it as my default compressor, when I've prepared an image in Photoshop (saves switching to a new interface).
Note: This is another large, expensive program, like Macromedia Fireworks, not the same sort of thing as the smaller, less expensive programs I've reviewed on the other pages here. But it's here because it does the same work. And I don't think it can be ignored, given the position Adobe holds in the graphics software market. (This is necessarily a rather brief review of a big, complex program.)
The first difference from Photoshop you notice is when you open a graphics file: the file appears in a box with two tabs: Original and Optimized. Click on the Optimized tab and it shows you the file in GIF, JPEG or PNG format. You select the format you want from a box in the same group as "Navigator". If you select JPEG, it shows you a slider for image quality to set the level of compression. If you adjust this, the Optimized image window immediately shows the result. Click the Original tab and you can compare compressed and original files. The two images are in register, so differences in the compressed file show up clearly. In this regard it is similar to the HVS Photoshop plugins. It works well.
If you select PNG you have the choice of 8 or 24 bit colour.
In the image display box border, the type and size of file is shown (only to the nearest kilobyte, unfortunately).
The full version of the program comes with its own plugins, including a very useful subset of filters such as sharpen and blur. You can also point ImageReady to your Photoshop plugins directory and use them from there, which is very convenient.
It works well and is very familiar if you know Photoshop. It has many of the same controls (in fact, nearly all in a casual inspection). Some of the controls work slightly differently. It is a very convenient program to use for graphics compression, and it does an excellent job. Worth a trial download, even if you can't afford it yet.
How well does it compress graphics?
Very well indeed. It generates good clean jpegs, though without the controls that some other programs offer in terms of separating colour and brightness compression, or selected area decompression. What is most valuable is the option to view in a 256 colour dithered environment, and at Mac gamma (or PC gamma if you're running it on a Mac).
It handles GIFs very well indeed, with excellent palette control and editing, including shifting to web safe colour. Small GIFs are the result, with effective colour palettes. You can spend hours playing with the GIF palettes - which is fun, but may not be the best idea...
The program is expensive compared to some of the other offerings, but you get an extremely competent tool for the money.
An upgrade patch to version 1.0.1 is available for download from the Adobe website for users of version 1.0
Good web page
The Adobe ImageReady web pages give an exceptionally good description of how the program works and how you operate it. There's a very effective use of animated GIFs showing the process. Worth a look as a model of how to design a web site of this sort.
One final thing: click on Help|About to see the credits screen: there's a rather amusing "Easter egg" following the usual credits. Something about a duck... And if you like the duck logo that came as default with the beta version, you can get it back to replace the (equally pointless) cyclist logo. I prefer the duck.
Links to information about web graphics compression, palettes and related matters of interest.
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