A Guide to Web Image Compression Software: PICPress 3.7

Software type:  GIF/JPEG optimisers

Company: Pegasus Imaging Corporation
URL: http://www.pegasusimaging.com/
Program: PICPress 3.7
Program URL: http://www.pegasusimaging.com/product.html#picpress
Platform: w95
Type: Image compressor
Price: US$49


This is the big brother of Pegasus' PICPress Photoshop plugin. It does a lot more than just compress JPEG files, but has the same JPEG capabilities as the plugin. It also offers compression for several other graphics file formats. It does a very good job. The demo program allows you to save 20 files before you need to register. (For unexplained reasons, it is downloaded in a file called PP35.exe. Seems to be a throwback to version 3.5)

Since I tried out version 3.5, Pegasus appear to have improved PICPress considerably. It does a spectacularly good job compressing a range of images. The interface is not, in my view, as convenient or easy as, say, Ulead Smartsaver, in that you cannot view the effects of a particular level of compression before actually saving the file. You then need to open the original file again to compare the two. This can lead to a lot of copies of compressed files on your disk! I would much prefer a direct image comparison to let me select the compression level that works best, then save the file. However, PICPress is worth the effort, as it does a very good job.

There is a reason for this. Pegasus has its own proprietary compression algorithms. PICPress doesn't use the International JPEG Group algorithms, which the vast majority of other software does. Another benefit of this shows up in the lack of rectangular blotchy artifacts that show up with high compression in areas of an image with slowly varying colour. There's a technical name for this but to me it looks like quilt work. It's an undesirable side effect of the standard JPEG compression. PICPress is very good at avoiding this.

PICPRess has another feature that distinguishes it from other programs. It has two compression level sliders, one for the detail information, another for the colour. This can be useful when you find the image showing colour smearing while the detail is still OK. You can lower the colour compression to suit. If you don't want such detailed control, you can just use a single level setting which has pre-programmed combinations of detail and colour.

Overall I like PICPress a lot. If it were to have the interface of Ulead Smartsaver, the area select uncompression that XA Tech's JPEG Optimizer has, and the re-compression features of Pegasus' own RapidVUE, it would be very hard to go past it. As it is, it should certainly be on any shortlist.

Pegasus is an interesting company with a family of graphics compression products. These are a little confusing to differentiate initially: new developments seem to occur regularly. But I've found the company very helpful in handling email queries.


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