A Guide to Web Image Compression Software: XA Tech JPEG Optimizer

Software type:  Selective JPEG compressor

Author: XA Tech
URL: http://www.xat.com/
Program: XA Tech JPEG Optimizer 3.05
Program URL: http://www.xat.com/
Platform: w95
Type: JPEG compressor
Price: US$29


JPEG Optimizer is a nifty program that provides the usual single slider compression control, but also allows you to uncompress parts of an image to remove artifacts, while compressing the other less critical parts fully.

It has a clean simple interface and shows the before and after images as you go. You compress the image not quite to the point where it starts distorting, hit the compress more button, then select the parts with undesirable compression artifacts using the mouse. This automatically decompresses them to the previous compression level, removing the artifacts, but blending seamlessly with the rest of the image. For my purposes it gives the best compromise of image size and quality. If you use it carefully it will give you the smallest images of any current program, while maintaining the image quality. Definitly one to shortlist. The (near) fully functioning shareware program adds an advertisement to the image file.

The only thing I'd like to see added to it would be the ability to read LZW compressed TIFF files, but this is a minor quibble.

New information: Version 3.05 is now the current one (March 1999), and it's developed quite a way snce the previous paragraphs were written last year for version 1.3. The most notable change is a spectacularly effective "magic wand" that analyses the image and provides selective compression. Does it work? Yes. Very well indeed, on the images I've tried. I've found the best approach is to use minimal compression on the main slider setting, have no area selected for extra compression, and then hit the magic button. After this you can increase the overall compression using the slider until you start seeing jpeg distortions, then back off one setting. You can also reduce compression selectively in key areas for maximum sharpness and minimum extra file size.

You can zoom images x2 for a close up view, using either drop down menu or the F4 key. The levels of compression and the amount of the Magicompress magic wand effect can be set by the user. Which makes it very flexible indeed.

Conclusion? Very effective, very quick, and as good as the very best hand tweaking I can do using other compressors. Absolutely a top contender if JPEGs are your target.

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