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Sanity saver for Web designers: new DeBabelizer Pro for PC.

DeBabelizer Pro

Version for WIndows 95 and Windows NT

Equilibrium, Sausalito, Calif., $595.00

DeBabelizer! I'd heard about it for years. Out in places like the World Wide Web Artists Consortium (WWWAC) mailing list, they kept saying every efficient Web graphics designer had to have it. They raved about how it could make graphics smaller, miraculously, without affecting the quality, and how it could turn an unlimited number of any sort of file into .gifs or .jpegs with one click.

But I could only listen to these amazing claims from afar because, until recently, this famed image-processing software was only available for Macintoshes.

Now, thankfully, DeBabelizer from Equilibrium is available to the rest of the world that uses Windows 95 and Windows NT. And it's everything the Mac geeks said it was.

Smooth Windows Interface

Other industry writers have noted that the new DeBabelizer Windows interface is much cleaner and easier to understand than the Mac version. Overall, I found the PC version to be full-featured and easy to use. It does a nice job eliminating cross-platform headaches. For instance, many Windows graphics programs won't recognize Mac file extensions containing more than three characters. DeBabelizer will read and open .tiff or .jpeg files without having to manually change the extension to .tif or .jpg. Since most graphic designers work on Mac platforms and many don't realize the Windows file extension limitations, this feature is especially helpful when you're a PC-based Web site serviced by Macequipped artists.

Since DeBabelizer can read 90 different RGB image types, the chances of encountering a bit-mapped or screen-based image that DeBabelizer cannot read are very slim. Currently, because DeBabelizer is used more for screen-based art than print-based art, it cannot read CMYK or Raster images. CMYK image support is planned for future versions.

Preview Without Opening

From the moment you open the program, DeBabelizer makes your graphics work faster and easier. For instance, in the "Open Image" window, it offers the option to preview an image before opening it. This is especially handy for obscurely named images, or in the event you have simply forgotten what name you used for an image.

The act of selecting an image also automatically displays useful information about the graphic, such as dimensions, file size, date created and date modified. Other image-processing programs force you to fully open a file to get this same information.

Heavy Automation

DeBabelizer's main claim to fame is its ability to batch process images, automating many tasks that can be tediously repetitious if done manually. This is particularly helpful when saving different file types to a single file type. If, for instance, you have five .bmp images and six .tiff images, you can place them all in one batch and save them out as .gig with one simple operation. One drawback--you can't create a batch of images from a floppy disk drive. All images must reside on your hard drive to be included in a batch.

DeBabelizer also offers the option of saving batches to another directory or folder with the original file names. Or, you can rename your images by adding a sequential number at the end of that file name. This eliminates worries about writing over your original image files.

A scripting function lets you automate several different procedures and apply them to a batch of images at once. Say you need to resize to 120-by-60 pixels the eleven graphics you just saved as .gifs, and you also want to remap them all to a specific palette. It's easy. You create a new batch file of the .gifs. Then, through the File menu, you create a script with commands for "remap to Netscape palette," "reduce number of colors" and "save as .gifs." Finally, you drag the "Action Arrow" into the batch to launch the series of scripted actions.

The fact that DeBabelizer is worshipped for its automation capabilities doesn't mean that operations can't be handled on a manual level, as well. Often, it's not possible to work with groups of graphics if you have images that are very different. The amount of manual control tends to be limited more by the designer's knowledge of image production, than by the capabilities of the software.

Overall Palette Management

DeBabelizer's second great claim to fame is palette management. Palettes are the color tables used with indexed graphics. Handling browser-compatible palettes for Web graphics is the biggest problem many Web designers face on a daily basis. DeBabelizer makes remapping images to either a custom palette, a system palette or a Netscape-compatible palette an easy, one-step process. The batch commands can be used to create a custom palette that includes a base palette of all of the images. Then, it can remap those images to that specific palette. Specific palette colors can also be made transparent and saved out in the .Gif89a or transparent .gif format.

The toolbar Palette menu offers several options for changing and remapping palettes; the program ships with 22 palettes, including Mac, Windows and even Commodore64 system palettes for non-Web graphics, and the Netscape palette for Web graphics. Creating your own custom palettes, limiting the colors DeBabelizer remaps to within a given palette and controlling dithering (positioning of color pixels to simulate colors that do not exist in a 256 indexed graphic) are easily handled by DeBabelizer. You can also import any valid .pal file into DeBabelizer.

Palette Controls

Debabelizer's comprehensive palette control features also enable you to change and control the byte size of your images--the other great reason to own a copy of DeBabelizer. You can let Debabelizer do the work for you by choosing "Remove Duplicate and Unused Colors" from a palette, or "Reduce Colors," or you can manually set the pixel depth of your images. Depending on the image, the byte size of your graphic can often be cut in half.

There are a few operations that DeBabelizer does not handle well. For example, you will need another graphics program, such as Photoshop, to resize many of your graphics. Although resize options are available in Debabelizer, the program does not feature the "Sharpen" or "Unsharp Mask" filters necessary to ensure optimum crispness in resized images.

With Photoshop

It's simple to work with DeBabelizer and Photoshop simultaneously--the Action Arrow can be used to drag batches from DeBabelizer into the open Photoshop window. There, all of the images open automatically, allowing you to perform the necessary Photoshop operations even as you save the changes back into your DeBabelizer batch.

Animated graphics can be viewed, and, more importantly, can be "taken apart" using DeBabelizer, but you will need a .gif animation program, such as Cel Assembler or Gif Construction Set, to put the graphics back together as a working animation. DeBabelizer can also open, view and modify .avi, but not Quicktime movies. Quicktime support is in the works.

So, what I had heard about this program for years turns out to be true-- DeBabelizer is an essential tool for any graphic designer, especially those involved in online page creation. It is a time saver, a bandwidth saver and, for Webmasters and design artists who must process large numbers of graphics on a regular basis, a real sanity saver.

Kim McGalliard is Webmaster of the E&P Web site.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Duncan McIntosh Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Journal of the Online News Industry
Author:McGalliard, Kim
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Sep 20, 1997
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