Print Shop upgrade an even bigger bargain

August 31, 1998|By MIKE HIMOWITZ

The first time I reviewed The Print Shop, it came on a couple of 5-inch floppies. The latest release arrived on eight CDs, which - by my calculation - hold at least 6,000 times as much information.

I guess that's what it takes to turn out party invitations these days. In any case, at 50 bucks, the program that turned millions of kids into computer graphics experts - and got their parents hooked, too - remains one of the world's great software bargains.

The Print Shop Deluxe Version 6.0 adds an easy-to-use photo editor, a photo organizer and a World Wide Web-site designer to the program's already outstanding list of features, including 100,000 graphic images. That's not a misprint - I can't imagine anyone plowing through all 100,000 looking for exactly the right picture of a cow or cat, but they're available and account for six of Print Shop's eight compact discs.

While Print Shop Deluxe is simple enough for adults to use, this Windows 95/98 program requires some serious computing horsepower. Theoretically, it will run on a 90-megahertz Pentium PC with 16 megabytes of RAM, but it gave a pretty good workout to my 300-MHz Pentium II machine. I wouldn't recommend it on any computer with less than 32 megabytes of memory. Print Shop Deluxe will also occupy 141 megabytes worth of hard disk real estate, so if you're short of space, you might want to consider a hard drive upgrade first.

The program installed without a hitch but took an uncommonly long time to start up. When it finally finishes loading, you'll have a choice of four components - the traditional Print Shop, a desktop publisher for newsletters and other complex documents; the photo organizer; and the Web-page designer.

The Print Shop itself hasn't changed much in design over the years (no reason to mess with a good thing). First you select your project - a greeting card, pamphlet, sign, banner, photo page, letterhead, business card, envelope, calendar, postcard, Post-It Note, online greeting, certificate or label.

That done, if you're really lazy, you can choose one of the program's 6,600 templates - documents that are laid out for you, with graphics and dummy text that you can replace with your own. Or you can have the program walk you through a simple interview in which you choose the layout, backdrop and other elements from a menu. If you're adventurous, just start with a blank page and do it yourself.

Once the document is on your screen, you can add clip art, photos, text boxes and headlines by clicking on icons at the left margin (headlines are short pieces of text that you can stretch, squish, bend and distort to your heart's content). You can also create custom graphics such as logos and seals using menu-driven miniprograms. This approach may frustrate people with artistic ability who want freehand drawing tools, but it's fine for klutzes like me.

Photo Shop can import graphics stored in most standard formats, and I had no trouble downloading photos directly from a digital camera. The competent and easy-to-use photo editor doesn't provide pixel-by-pixel control, but you can use it to adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness and color balance. It will also eliminate flash-induced red eye as well as scratches and blemishes. Other tools allow you to cut out custom or predefined shapes from your photos (hearts, ovals, etc.), while special-effects features will create customized edges, borders and drop shadows.

You can save any project as a Web page or use the new Web

editor to organize an entire Web site. The Web editor is a separate program but uses the same basic Print Shop interface to create pages that combine text, graphics and links to other pages. Don't expect anything fancy here - no frames or tables, for example. The Web-page editors packaged with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are far more sophisticated. But Print Shop is easier to use and comes with a good selection of templates for personal, business, school and organization use, which allow you to create an attractive site quickly.

Better yet, Print Shop Deluxe makes it a snap to publish your pages. It comes with FTP (file transfer protocol) routines that will transfer your pages automatically to your choice of a half-dozen major Internet service providers. You can also set up the program to work with a local provider. This takes a little know-how, but I was able to do it in about three minutes.

For most of us, the real proof of a graphics program is in the printing, and Photo Shop's output was superb on my Hewlett Packard inkjet. In fact, the main drawback to Print Shop is the money you'll wind up spending on ink cartridges. If you let the kids use your computer, make sure they use your printer's economy mode till they're ready to make final copies - otherwise you'll have to take out a new mortgage to pay for ink.

Print Shop's two major competitors are Microsoft Publisher and Mindscape's PrintMaster Platinum. I'll review PrintMaster in a future column, but for now the choice between PrintShop and Microsoft Publisher depends on your needs.

My take is that Publisher is better for complex, text-intensive projects such as newsletters, while Print Shop Deluxe is better suited for graphics work and for use by children. Don't get me wrong - Print Shop is fine for business use, too - it's just a lot easier to use at the outset.

For information, call Broderbund Software at 800-567-2610 or point your Web browser to

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Pub Date: 8/31/98

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