19.5. Tools Overview
GIFs can be created with a wide variety of
graphics programs and utilities.
- Image-editing software
There are many tools available for creating GIF files. The
professional industry standard remains Adobe Photoshop (Version 6 is available
as of this writing), a full-featured image-editing application (see
http://www.adobe.com for more
information). However, if you work on a PC, you may want to try
Shop Pro, which has some of the same features at a lower cost. You
can download a demo at http://www.jasc.com.
- Web graphics tools
Two tools, Adobe ImageReady and Macromedia Fireworks, have been
designed from the ground up to address the special requirements of
Web graphics. In addition to providing superior optimization features
for web delivery, they also offer web design shortcuts, such as
building imagemaps, slicing images into sections (to be held together
by a table), animation, and adding rollover effects.
ImageReady comes bundled with Photoshop Version 5.5 and higher. It
provides advanced optimization features, optimization previews,
interactive palettes, and all of the functions listed previously. It
has a similar interface to Photoshop, and it is easy to bounce back
and forth between the two.
Fireworks combines a vector-drawing application with a bitmap editor.
Among its many impressive features are editable text,
"live" effects that can be edited at any time,
side-by-side export previews, animation features, rollover buttons,
advanced image-slicing tools, and much more. It alleviates the need
to switch between drawing programs, bitmap programs, and specialized
web utilities. For more information, see Macromedia's site at
Both Fireworks and ImageReady provide GIF creation capabilities along
with many fine-tuning controls over bit depth, dithering, and palette
selection, that many standard image editing programs lack. Both
programs condense GIF files very efficiently.
- Vector-drawing programs
the growing demand for web graphics, many vector-based drawing
applications now offer the ability to save bitmapped GIF files
without exporting the files and opening them in a program such as
Photoshop (a big time saver). In addition, simple graphics with solid
fills, typical of images created in vector-based drawing tools, are
ideal for GIF compression. Vector-drawing tools such as Macromedia
Freehand (Version 7 and higher), Adobe Illustrator (Version 7 and
higher), Corel Draw, and Corel Xara offer basic GIF creation
capabilities. They are not as effective at optimizing file sizes as
web graphics tools.
There are also a host of third-party plug-ins that can enhance the
functionality of Photoshop and other software that supports Photoshop
plug-ins. The most notable of these are PhotoGIF
from BoxTop Software (http://www.boxtopsoft.com) and
ColorGIF from Digital Frontiers (http://www.digfrontiers.com). Each provides
tools that exceed Photoshop's built-in features for fine-tuning
- Shareware utilities
In addition, there are dozens of utilities for both Mac and PC that
perform simple and specialized tasks. These utilities can be
downloaded for free and can be registered for a very modest fee. One
example is GifConverter, which will convert most
existing graphic formats into GIF and also allows you to add
interlacing. Another is
GifSmartsaver, a very nice standalone GIF optimization utility.
Shareware.com is a valuable resource for finding such utilities
(search for "gif " at http://www.shareware.com).
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