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April 17, 2007 meeting notes:

Greetings Graphics Group,

In our February newsletter I promised a follow-up to the Corel Snapfire program that comes with Paint Shop Pro Photo X1. Its a trial version called Snapfire Plus SE and it lasts a whopping 15 days after first activating it. After that, it becomes simply Snapfire but occupies the same 200MB(!) amount of space on your hard drive. You can activate the latent Plus version anytime you want to spend the $40 retail to buy it, or you could wait for another free-after-rebate deal that CompUSA seems to have for it every major holiday.

My SNAPFIRE PLUS RATING: 2 out of 10, but recommended if free and you can spare 1/4 GB of space.

I told SIG member Brian Jacobs I was having trouble getting it to work. He said he tried Snapfire a couple of times with his PSPP and called Corel tech support because it would hang, but they were not helpful. I thought we would look at it and let everyone see whether it would act up or if Corel's considerable marketing time spent writing "Fast" and "Easy" with all possible synonyms on their boxes was really true.

Since PSPP has its own built-in organizer, its been hard for me to categorize this software. What do people need to add to photo programs today? A way to view slide shows and especially to allow viewing for relatives with DVD players but no computers. Snapfire Plus takes care of silent slideshows. For TV viewing, mini-adware shows up on the bottom left screen in that "unused space" under the Snapfire toolbar. It advertises their new DVD-for-TV-slide-show friendly "Snapfire DVD Maker", an additional $10, 53MB add-on.

Wanna learn more about it? I went to Corel's homepage under By Solution and clicked on "DVD and Video Playback". I was sent to their Intervideo multimedia page (another company just acquired--scary) with no mention of Snapfire. Funny, since the now-Vista-friendly upgrade to Snapfire™ calls itself, "breakthrough digital photo and video enhancement and sharing software." At this writing I can find nothing on their website about DVD Maker. So to learn more I downloaded it from the Snapfire interface advertising it.

At the Apr. 16 meeting we first tried the regular Snapfire Plus that worked well with no music possible in the slideshow mode. I didn't want to make the meeting all about my photos, but we spent some time with them as you would at home. I was not impressed with the blurry thumbnails that did not improve with large, two-across viewing. What if a photo were out of focus? I would not want to use it in the slideshow. But viewing in the full-size mode prevented me from adding it to the slideshow group. We all began to feel like Beta testers after getting a few into the slideshow thumbnail group only to have the scrollbar zip back to the 1st photo with every photo added. I had clicked on the scroll bar up to 7 times at home to get a new photo in correct order. After having to view all photos in the full-size mode, close that view, look for the highlighted photo I just viewed (they often look too similar as thumbnails), everyone could see we did not have "easy" software to work with.

The reward of the 30+ photos I picked out was a mostly rough-transition preview of an impressive slideshow. It almost put the 2 days prior Blue Angels show in animation. Since I had yet to save or even knew how to save our work as that was not intuitive, Patty and Ken promised the saved version on the hard drive would indeed have smooth transitions. Our attempt at using a much smaller group of photos for the "DVD Maker" with an MP3 song I picked out completely locked up the program.

So why did I go ahead when it failed at home too? We want this to work for our DigiCam SIG slide presentations! And Snapfire Plus does work without DVD Maker and the fancy music it adds. Just plan on frustration as described above. I don't recommend any of the cheesy portrait enhancements they include. The whole SIG would be insulted! I do recommend you get it if you can find it free after rebate(s). And hopefully, Corel will make it easy and fast to use with upgrades. I will also send this review to their marketing dept. I can imagine the bruxism.

Come join us the third Monday of every month at 7pm in the Retama Room of the Central Library. This month's article is dedicated to the family of Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis of Pittsfield, Mass. His parents were in the audience when Blue Angel 6 went down Apr. 21 in the very next air show held in S. Carolina. Creating memories is partly why we strive for excellence in our graphics endeavors.

God bless,
Bruce Switalla


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