GraphicConverter 4.9.3, by Lemke Software GMBH
Posted: 12-Mar-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Lemke Software Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Alex Levinson Class: PRODUCTIVITY
     
$30   Download

Overview
Have you ever been in a situation where you have a file with an unrecognizable file extension or format (perhaps from another compute platform)? Most often that problem can be solved with GraphicConverter - a veritable "Swiss Army Knife" of image conversion utilities. GraphicConverter is an all-purpose format conversion and image-editing program that can import about 175 different graphic-based formats, edit the image, and export it to one of 75 different output formats. The editing tools are designed for graphic manipulation as well as the ability to use Photoshop-compatible plug-ins. It offers batch conversion capabilities, a slide show window, web-based album creation, and more. It is available for OS X as well as Classic Mac OS starting with System 7.5.

Setup
GraphicConverter is shareware, with a shareware fee of $30 to download (or $35 for the CD). Site licenses are also available. It includes a decent User Guide, and a more extensive manual is available for download for an additional $10.

After downloading the installer for Mac OS X, the install process is simple - drag the application to your Applications folder (or where ever you like). There are no Library components or extensions to be installed.

GraphicConverter is at version 4.9.3 at the time of this review. According to Lemke Software, once upgraded, you won't have to pay for another upgrade for the next 10 years. GraphicConverter is available in the German, English, French, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese localizations.

Key features of GraphicConverter
GraphicConverter imports about 175 graphic file formats and exports about 75 graphic file formats - more file formats than Photoshop. These formats include:
.D, 8BIM (old Photoshop 2.0 format), Acorn Sprite, AFP, ALIAS, AMBER ARR, ANI, ANPA, Apple Preferred, ART, ASCII, BioRad, BLD, BMP, BUF, BUM, CAM, CALS, CEL, CGM, System 7 clip, CLP, CT, CVG, DCX, DESR VFF, DICoM, DJ1000, DL, Doodle, DPX, Dr. Halo, ElectronicImage, EPS/EPSF*, ESM, FAX, FaxSTF, FireViewer PDB, FITS, FLH/FLI/FLC, FPX**, FUJI, GATAN, GEM, GFX, GIF, GRP, HAM, HP-GL/2, ICo/ICN, IFF/LBM, Image ->Finder, ImageLab/PrintTechnic, IMG/XIMG, IMQ, IPLab, ISS, j6i, JBI, JIF, JPEG/JFIF, Additional EXIF information (from digital cameras) is supported, JPEG 2000***, KDC****, KISS CEL, Koala, KoNTRoN, Lotus-PIC, LWF, MacPaint, MAG, MAYA-IFF, MBM, Meteosat 5, Moov, MSP, NGG/NCG, NIF, NoL, oNCoR, Palette, PBM/PGM/PPM, PCD, PCX, PIC (32K), PIC, PICS, PICT, PICT resource, PDB, PGraphicConverter/PGF, PM, PNG, PoRST, Ppat, PSD, QDV, QNT, QTIF, and more. A complete list of supported formats is available on the
GraphicConverter web site.

The most exotic format I ever used was DICOM - the Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine standard that was developed by ACR (American College of Radiology) and NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) for use by manufacturers and users of medical imaging equipment. For the most part I use GraphicConverter for rather mundane conversions such as from TIFF to Photoshop or PNG to JPEG.

GraphicConverter still needs a helper application (such as Ghostscript, EPStoPICT, macps2pdf, or UNIX gs) to open an EPS files. I'd like to see support for EPS vector graphics built into GraphicConverter.

GraphicConverter includes a fairly capable File Browser that allows you to:

  • Sort images (you can drag and drop images between browsers)
  • Navigate folders with images
  • Create fast previews
  • Create icons for common tasks

In many respects, the File Browser is similar to the Apple's iPhoto "Organize" window.

GraphicConverter allows you to perform batch conversions that are capable of fast conversions of complete folders of images file to a selected destination format. It includes:

  • Apply batch function like rotate, resize, etc., during the above process
  • Delete resources before uploading files to a web sever
  • Create a catalog in PICT or HTML format (the HTML version can be directly uploaded with a built-in FTP tool, and you can define all options in the catalog like size, color, etc.)
  • Rename the selected files with various conditions
  • Concatenate images to create one large image (for example for QuickTime VR)
  • Import and export the IPTC information in or from image files

GraphicConverter also supports fast and easy slide show creations, with access by shortcuts or by mouse or with the optional tool icons:

  • Display of complete folders with and without effects
  • Renaming of files
  • Moving of files to predefined folders; this function is great for sorting images
  • Deleting of files
  • Creating of alias files

GraphicConverter allows for easy creation of optimized images for the Internet. The most often used image file formats on the Internet are GIF, JPEG and PNG. GraphicConverter provides you with additional helper dialogs during the save process. The "save as" dialog helps you with the image creation with the following features:

  • Support of the new Apple Navigation Services
  • Selection of the file format by typing the extension
  • Creation of web ready files without resource fork - you can use this files directly for uploading or e-mail
  • Optional creation of LOWSRC files (16 grayscale preview files for the LOWSRC HTML tag)
  • Option button to access the options for the selected file format

GraphicConverter will display images after opening in the standard tool windows (you can change the default tool windows in the preferences).

The different windows associated to each image are:

Tool window
You can access the basic functions like crop, lasso, draw, transparency and much more with the tool window.
Overview
The overview window displays the complete image as a small overview.
Detail
The detail window displays the region under the cursor in enlarged form.
Information
The information window displays the technical details of the window. The EXIF details from digitals cameras are available, too.


GraphicConverter offers a "standard" set of image manipulation filters one would expect to find in an application of this type. All filter dialogs offer a before and after preview area. These filters include:

  • Brightness/Contrast
  • Levels and Auto Levels
  • Change of color depth and color table
  • Mirror
  • Rotate
  • Sharpen
  • Unsharp
  • Gamma correction
  • Median
  • Color permutation, and more...

Most GraphicConverter functions are AppleScript-able. GraphicConverter supports special features of MacOS 8, 9, and OS X, and is optimized for G4 and G5. It supports long file names, proportional scroll bars, transparent drag and drop between windows and finder, just to name a few.

GraphicConverter offers support for new image compression technologies such as LuraWave (LWF). LWF is a wavelet-based image compression algorithm that was specifically designed for image archiving. Data can be stored losslessly at compression rates of 1:3 to 1:5. The quality of the images far exceeds that of JPEG at comparable file sizes, even at higher compression rates. A separately purchased plug-in is required to utilize this feature.

In Use
I view GraphicConverter as merge of two different utilities: a format conversion tool, and an image manipulation tool. As a format conversion tool, GraphicConverter is unbeatable. I would venture to say there is nothing on the marketplace that allows one to read and output as many different graphics formats as GraphicConverter supports. I use GraphicConverter to quickly view files, do batch conversions, quickly browse through folders, sort, organize, and recall images.

As for image manipulation, it is a solid performer. When I need to edit the image beyond the basic Levels/Auto Levels, Brightness/Contrast, and Unsharp Mask, I tend to go to Photoshop Elements. However, if Elements 2.0 did not come "free" with my scanner, I would be hard-pressed to shell out $99 for it (the asking price); whereas, the $30 for GraphicConverter is a great deal (hard to justify the price differential between the two).

There is only a single level of undo in GraphicConverter. If you want to undo more than one step, you have no choice but to reload the last saved version of the picture by selecting File->Revert. The current version will then be closed without saving. A single undo is a serious limitation, especially if you are performing some complex operations.

The stamp tool is a relatively new addition to GraphicConverter, and it works quite differently than a similar capability in Photoshop Elements. In Photoshop Elements, your clones will be applied as if you were working with a copy of the image that has been displaced the distance of your first stroke after Alt-clicking. All subsequent strokes (prior to another Alt-click) will fill in the copied image relative to that first stroke. However, in GraphicConverter Alt-click remembers the image and applies it to the subsequent clicks. Consequently, in GraphicConverter one needs to constantly Alt-click to get the right image. Since it is only possible to undo the very last click, it is very easy to make errors and be forced to revert to the last saved image.

The amount of features in GraphicConverter is overwhelming. You get a lot of bang for your buck. This build-up of features of the years, however, has begun to overburden the user interface with features and fine-tune options. It's becoming increasingly harder to find one's way through its labyrinth of dialog windows and preference settings. A casual user may be totally overwhelmed with all the options in GraphicConverter's preferences. Likewise,
the user interface has a dated look and feel. Long time users may prefer the consistency, but early adopters of OS X may desire something more aqua-ish.

GraphicConverter provides powerful printing capabilities, through catalogs, books, and formatted pages. For instance, one thing it does that iPhoto cannot do is make it easy to define a specific printing size.

Lemke software offers great support for GraphicConverter, much better than many commercial vendors. A minor issue cropped up while I was importing from my digital camera and Thorsten Lemke responded personally to my email and suggested a workaround. Further, GraphicConverter is regularly updated, with new features being added all the time.

Summary
As I gradually shifted to digital photography, the issue of catalog management became a lot more important. When Apple came out with iPhoto, which shares a lot of similarities with GraphicConverter, I started to use it since it seemed to offer a very simple user interface, good integration with the digital camera and simple catalog management. However, with iPhoto's limited ability to edit the image as well as its overly simplistic catalog manager, it began to fall short of my needs. GraphicConverter fills these needs, and more. For image editing, GraphicConverter is much faster to launch than Photoshop and seems to be more responsive in memory constrained hardware configurations. There is a steep learning curve associated with its user interface and vast number of features, but there is a separately priced and rather extensive GraphicConverter manual available that helps.

GraphicConverter is an excellent tool for working with different image formats, supporting just about every graphics format imaginable. It offers good batch processing features that speed up work on multiple images and good integration with internet. The image editing features are not as powerful as that of Photoshop Elements, but for all the features that are included in GraphicConverter, GraphicConverter gives you the best value. The bottom line is that GraphicConverter is a great image utility that keeps getting better and better. It has been a part of my basic tools ever since I started tinkering with the Macs going back to my first Mac II. It offers an unbeatable value in terms of available functions for the price.

Pros

  • Excellent file browser with well integrated email and the ability to make albums
  • Ability to create HTML web pages and upload the whole web site to the server
  • Good image editor with basic filters, effects, and graphic tools
  • Powerful printing features
  • Unbeatable image format converter
  • Good batch processor
  • Excellent viewer with countless slideshow options
  • Great support

Cons

  • Dated user interface
  • No built-in support for EPS handling
  • Single level of undo
  • Cumbersome stamp tool


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice