iWatermark, by Script Software
Posted: 29-May-2007

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Script Software Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Diane Love Class: UTILITY
     
$20   Download

Overview
You wander into Hallmark and discover a greetings card made with your original photo! How cool is that? Maybe you'd be thrilled that your artwork was finally getting noticed. BUT if your image had been downloaded from your website without your permission and you were seeing none of the profit, it would be a different story.

As electronic products increasingly replace their real world equivalents, it becomes ever more important to defend the content you create against this kind of theft - but how do you do that without preventing anyone from seeing it?

The answer for 2-dimensional images is known as digital watermarking - and we learn on the
iWatermark website that this comes in two varieties - visible and invisible. The producers of iWatermark have taken the visible approach, since they believe that invisible methods either increase file size or reduce image quality.

iWatermark's mission in life is to stamp your name on your images to prevent unauthorized use and yet without destroying their beauty. It aims to do this with maximum drag and drop efficiency and then add a clutch of other image management functions such as resizing, format conversion, thumbnails and IPTC data management.

Installation
Installation was a breeze - download the disk image, drag the icon to the short cut for your applications folder and you're done. However, having entered the license code on my admin account, I had to do so again on my user account.

Review hardware: 2.33 GHZ iMac 2GB memory.

In Use
Here is what you see when you first open iWatermark:


iWatermark Main Interface


It all looks very inviting: setting up folders for input and output is equally easy using drag and drop or clicking to select from the usual file selector; check "Watermark the images"; use the "Edit..." button to set up the watermark and then hit "Start processing".

However, setting up the watermark was a little harder to understand:


Choosing an Example Watermark

You have to both check the checkbox beside a watermark and select the watermark in the left hand list before you see it applied to the photo. The first two example watermarks appear to be empty so this has no effect until you try the third example onwards. There is a Use button at the bottom of the list, which allows you to specify that this watermark is the active one; however there is also a capability to select this from the main window. Altogether watermark selection seemed less streamlined than it could have been.

Although the example watermarks worked well, the first time I tried to set up my own watermark, the text was so huge that only parts of letters appeared on the image. I struggled to find a combination of settings that would create a visible watermark yet not spoil the image.

Reluctantly deciding to read the manual, I looked around in the iWatermark folder and didn't find one. The main iWatermark window is so focused that you tend to completely forget about the menu bar at the top of the screen. As a last resort I looked up there and selected the Help menu. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find not the usual fine grained explanations of particular features but rather a simple set of tutorials for each of the main tasks.

The task description for "Watermark my images" advised setting the text as large as possible but then setting scaling to 90% which ties it to the image size so that it always fits each image. I also found recommendations for setting up a tasteful, clear, embossed watermark instead of the monstrous black text I had started with. So, if those are the right settings to use, why do I have to pick them all myself? They should be the defaults.

Another point of confusion came after having set up the watermark. It appears obvious that you have to click the checkmark or hit "Use" at the bottom of the list of watermarks. You suspect that you haven't really saved the changes you have made to the watermark at this point, but there's no save button. If you close the window, you get a popup warning that you haven't saved the watermark; and now you at least have a save button. Once more, there is a save option is in the top menu bar, but since everything else is in the Watermark Editor, this is quite counterintuitive.

Actually applying the watermarks to a handful of photos was all over in an eyeblink, with impressive results. The following photo shows an unobtrusive transparent embossed watermark, but different combinations of colors, transparency and drop shadow can also be used along with brass, silver and gold plaque effects. You are also able to define where the watermark will appear and set text rotation in degrees.


An Unobtrusive Transparent Watermark

I discovered that using the unusually leggy Zapfino font did not work at all - only the bottoms of the letters appeared on the photo.

One more useful feature when watermarking is to set up a filter so that only some of the photos in the input folder get watermarked. For example, I set up a folder containing some of my photos and some of my dad's paintings. The filter dialog was able to separate my photos from his paintings based on naming conventions or file size and allow me to watermark them separately.


Filtering Images

As well as working with folders and files, iWatermark can take input from an album in your iPhoto library and write to your iDisk. However, iWatermark seems unable to find the current iPhoto library as defined by iPhoto Library Manager; instead it simply looks in your Pictures folder for a properly named iPhoto Library no matter which one you are actually using with iPhoto.

Image Management
iWatermark does an excellent job of resizing photos to fit maximum dimensions while retaining their original aspect ratio. Although this is something iPhoto is also good at, the iWatermark method is convenient. For example, let's say you have a collection of photos of different sizes and file formats and you want to make a web photo gallery with clickable thumbnails linked to larger images. Once set up, iWatermark can do the following to a folder of images with one mouseclick:

  1. watermark the images
  2. convert the images to the your selected format
  3. size the images to fit your maximum outer dimensions and save them in a new folder
  4. create thumbnails sized to your requirements and save those in another folder
  5. save a secret backup of the originals in your library


Resizing Images


Creating Thumbnails

File formats supported are:

  • Read - JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD (if you have Quicktime installed), PICT (Mac version only), BMP
  • Write - JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PICT (Mac version only), (BMP in Windows version only)

In this day and age, it's a little disappointing not to see RAW in the list, however the profusion of RAW file formats in use would make this a lot of work for a $20 shareware application.

Metadata
Metadata is information about your image which is stored in the image file, and it comes in various flavors - EXIF, IPTC and Mac OS. EXIF data is created by the camera and, depending on the model, stores information about the exposure. IPTC data is created by applications to store information about the photographer - name, address, copyright, etc.

iWatermark filters can search keywords from IPTC, EXIF and Spotlight (Mac only) and comments from IPTC, EXIF, JPEG and Mac Finder, Spotlight and iPhoto.

iWatermark can also add IPTC data to your images either singly or in a batch; this will then be visible in other IPTC supporting applications such as Photoshop.


Editing IPTC Metadata


Automatic processing
iWatermark can work automatically using one of two methods - one optimized for personal use and the other for use on a server.


Automatic Processing Options

Quirks
For the most part, iWatermark was slick to use. I did encounter some hanging when using the link to iPhoto with an unusually large file (6016x7680 pixels, 4.2MB JPEG). iWatermark didn't seem to be able to get it from iPhoto, watermark it, scale it down and send it to the iDisk all in one go. Later, iWatermark also produced a distorted blurred area rather than the watermark on this image.

The hanging symptom was a spiralling blue and white horizontal progress bar and a failure to complete the task. Amazingly, even while this was going on, iWatermark never stopped responding to user inputs and always obeyed a command to quit.

Occasionally iWatermark warns you that the output jpeg quality has been set to zero and recommends you to increase it. This warning was generated for resized images but not for thumbs. It's puzzling that zero quality should be an available option never mind the default, since a zero quality jpeg is is unrecognizable.

Summary
Script Software's iWatermark is a keenly priced application which not only watermarks your digital images but also lets you conveniently resize your images, convert formats, create thumbnails and batch change IPTC metadata in your images. It is in the main well-designed, streamlined and responsive, although a couple of usability bugs were encountered. I recommend iWatermark if you need to protect the copyright of digital images that you are publishing electronically; if you buy it for watermarking, you may also find it becomes your favorite way to resize files and convert file formats.

Pros

  • Inexepensive
  • Streamlined
  • Batch processing features
  • Image resize and thumbnails
  • Secret backups
  • Task oriented help

Cons

  • Minor user interface quirks
  • No RAW conversion
  • Seems unable to find iPhoto library with non standard name and location (as created by iPhoto Library Manager)
  • Problems encountered with large files


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice