PMJPEG v1.74- by Tim Walker

It was inevitable that the advent of the GUI would tilt computing heavily towards the handling of images. Unfortunately it's only recently that image file formats have standardised, and even now an application for converting and processing images is as important for a software collection as, say, an archiving utility. In the days of DOS the favourite was Graphics Workshop (remember that?), whilst most Windows users will have a copy of Paint Shop Pro lurking on the hard disk somewhere. After all, is there a GUI user who hasn't customised their own wallpaper at one time?

As a convert from Windows 3.1, I'd always thought of Paint Shop Pro (PSP) as a "yardstick", by which similar apps would have to measure up. PMJPEG is one of a number of OS/2 PM-based apps which can meet that need. It's a port from a Windows version (WinJPEG), but a 32-bit program nonetheless. I tried out v1.63 in the past and found it to be a capable enough application, though it's now up to v1.74. The "what's new" file reveals mostly bug fixes since v1.63, so I plonked PMJPEG on the hard drive and got testing.

A little background

I Recently upgraded my PC from an 8Mb 486DX2-50 to a 16Mb P75. I mention this not to rub it in (honest), but to give a background to my experiences with PMJPEG. I used to run v1.63 on the former, a real dead dog machine for running OS/2 with more than two apps at a time, and PMJPEG never caused any performance hit in itself. I think owners of lower-spec PCs will appreciate the way PMJPEG gets on with its job without gobbling up those valuable system resources--except, of course, if you insist on loading large true-colour JPEGs.

Under the hood

So, what can you do with PMJPEG? For a start, it makes a very capable image viewer, able to handle JPEG, GIF, PCX, TGA, IFF, TIFF, BMP (OS/2 and Windows) and PPM files at almost any colour depth. One could argue that PSP can recognise more formats, but the comparison is unfair--PSP costs over twice the registration for PMJPEG, and besides, the above formats constitute the vast majority you're likely to find "in the field".

With PMJPEG only one image can be opened at once; however, most users would only work on one at a time anyway, so again this isn't a serious drawback. You can view the image full-screen, size it to the window and zoom in and out (GIF 5.2k), and although I'd appreciate a little more flexibility with the latter feature, as an image viewer PMJPEG has practically every feature the average user like me could wish for.

So, what if you want to turn that great JPEG picture of Babylon 5 into OS/2 wallpaper? (Well, I've done it before.) Yes, PMJPEG can make that dream reality. We all know the procedure: resize the image, reduce the colour depth and save it as a BMP file. This program does just that, with one strange variation from the norm. With most image processing apps, you reduce the colour depth with a specific menu option. Here, you need to set the depth you want to end up with before you open the image (i.e. set PMJPEG to 256 colours, then open your picture. I wouldn't mind this approach, except the help file didn't make it clear this was the procedure.

Other manipulation effects include HSV (GIF 34k) (hue, saturation and brightness), colour balance, contrast, gamma correction, greyscale and negative, and you can flip, rotate and resize an image. All the regular stuff. If it's really fancy effects you seek, you're in the wrong price bracket but I would consider there to be enough toys here for all but the most gadget-obsessed picture person. Besides, how many folk apply motion blur and solarisation to their wallpaper?

Also included are a capable slideshow ability (GIF 11.5k) if you should want to use it and a fairly good screen capture feature. The latter can capture all or just the interior of a window, the whole desktop or an area of the desktop. This should be adequate for most casual users' needs.

The price of inexpensive software

One serious criticism I have of the editing features in PMJPEG is a lack (or apparent lack) of an Undo function. It's usually customary to put this option in the Edit... menu of an application, but select the menu here and... nope, no cigar. Although it's possible to reverse certain operations by doing them again (e.g. negative, flip, rotate), and you can always reload the old image, none are a substitute for a good Undo feature. It doesn't even need to be a multilevel one--just enough to put right that last terrible resize would do me. Maybe it's lurking somewhere and I haven't found it; if that's so, all the more reason to make it more obvious in version 1.75.

Another shortcoming is the inability for fine control over the cumbersome colour reduction process described above. For example, when reducing colours in an image there is no option for the resulting image to remain undithered. If you are reducing the number of colours to reduce file sizes in a GIF, this will defeat the purpose as badly dithered GIFS with few colours will probably be as large as non-dithered GIFS with many colours. Other shareware and commercial OS/2 graphics programs offer this option.

The program could also benefit from some context sensitive help sprinkled throughout the various dialogs. Often a user will open a dialog such as "Batch Compression..." and with no help button in the dialog, it may not be immediately apparent what the next step to take is.

But in the end...

If you are after an OS/2 image viewer and processor you could spend a much worse $20 than by registering PMJPEG. Granted, it's not a "show-off-at-parties" app (though the multitasking's pretty impressive), and a bulging button-bar is notably absent. But who cares? PMJPEG is quick, easy on memory, highly capable, reasonably priced, and should suit all but the most demanding wallpaper creator.
 * PMJPEG v1.74
by PVS
Registration: US$20
Tim Walker is based near London, and works in electronic media (on-line and CD-ROM) for a major publisher of journals. He uses OS/2 at home, and hopes to have his own home page up before long.

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