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Chapter 14. GIF Format > Tools Overview

14.5. 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 5 is now available), a full-featured image editing application. However, if you work on a PC, you may want to try Paint Shop Pro, which has some of the same features for a fraction of the cost. You can download a demo at http://www.jasc.com/.

Web Graphics Tools

Two new tools have shown up on the scene that have been designed from the ground up to address the special requirements of Web graphics.

Macromedia Fireworks 1.0 combines a vector drawing application with a bitmap editing program. 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 http://www.macromedia.com/.

Adobe ImageReady 1.0 is a web graphic optimization tool that shares many interface features with its sibling, Photoshop. It provides editable text, optimization previews, interactive palettes, and animation tools, among other convenient features. For more information, see Adobe's site at http://www.adobe.com/.

Both Macromedia Fireworks 1.0 and Adobe ImageReady 1.0 provide GIF creation capabilities along with many fine-tuning controls over bit-depth, dithering, and palette selection, which standard image editing programs lack, and both programs condense GIF files very efficiently. Specific features are discussed in Section 14.8 later in this chapter.

Vector Drawing Programs

With 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, which are typical of images created in vector-based drawing tools, are ideal for GIF compression. Vector drawing tools such as Macromedia Freehand (versions 7 and higher), Adobe Illustrator (version 7), Corel Draw, and Corel Xara offer GIF creation capabilities.


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 HVS ColorGIF from Digital Frontiers (http://www.digfrontiers.com/). Each provides tools that exceed Photoshop's built-in features for fine-tuning GIFs. Specific features are highlighted in Section 14.8 later in this chapter.

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 Ulead 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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