Thursday, November 11, 2010

Printing Series: Qimage Ultimate v2011.103 Review

*** Visit the bottom of this review for an exclusive discount offer ***

Generally speaking in life I live by the philosophy of never settling for anything less than the best as anything less will just lead to frustration and remorse. The consequence of this philosophy is that the best many times is also the most expensive choice which means in the real world it is either get the best or do without. I hate the latter choice, as I’m sure many of you do as well, so when life offers a surprise and offers something just as good I’m a happy dude.

What does all of this have to do with Qimage Ultimate by ddisoftware? Well in this case, there’s the problem of image layout and a variety of expensive products that offer a solution – and then there’s this inexpensive product called Qimage Ultimate that does it better than its more expensive brethren. Prepare to be amazed by the cheapest product being one of the most amazing products you’ve seen in quite some time.

What does Qimage do?

The most valuable feature of Qimage to me is its powerful layout engine as it does what computer software should do – it allows you to add the files you want to print to the page and it does an intelligent layout exactly the way you want it. Now if you’ve done image layout before you have to be skeptical about that last statement because everything I’ve ever used has been frustrating because they require a lot of human interaction whereas a smart developer could write code to try a bunch of options and quickly make a decision for a new layout without ever asking the user for input. Simply put the later is what Qimage does and it does it very, very well.

Here’s an example of a nice layout it performed after I quickly added 5 images all of the same size onto a letter size sheet of paper:


Layout multiple images as fast as you can click a mouse – no thinking required!

You’ll notice in the image above I’ve also put spaces around the images via a simple list selection, but I could have just as easily chosen the option to not have gaps – as well as many other options. In short, they have thought of everything to create exactly what I want quickly and easily. For example, here’s an example where I’ve used different images and different sizes and voila – it just figures it out and even added crop marks at my request:


Complex layouts (this wasn’t a template) with 6 different image sizes in seconds!!!!
This thing is freakin awesome!

Two words – WOO HOO!!!! When I think of the hours I’ve wasted doing these simple tasks in so many programs including Lightroom I wonder where this program has been all my life?!!!

So this app looks like shareware, is it really any good?

I was so happy with Qimage that I decided to show it to one of my friends to give him a demo of how cool it is, but his first impression was the same as mine – is this just some shareware crap or is it really any good? Well to answer that, let me first tell you how I found out about it in the first place. When I was working on my Epson printing series I was researching RIP’s and Qimage came up as favorite choice by at least one Epson engineer. When I looked at the web site and read about it I thought huh? Could this be true? But then I looked at the web site counter and saw over 2 million hits and I started to think – there’s probably something to this app so I should probably give it a try. It took me several months to give it a serious look, but when I did it was kinda like that movie Ratattouie – fireworks went off and it reminded me of my youth when I first discovered apps like pkzip and GIF Viewer – simple, but fantastic! This is how I’d sum up Qimage as I was able to quickly able to do what I want, print and move on. This is what computers are supposed to do – speed up productivity!

Features

Click here to learn more about the features that this product offers, but here are a few screen shots of some features that grabbed my attention:

Adding images for a specific size is fast – just click on the image and choose the size you want from the dialog shown above.

image

Tons of file support – even Raw! – This app supports a surprisingly large number of file formats including a long list of RAW file types.

This is no toy – There is a dizzying array of choices in Qimage, and this Interpolation dialog is just one of them. Fortunately most have a restore defaults for those of you who like to tinker but don’t know what you are doing (i.e., me <g>) and for those who do there’s some powerful options for controlling the quality of your resampled image here.

Yes, Martha it does proper color management too! – All the options you’d expect to see for a proper color managed solution are available in this easy to use dialog.

Raw Power – There’s some serious raw support in this app, and its much of the basic things you’d find in Adobe Camera Raw show above and below. Click here for a list of supported RAW files/cameras.

Camera Raw Image Editor – If you are really flat busted you might find this product to be your one stop shop for image editing, cataloging, HDR (see examples) and printing! This thing can do everything it seems, and best of all if you have a simple workflow (i.e., school portrait photographer with 100’s of shots in the same conditions) you can automate the processing of all of your work for fast raw to print work! This app even supports optional camera profiles to help aid in high quality raw file developing! I tried the profile for the 5D Mark II and liked it better than Adobe Camera Raw, but it wasn’t as good as Canon’s DPP.

Crop Wizard – I thought this was going to be stupid, but now I’m wishing Lightroom had it! This sweet little dialog will do an intelligent crop based on your specifications and it seems to work surprisingly well. This is but one of the many hidden gems in this app!

But I already own a great RIP, why should I care about this app?

I’ll admit that I love ColorByte ImagePrint, so at first I thought – wow this layout stuff is great, but I want to do my prints in ImagePrint so I probably can’t use this. I’m pleased to say that this product which I should probably be called Qimage Swiss Army Knife Edition has thought of this scenario and has a solution! What this lovely software will do for you is allow you to build a complex layout (as shown at the beginning of the article) and then let you save that out to a file with a variety of flexible save options:

I can then print that file in my favorite RIP software or even in Photoshop if I wanted, so I get all of the benefits of this spectacularly good layout engine yet I can print using the same high quality workflow I’m accustomed to – booyeah!!! (fist pumping)

What this really means is that you are free to use all the wonderful features of this app and then just ship the results over to your favorite printing software for the final job. Now Qimage will do a great job if you want to print directly from it, but for those who have invested in products like ImagePrint for its rich database of paper profiles, you now have something that is much easier to use than ImagePrint’s layout templates but you can still get great results from it as the excellent RIP that it is.

Conclusion

Excuse me for a moment, I’m finishing my bowl of crow…

I’ve gotta say this app took me by surprise because I judged a book by its cover and I’m used to a little more fit and finish than it seems Qimage offers – at first glance. The truth is that this app has tons of fit and finish and is really quite good. It almost seems that every feature request that someone has made in its forums has become a feature in the product. It literally has become like an airplane cockpit where you can sit and find new features all day long, but at the same time they’ve managed to pull of the miracle of making the base functionality so easy that you don’t even need to look at a manual – just click around and you’ll figure it out in about 10 minutes or less.

This app rocks and it reminds me of the kind of cool stuff we used to see when only geeks were using Windows and they were all building utilities to automate nearly everything. This app has that feel, but the advantage is that it does a lot of things other software expects you to do – but this wonderful app just does it for you. It’s as if it can read minds!

One other point I should mention is that the print quality from this product is very good as it appears to be doing some voodoo under the hood to make the most of what the Epson printer driver does, so if you already have a good paper profile then you should be happy with the print results. This is especially important for Lightroom users as I’d say you’d be better off using Qimage over Lightroom when printing. I still believe ImagePrint offers better results overall (especially thanks to its killer paper profiles), but given the price differential some may argue that this is “good enough” (and DDISoftware thinks it is >= but we agreed to disagree). When printing to my Canon printer it did

Even at its full price of a whopping $89.95 (as of 11/10/2010 when this was written), Qimage Ultimate is a steal! I not only recommend it, but I’ll go so far to say that if you own a printer you’d be a fool not to buy this software! It’s the best money you can spend because you’ll save yourself hours by not having to fight to get your images laid out for that quick print job (i.e., in-laws are at the house and they want pics of the grandkids – just hours before their flight leaves).

Don’t believe me? Check out the free 14 day trial, and really click on every menu options and test every feature you can – you’ll be very surprised by what they’ve managed to stuff in this app!

Special Offer

ddisoftware qimage discount

I’m almost embarrassed to provide a special offer because this app is so inexpensive, but to help those pinching every penny in this tough economy, I’m pleased to announce that you can save over 10% when you use this link which is EXCLUSIVE to ronmartblog.com readers! You aren’t going to find a deal like this anywhere else on the web, and it may be for a limited time so if you are interested act while this offer is in effect!

Disclosure

I was given a free copy of Qimage Ultimate for the purpose of reviewing this product and I may get a commission if you make select purchases through this article. Thanks for supporting the blog by purchasing using the links provided!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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8 comments:

Cat said...

Windows only. No thanks.

Ron Martinsen said...

Cat,

Have u heard of Fusion or Parallels? Windows 7 runs great on my Mac with them.

Not Me said...

I've been using QImage for years. I'm not a pro, but a "serious" amateur. I like the comment about QImage being the "swiss army knife" of RIPs. So true, as there are tons more features in the software than the review covered. I take advantage of the ability to save jobs, layouts and settings whenever I can. But when I was first learning the software, I had no idea that was possible. I think it was in the forums where I learned that all previous print jobs are saved to an automated log. So it was simple to back and recall an old print job. Saved the day. I will respectfully disagree with one point in the review however. I feel the software was difficult to learn, as the author likes to do things "his way" quite often. This has resulted in a lot controls, sliders, buttons etc not working as you would expect. Plus, a lot of the features seem to be under documented, so go unused (by me). The forums are must however. And the folks there are very helpful (as is the software author).

CrimGuy said...

Mac Users: Why would a small software company invest in developing a version for users which comprise less than 15% of market share? PCs are #1 for a reason.

digitalwise said...

This software has put me onto the path in making my small business larger. Its layout and colour correction abilities along with various sharpening options make this a darn fine program.

I use Corel Painter 11 along with Photoshop CS5 for processing of images. I needed a RIP tool for my Epson 9890 44" Wide Format Printer.

A similar package with far less features costs around $500+. Whilst not strictly RIP software it has so much to offer.

I keyed in Google "RIP software under $100" and to my surprise found this software. Great value and does more then then I need.

Anonymous said...

Qimage is so useful that it is worth whatever contortions you have to use to get it to work on Mac and Linux. I know users who have a windows machine just so they can use Qimage in their all Mac shop.

Anonymous said...

I may be the odd one out, but I dont like it. Its fussy, difficult to use and STILL requires all the same oem printer driver settings that you use when direct printing from any picture or photo editor.
Its a great app if you need to chuck lots of picture files on a single page ??? but who does.
I want a good layout program with simple options, that allow me to position a single image and set the page size (and the paper cut point ) on the fly, without needing to also set my printers own driver options.

Ron Martinsen said...

Anonymous,

You can create a preset for your printer driver so that it's set it once and forget it.

Its a great app if you need to chuck lots of picture files on a single page
Yes, that's what I primarily use it for - and its not just for a single page but it will do multiple pages too.

Just got back from vacation and have 100 pictures that your wife wants you to print on the big printer? It's perfect for that - you'd die of old age before you got Lightroom to do that as efficiently as QImage does it.

I want a good layout program with simple options, that allow me to position a single image and set the page size (and the paper cut point ) on the fly, without needing to also set my printers own driver options.

You can do that here on the cheap, but if you want ultimately control and want a true RIP that bypasses the OEM driver then pony up the big bucks for ImagePrint (now in version 9 which is very good - I still need to update the blog).

Here's my ImagePrint review:

http://www.ronmartblog.com/2010/10/review-colorbyte-imageprint-8.html