Tuesday, November 18, 2008

REVIEW: onOne Software's Photoframe 4.0 Professional Edition


Truth be told, I wasn't very impressed with version 3.x of this product. I felt the UI was way too cumbersome, the frames were so cheesy that I couldn't understand how any real photographer would use them, and time spent using the product didn't justify the output. As a result, I just never really used this product. In fact, onOne Software even contacted me after my review and asked me to share what it was I didn't like about the product, and I didn't hold back. I explained how I thought the frames were cheesy, the user-interface sucked, and the results were something I'd be embarrassed to have my name associated with. They said they heard my feedback loud and clear and felt they had an answer to my complaints. With the 4.0 release, I can honestly say that they were right. They've come up with something that I'd actually use and I'm excited about this cool new product.


What's Changed

Well to avoid sounding like a press release as I had in a previous post, I'll just list what I've observed the best new features are of this product:

  1. All-new UI with a usable way to view frames.  One of the things I hated about the previous release was that I had to scroll through a bunch of acid burn frames with the only differences being something minor like color. The worst part was that there was no live preview, so it was a hassle to see what the frame looked like on my frame - no more. Now all frames are automatically shown in a preview area with resizable thumbnails and a mechanism for filtering or ranking what is shown. The short story is that you can now find good frames fast and instantly see what they look like - as you would expect a program like this to do!
  2. Better Quality Frames - Try as I did, I just couldn't find frames in the previous release that I'd actually use on my photos. In fact, there's only one occasion where I've ever used one and that was on this photo where I was trying to hide a defect in the image and this preset was the only thing I could tolerate.
  3. Great Layer Support - This stuff works as you would expect where the frame is a layer that can be turned on and off.
  4. Improved Performance - I've found the performance of this release to be quite usable compared to its predecessor.
  5. Layouts - These are fantastic and shown here in the first two frame images I am using. They are basically pre-build composite frames that are really cool, but they are currently only in the Wedding and Senior Portraits groups, but this is where I see the future being very bright for this product. These are things I'd really use!


So What's it Really Like Ron?

The new user experience is great because you are immediately shown a preview window of all of the frames in thumbnails and you can filter down the noise really quickly by typing in keywords or selecting groups. This is a really great design, but to make it even better they've added the ability to rank your frames. This is a nice touch, so the productivity of this version goes WAY up.

Once you start working with your image and frames the sky is the limit and it is all easy to understand since it uses the same layers concept as Photoshop. The tools are a little quirky in places still (i.e., my copy wouldn't allow me to reduce the size of my image using the slider, so I had to type manual figures or do a ALT+Move to reduce the image) and it definitely works better with smaller files, but overall these are  little bugs I suspect which will be addressed in the first update. The bottom line here is that after you get used to what frames are available and you know what you are looking for, it doesn't take long to get great results fast.

Another great thing they do in all onOne products is include a great library of video tutorials, and this version is no different. As a result you can quickly see how to do any task in the product with a nice real world demo.


But wait, there's more...

The problem with most frame software is that you get tired of the frame choices pretty quick, so the only solution to this problem is to include a ton in the product. This of course makes it hard to know what you have available, so less is more. onOne heard me loud and clear on this one and they've done the best compromise by only including the better frames and making additional frames available online so that you can get fresh frames in the future. I can see this catching on with the community and some really great frames for Christmas, etc... coming out. I love this approach and I think it will really make this product more useful over a longer period of time.

In addition to the cool layouts, they've included some really cool backgrounds like brick, fabrics, etc... (some of which were used in the layouts) as well as the most awesome set of film frames I've seen to date. There's some really good stuff in the box here, so I'm very excited about using these frames on upcoming projects.


With great power comes great complexity, so there's plenty more here that I need to learn. However, I'm happy to see that even without much knowledge I can get some very cool results in a hurry. I like PhotoFrame 4.0 quite a bit and I highly recommend it for those who are looking for something more than just the simple cheesy frame templates we find on the web all of the time. This is a cool product with some exciting stuff to come as the community embraces it and starts to build some great frames for the holiday season.

Don't forget that if you use coupon code RMART20 you can save 10% off when you buy directly from onOne Software. You can also try out a free demo  and watch some cool videos of this baby in action so  you too can see just how cool this stuff really is.

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