TweetFollow Us on Twitter

BeOS Graphics Tool

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 4
Column Tag: Tools of the Trade

e-Picture: A BeOS Graphics Tool to Get e-Cited About

by Bill von Hagen

e-Picture is a software package for designing web graphics whose roots lie in the amazing BeOS, a fast, elegant operating system and GUI that are designed from the ground up for true multi-processing, extensive multi-media support, and networking. The BeOS has an advantage over many other modern operating systems in that it is relatively new and was designed for today's graphics-intense, network aware world - it has no compatibility baggage to carry around. As most Mac fans know, Apple toyed with the idea of buying Be, Inc. in order to use the BeOS as the groundwork for a new Macintosh OS, before making the now-legendary decision to go with the more standard mach kernel provided by NeXTStep. That's all water under the PCI Bridge now. The BeOS is alive, well, and growing in popularity on its own - and the power of software like e-Picture on its native OS helps illustrate why.

Starting e-Picture on the BeOS displays a bewildering collection of different windows, as shown in Figure 1, surpassing even the default behavior of Quark Xpress and Adobe PhotoShop on the Mac. The default windows displayed by e-Picture are its New Document window, tools palette, an Inspector window, and separate Animations, Layers, and Objects windows. Once you're running e-Picture, you can open and close windows by selecting or deselecting them from e-Picture's Windows menu. However, a central preferences panel that lets you set which windows are displayed by default with a new graphic would be a welcome addition to future BeOS releases of e-Picture.


Figure 1.The e-Picture Startup Screen.

One especially nice feature of e-Picture is that it provides you with templates for creating Web graphics in the most popular shapes and sizes. If you're new to the commercial Web graphics biz, you may not know that most Web sites have fairly strict standards for the graphics they use. Some of these standards are imposed to guarantee that the graphics load quickly, while others are for general aesthetic or page layout and design reasons. e-Picture comes with templates for a standard web banner (468 by 60 pixels), small web banner (234 by 36), long web banner (512 by 60), square web banner (100 by 100), square web button (32 by 32), proportional wallpaper (130 by 120), and maximum graphic for a small monitor (610 by 300). You can also easily add your own templates, but these standard shapes and sizes make it easy for you to get started producing professional graphical in standard, officially approved, sizes.

The easiest way to learn how to use a tool is usually to look at some examples or work through tutorials. The folks at BeatWare provide several useful tutorials that are installed with e-Picture (in the directory "/boot/apps/BeatWare/e-Picture/Examples" by default) and also duplicate these on their Web site. This review uses the shopping and search banner located in the "professional/shop.html" subdirectory for screen shots and to illustrate various features.

You'd expect to be able to start a modern graphics app by double clicking on a file that it had created, but that didn't work for me. Clicking on the file "shop.ep" in the "professional" folder started e-Picture but didn't open the graphic I'd clicked on. Strike one. I then clicked "Create" to open a blank graphics file and tried dragging "shop.ep" into it, but received a message that the file couldn't be opened because it was in an unknown file format. Yikes - strike two! I then clicked "Open" and browsed for the file, selected it, and was able to open it with no problems. Success, at last...

Well, almost no problems. The BeOS comes with a default set of TrueType fonts, which unfortunately don't include the ones used in the example I chose. After clicking through an irritating series of "No font FOO found on your computer. Replacing it with BAR" messages, I could finally view the sample graphic. In e-Picture's defense, it did an excellent job of font substitution, but it was surprising that their example didn't use the default fonts included with the BeOS. It was easy enough to permanently eliminate these messages by copying the correct TrueType fonts from any of my Windows boxes into the main BeOS fonts folder (/boot/beos/etc/fonts/ttfonts). (e-Picture didn't find the fonts, even after rescanning, when I copied them into my machine-specific fonts directory /boot/home/config/fonts/ttfonts.) At any rate, I'd rather have avoided this whole confidence-shaker in an example provided with the software.

I'm perfectly happy to overlook a few speedbumps on the road to powerful solutions to my problems, and concerns about opening files, missing fonts, and incomplete search paths gradually vanished once I successfully opened the "shop.ep" graphic and began to experiment. e-Picture opens graphics in its Document window, and fills in the contents of the other windows based on the currently-selected contents of the Document window. This quickly revealed the power provided by each of the attendant e-Picture windows. The Inspector window is a context-sensitive window that lets you examine and edit the properties of selected objects in the Document window, where the graphics "document" you are working on is displayed, as shown in Figure 2. Selecting a text object displays the Text Tool Inspector in the Inspector window, in which you can modify the font, horizontal and vertical size, spacing, font color, and quickly apply effects like color gradients across the selected item. You can select objects from either the Document window or the Objects window, the latter only if you know the identifier assigned to the desired component of the graphic you're working on.


Figure 2.The Text Inspector Window.

e-Picture gives you all of the features you need to produce sophisticated web graphics, providing object-oriented tools for modifying linear and geometric objects, different graphic and animation layers, and text and special text effects. You can easily modify colors and quickly apply transformations such as color gradients to all of these. Frankly, you'd expect these capabilities in a modern graphics tool - what separates e-Picture from the rest of the pack are some of the tasks that it will do for you automatically.

Animated web graphics are standard today, but can still be time consuming to create in many graphics tools. Animated graphics typically consist of multiple frames between which the location, shape, color, or other properties of one or more elements of your graphic change. This requires having multiple frames in the first place. You can add frames to an existing e-Picture graphic in one of two ways - either by selecting, copying, and inserting frames at specific points of your graphic, or by simply changing the Total number of frames in the Animations window. The latter option copies the current frame for each new frame that you've added.

Most web graphics and animation tools provide standard shortcuts such as onion-skinning, where you clone subsequent frames and change each slightly to produce an animation. However, e-Picture goes these tools one better. Once you have the number of frames you think you need for a smooth animation, e-Picture can automate the animation process between different frames by creating the transitions necessary to move or modify graphics elements between frames that represent discrete points in your animation. In e-Picture, such frames are known as "key frames." Any frame can be identified as a key frame by selecting it in the Animations window, as shown in Figure 3, and then selecting the "Add Keys to Frame" command from the Animation menu in the e-Picture document window.


Figure 3.The Animation Window.

Once you've defined key frames and have selected the one at which you want to end certain changes to your animation, you can select and modify any portion of your graphic. Changes in position are perhaps the most common things that you'll want to animate in frame sequences, but you can just as easily generate intermediate transitions for color changes, color gradients, and so on. When you change any object property between key frames, e-Picture automatically fills in any intermediate stages of that change between the previous and current key frames. For example, suppose you want to smoothly move a portion of your graphic between key frames 5 and 14 - just select frame 14, move the object wherever you want, and let e-Picture divide the move evenly across all of those frames, automatically creating transitional frames for the move.

Just because e-Picture can automatically divide and complete graphic moves and other object property changes across frame sequences doesn't mean that you're stuck with its decisions. If an animation is too jerky, you can use the Animation menu's "Insert Frame" command to quickly insert additional frames to help smooth transitions. You can also delete frames from an animated sequence using the Animation menu's "Delete Frame" command, letting e-Picture automatically take up the animated slack for you.

Once you're happy with your web graphic, you prepare it for use on the web by exporting it in a web format such as GIF or JPEG. You'll want to make sure that you normally save your graphics in e-Picture's native format and only export when necessary, because exporting to GIF or JPEG loses some of the sexier aspects of your graphics. For example, layers in your e-Picture graphics are automatically combined into single bitmaps when exporting to GIF or JPEG because that's how those formats work.

The BeOS version of e-Picture lags the Macintosh version by several minor revisions (v1.0 on the BeOS vs. v1.04 on the Mac), which isn't surprising given that porting e-Picture to the Mac has been a major focus for BeatWare. I have high hopes that the minor problems and usability issues I saw in the BeOS version will be corrected in a subsequent release. The core e-Picture product is truly excellent.

Because the BeOS runs on both Intel and PPC hardware, the BeOS identifies the true root of our Intel-schmertz: Windows itself, not a specific hardware platform. Applications like e-Picture dispel the myth that only Windows has the software you need. If you want to go somewhere today, why not take e-Picture on the BeOS or Mac OS out for a test drive?

Bill von Hagen is a writer, computer system administrator, and the author of "SGML for Dummies." You can contact him at wvh@gethip.com.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Dash 4.0.0 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
Bookends 12.7.9 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
TrailRunner 3.8.834 - Route planning for...
TrailRunner is the perfect companion for runners, bikers, hikers, and all people wandering under the sky. Plan routes on a geographical map. Import GPS or workout recordings and journalize your... Read more
iFFmpeg 6.2.5 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a comprehensive media tool to convert movie, audio and media files between formats. The FFmpeg command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does all the hard... Read more
DaisyDisk 4.4 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
iFFmpeg 6.2.5 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a comprehensive media tool to convert movie, audio and media files between formats. The FFmpeg command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does all the hard... Read more
DaisyDisk 4.4 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.07 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.071 - Customize Multi-...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.07 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more

RPG Djinn Caster (Games)
RPG Djinn Caster 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE 38% OFF(USD 7.99 -> USD 4.99)!!!A Fantasy Action RPG of far foreign lands! Summon the Djinns and rise to... | Read more »
Alto's Odyssey gets its first trail...
There's finally video evidence of Alto's Odyssey, the follow up to the 2015 App Store hit, Alto's Adventure. It looks just as soothing and atmospheric as Alto's last outing, but this time players will be journeying to the desert. Whereas Alto's... | Read more »
Last week on Pocket Gamer
What’s going on in the wider world of portable gaming? Each week we ask that question of our sister website Pocket Gamer. The PG team covers iOS gaming, just like 148Apps, but it also strays into the world of Android games and handheld consoles... | Read more »
Pokémon GO Generation 2 evolution guide
At long last, Niantic Labs finally unleashed the Generation 2 Pokémon into the wild. Pokémon GO trainers are scrambling to grab up this new set of 80 Pokémon. There are some special new tricks required to catch all of these new beasties, though.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It feels as though the New Year got off to a creaking start as far as mobile games go, but that's changed over the past few weeks. The last few days alone have seen the debut of a number of wonderful games, so we thought we'd take the time to... | Read more »
Recruit more scallywags and discover new...
Get ready to show off your sea legs all over again in Oceans & Empires’ new grand update, which aims to make the act of rising to the role of seven seas ruler even more fresh and appealing, thanks to a richness of new content on both iOS and... | Read more »
Mage the Ascension: Refuge (Games)
Mage the Ascension: Refuge 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The groundbreaking roleplaying game Mage: The Ascension manifests in our turbulent present with Refuge, an... | Read more »
Vampire: Prelude (Games)
Vampire: Prelude 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The classic roleplaying game Vampire: The Masquerade returns to digital games with a Prelude of things to come. Experience a... | Read more »
Digby Forever Guide: How to dig to the d...
Digby Forever is a sparkling homage to arcade classics, and while you may be tiring of the number of arcade games being thrown at you, this endless digger finds many ways to stand out from the rest of the pack. The game manages to be challenging... | Read more »
The best sales on the App Store this wee...
It's been quite the week in mobile games, but if the latest releases(there were some pretty darn good ones, in case you missed out) aren't really doing the trick, perhaps some of these discounted games will. Many of these premium games had their... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro on sale...
Adorama has the non-Touch Bar 13″ 2.0GHz Space Gray MacBook Pro in stock today for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray... Read more
13-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has select 2016 Apple 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and up to $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/512GB Touch Bar MacBook... Read more
KSI-1802R SX Disinfect-able Keyboard With Wav...
KSI has unveiled a new, innovative medical keyboard, the KSI-1802R SX, at HIMSS 2017, running February 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. KSI-1802R SX is the only keyboard that combines dual factor... Read more
15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for up...
Amazon has 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2720.38 $79 off MSRP - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free: -... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Newegg has the 13″ 1.6GHz/256GB MacBook Air (MMGG2LL/A) on sale for $1029.99 including free shipping. Their price is $170 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Choose Newegg... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
12-inch 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $1...
B&H has 12″ 1.1GHz Retina MacBooks on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Space Gray Retina MacBook: $1149 $150 off MSRP - 12″ 1.1GHz... Read more
InTouch Health Expands iOS And Windows Produc...
Specialty telehealth enterprise provider InTouch Health has announced an expanded range of FDA Class I listed medical devices and software solutions for ambulatory, non-acute and non-emergent... Read more
iMobie Airs World’s 1st iCloud Manager with M...
iMobie Inc., an Apple-related software company, announced their newly-updated iPhone manager AnyTrans with exclusive feature to sync and manage contents across multiple iCloud accounts. With it,... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
*Apple* Technician - nfrastructure (United S...
Let’s Work Together Apple Technician This position is based in Portland, ME Life at nfrastructure At nfrastructure, we understand that our success results from our Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Manager *Apple* Systems Administration - Pu...
Req ID 3315BR Position Title Manager, Apple Systems Administration Job Description The Manager of Apple Systems Administration oversees the administration and Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.