Saturday, March 13, 2010

Free Software for Doctoring Photos

One web site which I check regularly (in fact, pretty much daily) is They give away free software! The premise is pretty cool. Each day, a new title is offered. The titles offered aren't shareware, nor are they time-limited or feature-limited versions that you have to buy in order to fully enable. They are one hundred percent, fully functional programs that you can have for free and use for as long as you want.

The catch? You only have twenty-four hours to download and install them while they're being offered. After that, they won't install anymore. Once installed, they work just fine but, if you ever uninstall them for any reason, or upgrade to a new computer, you can't reinstall them. Still, I think this is an excellent way to evaluate software.

Unfortunately, the software offered is something of a mixed bag. Giveaway Of The Day has offered a few gems in their day, such as The Glary Utilities (a suite of system cleanup and optimization tools something like the better-known Norton Utilities, but cheaper) by Glarysoft, or AnVir Task Manager (a much more robust task manager than the one that comes standard with Windows that gives you much greater control over tasks, processes and services, flags suspicious or possibly malicious programs and even provides some rudimentary virus and spyware protection) by AnVir Software. I got both of these very useful programs from Giveaway Of The Day. However, the site has also offered a lot of software that adds very little to Windows' standard functionality or for which much better freeware alternatives already exist.

Sometimes, the software offered seems way too specialized. Take, for example, NoWires; an Adobe PhotoShop plugin for removing power lines from digital photographs. I kid you not. "Imagine you have photographed a beautiful sight. And there is only one ugly thing — electric wire crossing the picture," trumpets the web page that offers this plugin, "Get rid of this annoying wire using NoWires!" Boy, am I ever glad I found this thing! If I had a nickel for every time my photos were spoiled by unsightly power lines...

Okay, okay, I'll sop up the dripping sarcasm. Look, I'll grant that NoWires might prove useful if you have a lot of photographs that are marred by power lines but doesn't it seem just a little, well, overly-specialized? For one thing, it's a PhotoShop plugin so, if you happen to use a photo editor other than the very expensive PhotoShop, you're S.O.L. as they say. Besides that, PhotoShop is pricey for a reason. If you do happen to own it, I'm just sure it has its own tools for getting rid of unsightly power lines, not to mention any number of other unwanted items in your pictures. The individual who markets NoWires (and it does appear to be just some Russian guy by the name of Pavel Dovgalyuk) wants $29.95 for his plugin. Seems a bit steep for such a one-trick-pony bit of software.

A much better alternative is Inpaint, by Teorex, also previously offered by Giveaway Of The Day. Inpaint removes any kind of object from photographs; airplanes, cars, buildings, people, scratches, watermarks and, yes, even power lines. What's more, it's a stand-alone program, so you don't need PhotoShop or any other photo editor in order to use it. I've used it several times, so I can attest to the fact that it works nicely in most situations although, obviously, there are limitations. It works by extrapolating the background behind the object that you want removed so, obviously, you can't take out a building that fills 80 per cent of the picture. Also, the simpler the background, the better the results that you'll achieve.

A personal license for Inpaint (if you missed it on Giveaway Of The Day) is about ten bucks more than NoWires, at $39.99, but it's also much more flexible and, therefore, much more useful. If it sounds good, but you can't justify ponying up the cash, all is not lost. Giveaway Of The Day frequently does reruns, meaning that they may well offer Inpaint again at some future date.

1 comment:

Martin said...

The best, completely free program for photo manipulation (and playing with graphics) is Gimp. Why pay for Photoshop or any of the other over-priced commercial programs? Over the past few years, Gimp has continued to grow in power to the point where its features rival that of Photoshop. And you can download literally hundreds of plug-ins for this program, also free.

If you are interested in a graphics program like CorelDraw, check out Inkscape instead. Another open-source program, free, that has grown in functionality over the years.