Image-inary Complexity

Like most computer geeks, my needs are simple and few - a quad core box with a big disk, a decent connection to the 'Net, plus occasional injections of coffee and cold pizza. My daily bread-winning tasks generally involve only three applications: Outlook, Word, and Internet Explorer. Perhaps, when I feel exceptionally expressive, Visio might have an airing; though it's generally limited to a few boxes and arrows in boring colors.

However, even though I spend most of my time buried deep in some crosscutting technology or structural architecture implementation, now and then I have to come up for air and get involved with documenting stuff that users can actually see. Which means I need to be able to capture screenshots of UI applications, and then massage them into a state that makes them suitable for inclusion in our documentation. For more years than I care to recall, I've used Paint Shop Pro for this. I started with version 2, and gradually upgraded to version 4. With the various fixes and updates, installing it involves three steps: install version 4.0, install the upgrade pack to version 4.1, and then install the 4.1 to 4.2 upgrade pack. It's a pain, but fairly quick and only required when I buy a new machine.

But now I'm on 64-bit Windows 7. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but increasingly I'm finding "issues" with programs that I know and love; amongst them, Paint Shop Pro. Trying to install it just gives an error message saying that it is "not compatible with this version of Windows". Maybe the code does something evil I never knew about, or Windows simply considers software that old as not worthy of a shiny new operating system. Or it could just be the way it had been compiled. A colleague mumbled something about byte alignment (and I even managed to refrain from making dentist jokes).

Anyway, the result is that I needed to find some other tool that can do screen capture, cropping, resizing, basic editing, color reduction, and basic filtering (such as sharpen and de-speckle). So, in some unaccountable fit of wild optimism, I went online and purchased a copy of the latest version of Paint Shop Pro - now called "Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo". I've been using it for a few weeks, yet I still haven't figured out how 90% of it works. Even the simplest task seems to involve three extra mouse clicks and a search through the help file.

I've purposely avoided trying to learn programs such as Corel Draw and Adobe PhotoShop in the past because they were way too complex for my simple requirements. But they've managed to stuff so many things into the new version of Paint Shop Pro that it bears almost no relation to my old version. I suppose over time I'll come to appreciate the powerful features and additional capabilities. Maybe I can get a job moonlighting as a photographer just to recover the cost. But what's really annoying is my own inconsistency. I've regularly grumbled about how software is becoming so simplified that even stupid people can use it; yet here I am moaning about an application that actually does give you complete control over every aspect of the process.

And what makes it worse is that - after spending $100 - I discover that the version of Paint included in Windows 7 does pretty much everything I need.

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