Easier, Smaller, Faster
Improving ease-of-use has been a major focus of ImagePrint 9.0 and from the start we knew that a primary goal had to be streamlining the interface. The truth is, while ImagePrint has an amazing set of features, when it comes to actually making a print only a relatively few settings come into play. But getting to those settings has often meant navigating through several menu choices and opening multiple windows. Did you pick the right printer profile? Is the page size correct? Are you set for Roll? With so many places to go it can be easy to forget something and get an incorrect print as a result. That’s where the Dashboard comes in.
The Dashboard puts all the features essential to making a print together in one place, organized into an easily accessible and logical menu structure. Gone are the days of wading through sub menus to get to commonly used settings. The menu choices are laid out in a top to bottom format that takes you naturally through all the steps needed to make a print, and the currently selected options are always visible at a glance. The end result? A much less cluttered interface and a greatly reduced likelihood of making a mistake.
We’ve also simplified the printing process itself. Once your images are positioned on the page (and after a quick glance at the Dashboard to confirm your settings) it just takes a single click to send a job to the printer. No more having to go into another window to confirm final selections just to have to click print again.
With fewer windows on the screen the available working space area is naturally increased. But we went a step further. By incorporating folder navigation into the new menus we were able to redesign the file browser into a much more efficient and less obtrusive tool…the new Image Strip.
Just like the File Browser the Image Strip offers thumbnails of your images which can be dragged or double-clicked to place them in the current layout. But the Image Strip sports a much leaner interface and allows docking both vertically or horizontally into the ImagePrint main window. You can also choose to run the Image Strip in non-docked mode and expand it to display more images or change the size of the thumbnails shown. Finally, we’ve added a Favorites tab to store your most frequently accessed folder locations for easy navigation.
Together, these tools represent the biggest ever change to ImagePrint’s user interface. With its more intuitive and logical organization we think you will find ImagePrint 9 to be the easiest to use version yet!
Continuing our series of spotlights on what’s coming up in ImagePrint 9, this week we take a closer look at Shuffle and see how picking the best layout is not always as simple as it may seem.
Arranging multiple images on a page in the most paper-saving way possible sounds easy on the surface. Even a reasonably fast computer these days is capable of billions of instructions per second, so how long can it possibly take to analyze, say, 20 images on a page to determine the arrangement that saves the most media?
Turns out, it can take a while–a long while. Especially when you consider images of different sizes and add in the option of rotating the images 90 degrees. For instance, in the case of 10 images arranged in a simple row there are 3,628,800 combinations. Not too bad, until you figure in the ability to rotate images. Then it jumps to over 3.5 billion. For 20 images that number increases to a staggering 2.55108266 x 10^24 combinations (that’s 2.5 followed by 24 zeroes). Even for very fast computers it won’t take too many images before you are talking hours, days, weeks or longer to calculate all the different layouts. Unless you’re willing to wait a very long time to save a few inches of paper, you probably need a faster method.
Do the shuffle
ImagePrint 9’s new Shuffle feature uses a combination of algorithms to determine the most promising arrangements to calculate first. It then goes about testing these potential layouts, displaying the best its found so far as it goes. At any time in the process you can make the call to go ahead and send that current winner to the printer or keep waiting for something better to come along. To make your decision easier, it shows you how much paper you’ve saved compared to the original layout at the bottom of the screen.
We’ve found that within 30 seconds Shuffle has usually zeroed in on a layout that’s within five percentage points of the best possible. Give it a couple of minutes and you’ll likely be within 1 percent, though results may vary depending on size of the images and page.
If you don’t want to be tied to the screen while shuffle does it’s thing, just click the “Shuffle and Print” button and specify a duration. When the allotted time is up, ImagePrint will automatically print the best layout it’s found up to that point.
More work or more media?
One pitfall of laying images out in the most media-stingy way possible is that you can end up with a final print that looks like a jigsaw puzzle of nested images. Separating such a layout can require a lot of manual, right-angled scissors work, so if you need to make straight across cuts you’ll want to make sure “horizontal cut lines” is enabled. This mode ensures that Shuffle arranges the images in rows with clear horizontal cut-channels between them for easy cutting. While this mode will usually result in less media being saved it can be invaluable to those who don’t want to cut out each image by hand.
Combined with ImagePrint’s Inked Area Only feature (which ensures the printer only outputs paper as far as the last image on the page) Shuffle is a tool that anyone who prints multiple images on roll paper can take advantage of–anyone who gets ImagePrint 9, that is. Make sure to give it a try when it becomes available–you may find it saves you paper, and money, with every print.
With our last post we gave a sneak preview of the features coming up in ImagePrint 9. In the next few articles we’ll spotlight a few of those features in a little more detail. This week, we focus on Wide Gamut Toning. What it is, and how it differs from ImagePrint’s current toning abilities.
Wide Gamut Toning – Expanding the range
ImagePrint users have been using our black & white printing technology for years to produce the best possible grayscale prints. That ground breaking feature was introduced over six years ago and today is still the de facto standard around the world, and a big part of it has been the ability to tone (or tint) the print independently in different tonal regions of the image. Controlled via our tint picker, adding warmth or coolness to a print, or producing effects such as selinium or sepia, is simple and you never have to worry about altering the dynamic range, gradation or detail of the original image. We refer to this technology as Narrow Gamut black & white and it uses a specially designed grayscale profile that maps a full gamut ink set into a narrow gamut ink set. The results speak for themselves–perfectly toned prints within a limited range from neutral. But users have often asked for a toning range greater than the relatively narrow, neutral-centric one offered by that technology.
Enter Wide Gamut
Narrow Gamut toning is great, but many popular tones and effects (such as brown toning) fall outside of its abilities. Up until now the ability to easily map those tones into a perfect gradation didn’t exist–the further the tone went from neutral, the more likely you were to see breaks in the smoothness of the transitions, plugged up shadow areas or inconstancy in the hue. But now with the advancements in our ability to finely control a full gamut inkset we are able to offer this ability in ImagePrint 9 with our new Wide Gamut Toning. Using a tint picker method similar to our Narrow Gamut tint picker you’ll be able to adjust the tone in two independent tonal areas–but rather than a narrow gamut grayscale profile, Wide Gamut Toning uses the much larger gamut of our color profiles to produce its tones.
By choosing a color (or dialing one in via the HSV or RGB controls) you can instantly create a toned image in any color. The split tone checkbox determines if the same tone should be applied to the entire image or if different tones should be in effect for the highlight and shadow regions. And, just like with our narrow gamut split tones, a slider allows you to specify just where the highlight/shadow regions divide.