updated 03:50 pm EDT, Tue July 22, 2008
First Look: Iris 1.0
Adobe's Photoshop has set the standard for digital editing. Unfortunately, the program often overwhelms anyone who isn't a professional graphics artist. When bombarded with so many features, novices often give up in frustration. To meet the needs of hobbyists who want to edit a digital photograph, or aspiring artists who want to paint images on a computer, many companies offer simpler applications. One of the latest of these is Iris 1.0.
The program's main appeal is its simplified interface. Unlike Photoshop, which floods the screen with dozens of icons and palettes, this program displays icons in a single strip (toolbox) along the left side of the screen, while displaying palettes on the right side.
The toolbox only provides the basic painting tools that most people need, such as the eraser, eyedropper, paint bucket, and cropping tool. By offering only those tools that you'll use most of the time, the program keeps distractions to a minimum.
The three palettes on the right side of the interface (Options, Colors and Layers) remain fixed and open at all times. While this decreases the amount of free space on the screen, it also avoids the problem of palettes appearing minimized or disappearing altogether, which then forces users to figure out how to open and position them again.
With many editors, you can open images in multiple windows simultaneously. This creates the problem of moving and resizing windows in order to keep track of them. To avoid this, Iris displays only one file at a time, while presenting thumbnails of all open windows at the bottom of the screen. Switching between windows is as easy as clicking on one of the thumbnails.
This does prevent you from displaying two or more images next to each other on larger monitors, but for most casual users with moderate displays, viewing a single file at a time lets you focus on an image without distractions.
Like most image editors, the program includes standard features for changing brightness, contrast, color, hue, and exposure, which allows you to correct flaws or create unique visual effects. The program also includes standard filters for distorting or modifying an image.
For maximum compatibility, the program can work with a variety of file formats including the common TIFF, GIF, JPEG and JPEG-2000 types, as well as its own Iris format and more obscure options such as OpenEXR and Silicon Graphics images.
You can export an image to a variety of file formats
While the program can also open and export images in the popular Photoshop (PSD) format, it appears to ignore layrering. Instead of keeping layers divided so you can shift or selectively apply them, the program smashes them all together. You can create additional layers, but any layers originally defined by Photoshop get condensed when opened in Iris.
This problem makes the program less desirable as a replacement for Photoshop. For people more interested in a fresh alternative, though, this limitation may not be that crucial. With a lower price of $79 and a simplified interface, Iris is a fine image editing program for novice and intermediate users alike.