Buyer's Guide 2008: Software Plug-Ins

While you can do just about anything to an image with Photoshop, some tasks can be fairly labor-intensive or tricky to accomplish unless you know exactly what to do. Plug-ins are applications that extend the capabilities of Photoshop, most often by providing a more automated, simplified approach to an otherwise complex Photoshop task. They typically launch from within Photoshop and use a customized window with specialized tools for the job at hand.

You don’t have to use Photoshop to use Photoshop plug-ins. Many less-expensive programs, including Photoshop Elements, Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo and Ulead PhotoImpact, are compatible with them.

Nik Sharpener Pro 2.0

Sharpening is essential to the finished output of an image, particularly when printing. No amount of sharpening can save an out-of-focus image, but what it can do is provide you with enhanced detail that can make a good image even more striking.

Nik Sharpener Pro 2.0 simplifies the process of sharpening while maintaining the necessary functions for optimal prints. By considering the detail, image size, printer type, resolution, underlying characteristics and viewing distance, Autoscan automatically reviews and applies the sharpening process for best results. The plug-in also features 16-bit compatibility, an Advanced Panel for localized and manual control over sharpening in the image, and RAW Presharpening for use with images converted from a RAW format. List Price: $329.

onOne Genuine Fractals 5

Even basic digital cameras these days come with a lot of megapixels for large images. These sizes are perfect for your computer display or for slideshows on your TV, but there will be times when you want huge, poster-sized prints of your work. For that, you may need to upscale.

onOne’s Genuine Fractals 5 uses sophisticated algorithms to scale images over 1,000 percent without a claimed loss in image quality. By using Texture Controls, adjust the detail in non-edge areas, hard edges and continuous tones. There’s a built-in unsharp mask to save the extra step of resharpening in Photoshop. Video tutorials assist with an already manageable learning curve. List Price: $159.

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