Worth Its Weight

Isn’t it amazing when products do what their makers say they will? Case in point: Microsoft’s Office Keyboard. It promised ease of use and comfort, and it did not disappoint.

Microsoft has done a few things to make the USB keyboard more functional. It’s included Cut, Copy, and Paste buttons on the keyboard, and has included a scroll bar on the left-hand side, so your other hand won’t feel left out of the action. And the Application button lets you easily toggle between open programs, such as Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer. Buttons for those programs are also located on a bar above the F keys, which now do double duty as e-mail keys (Reply, Forward, Send), in addition to opening the Task Pane (a new feature in Office XP; see the review “No Small Task,” Techwatch, November 2001).

But the keyboard has one big flaw: its size. One colleague remarked that it was the Cadillac of keyboards–very, very large. With desktop real estate at a premium, added functionality means a bigger keyboard. And the keyboard’s curvy form, although aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing, is just too large to be practical for small and home offices. But if you can afford the desktop space, then it’s worth the $64.95.

QUITE AN IMPACT
Ulead moves one step closer to becoming a powerful digital image editing powerhouse with its new release, PhotoImpact 7. Priced at $99.95 ($89.95 for the downloadable edition, and $49.95 for the upgrade, which you also download), the product features enhancements of some old tools and key new features aimed at digital photographers, Web designers, and graphics enthusiasts.

Web designers in particular will appreciate the newest release of GIF Animator (version 5), with True Color composition. We were impressed with the high level of control we had editing objects and text for our test animations. GIF animator also features a wizard and an online tutorial, which are particularly helpful for those of us who aren’t experts but are interested in creating simple Website animations.

Whether it’s digital photography, graphics, or Web design, PhotoImpact serves up impressive ease-of-use features, such as EasyPalette Pop-up, Browse Manager, and an improved Layer Manager (it’s no longer tied to the EasyPalette). One new effect, Beautify Skin, is notable yet disturbing (imagine polishing digital faces to a cover-model smoothness). Other effects such as Zoom Blur (to imitate motion blur) and Lens Distortion help PhotoImpact 7 in its bid to challenge Adobe Photoshop.

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