The Mac has always been the platform that high-end professionals prefer for working with graphics, video, and music. But the Mac also excels in low-end graphics software for users like me who want to convert bitmap graphics from one format to another, or reduce the size of a graphic before mailing it or posting it online, or who want to make amateur-level touchups or even, when we’re feeling ambitious, creating our own custom icons for folders or files. For all these purposes, and a few hundred more, the standout app is GraphicConverter. One reason this app stands out from the competition is that it’s been in continuous development since 1992, and the author has had time to add every feature you can imagine and a few dozen that you’ve never thought of.
What it Does
As its name suggests, the heart of GraphicConverter is its ability to open files in two hundred graphics formats and export to almost eighty different formats. For many legacy formats, GraphicConverter seems to be only conversion program that can handle the format under OS X. As in most graphic-manipulation programs, you can open a file in GraphicConverter, modify it with a variety of tools and filters, resize it, add text, and save it in the same or a different format. But GraphicConverter also builds in a powerful batch-processor feature. You can select a folder full of graphic files in multiple formats, and set up a series of operations that the app will perform on every file, such as converting to a single format, adding text to the exported filename, applying a maximum size, changing the gamma, adding an alpha channel, or dozens of others. Of course you can save and reuse any series of operations that you create.
All these functions are offered in a modern, easy-to-manage interface that feels at home in OS X. For example, when building a series of batch operations like the ones described in the preceding paragraph, you drag individual functions from a list of available functions into a stack of specific functions that you want to perform, each with a menu of options. This is basically the same interface that OS X uses for the system-wide batch operations you can create with its built-in Automator app.
GraphicConverter includes a catalog -building feature that creates thumbnail catalogs in the form of HTML pages with links to the full-size files, or as printed pages or static images that contain thumbnails but no links. Picasa and similar services can build HTML catalogs that are far more elegant than GraphicConverter’s default layout, so I use those services when I post picture galleries online, but I use GraphicConverter to provide HTML catalogues of all the images in a folder and all its subfolders that I can use on my own disk, so that I don’t need to navigate through multiple folders in the Finder to get to the image I need.
What it Doesn’t Do
Professional graphics designers won’t be satisfied with the image-editing tools in GraphicConverter, though they’re almost perfect for amateurs like me. GraphicConverter doesn’t support layers like Photoshop, although it can add an alpha channel to existing images when you want to add transparency. Its toolkit includes all the standard brushes, pencils, erasers, paintcans, and text tools that you expect in graphics editors, with all the usual options, but some of them aren’t entirely intuitive.
I still haven’t figured out how to use GraphicConverter’s tools to replace more than one color in a bitmap image with transparency, for example, and the huge PDF manual that ships with the app isn’t designed to give easy answers. When I want to make large multicolored areas of an image become transparent, I generally quit GraphicConverter and use the tools in Axalis IconWorkshop (www.axialis.com), which runs only under Windows. If you know how to do perform this feat, please post the technique in the comments.
Good as it is, GraphicConverter has a few small areas that could use improvement. When you paste another image over an existing image, it isn’t easy to resize the pasted-in part so that it fits exactly the way you want it to into the existing image. GraphicConverter is one of the few Mac apps that can read the old WordPerfect Graphics (WPG) format—but it only reads version 1 of that format, not version 2. Open-source code is available for converting WPG2 files, and I hope it may get incorporated into future versions.
Support and Versions
I’m impressed by the way the author of GraphicConverter responds to questions. A few months ago I found an obscure bug in the way the app saves images in Apple’s icon format, and sent an e-mail to the author with some sample files that illustrated the problem. The vendor not only fixed the bug but also improved the feature by updating it to support Apple’s latest icon format, which includes high-resolution images that Apple’s own Icon Composer tool still doesn’t support.
You can buy GraphicConverter for the same price from the Mac App Store and from the vendor’s web site. If there’s any chance you’ll need to open images in obscure, obsolete formats, buy the version from the vendor’s site. In order to conform to Apple’s severe security restrictions, the vendor had to omit support for at least one obscure format—the ECW format that used to be a common standard for satellite images of the earth—in the App Store version, although the vendor’s own version continues to support it.
To keep my complaints in perspective, remember that I’ve complained about a tiny proportion of the enormous feature set of this generally superb and unparalleled app. GraphicConverter does more things with more formats than any other application I’ve ever seen on any platform, and if you’re a non-professional who needs high-quality image manipulation and conversion on a Mac, it’s both the only choice and our Editors’ Choice.
More Graphics Software Reviews:
|OS Compatibility||Mac OS|
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc