Monday, March 8, 2010

Graphics Toolbox by Great Software Tools

Graphics Toolbox is a software system designed specifically for editing graphics.  As they share on their site, "We discovered, that most other software programs, being used for graphics, were designed for other uses. For instance, Adobe Photoshop is an excellent photo-editing program, but a lot of people over the years, have had to use it as a general graphics manipulation/design package. They didn't have better options. Graphics Toolbox was designed as a real alternative to Photoshop for all non-photo effects, graphics needs. We created an extensive range of very easy to understand and use graphics tools, for the world's daily graphic needs."

We own Photoshop Elements, and I admit that I haven't ever taken the time to really use it properly.  I tend to use online services or friends when I need graphics edited.  So the thought of having my own graphic editing program sounded pretty good.  I tend to enjoy creating fliers, invitations, programs, inserts, posters, etc.  I like manipulating images and text to make it more visually appealing.  This sounded like fun!

I downloaded and opened up the program and was met with something resembling a complicated version of Paint.  I had no idea how to use it and didn't want to take the time to learn, so I let it go and waited awhile to get my brain in gear.  That was a mistake.  Yes, there is a definite learning curve.  Yes, you will want to watch the tutorials in order to learn the program.  But, wow, this is going to be a lot of fun! 

The tutorials are available on the website and are worth skimming through before you buy, in order to get a good feel of what this program can do.  Once I understood what the little buttons were for (and that if you left click on one, a little box will pop up which will tell you its purpose!), I was off and running.  It is quite a bit different than most programs along this line, in that your blank space is not your "page" but your "desk".  You can spread your bits and pieces all over your desk (graphics, photos, text, etc.) and then you create a frame for your project.  It takes a bit of getting used to but it works.

One of the highlights of this program is the ability to create custom colors.  I believe this software was inspired by a program designed for fashion designers, so the ability to work with color exceeded my expectations.  You can also save your own color palette, so if you have certain colors for your blog or website, it's easy to keep your choices at your fingertips.

The tutorials are a huge help in getting started.  I started with the one on creating invitations.  I had no real event coming up, so I decided to use my son's band photos and create a mock concert announcement.  Or two.  I would not actually use these particular invites, they are not up to my standards of quality (although I like the second one better!).  But I did learn a lot while making it and if I needed to create an invitation like this, I now have the skills to do so.

I'm really excited about working on a blog header for my personal blog.  You know, the one I never have a chance to post on and now want to make pretty for the day when I actually write stuff there again.  That day will come...someday...and when it does, I'll have a really cool header.  The possibilities for using this in blog design seem to be great.  I'll let you know how it goes, when I find the spare moments to do it!

Those of you who scrapbook would probably really like this, especially if you digitally scrapbook. And once we taught the basics to our kids, they could probably make some really cool projects with this software.  There are instructions for using this to create poetry pages and the like on the website.

While my reaction is mostly positive, there are a couple of things I dislike.  This software is purchased as a download for one computer in your home.  If you buy a new computer or need to wipe your hard drive for some reason, you must contact Great Software Tools first and they will give you instructions from there.  If you do not contact them first, you may not download the program again and it's just lost to you.  When I am buying program at this cost, I would like to have a hard copy and/or the ability to use on more than one computer in my home.  My husband purchased a pricey writing software for me for Christmas and, while it is also a download, I am able to back it up on my portable hard drive and use it for all of the computers in my home. 

The other issue for me is the inability to layer photos or graphics.  While I do own Photoshop, and so can swap between programs, this is a feature I seriously missed while creating the invitations.  It's not a biggie, but it is disappointing.

All in all, I'm impressed with the program and do think I will continue to use it quite a bit in the future.  If it sounds interesting to you, they have a 30 day free trial so you can get in there, get your feet wet, and check it out for yourself.  If you choose to buy, it sells for $149 for a license for one computer. 

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this software at no cost, for review purposes.  If you'd like to see what others thought about this program, check out the TOS Crew site.*


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