As I was saying in a review I wrote not so long ago, IrfanView started to become boring. Sooner or later, I will probably replace it with another similar program or, no matter how strange it may seem, I may also replace it with a few smaller tools that can face all those tasks that IrfanView can easily handle and, since today I found just such a small tool, here it is: SoftColor PhotoEQ, a program that has just hit the market!
Released earlier this month, SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 is priced at $33, but you can also purchase packs of 10 licenses for $290. Obviously, all I am playing with today is a trial version, but the good part is that this freely available piece of code works can be messed with for up to 10 days without any functional limitations, not even watermarks on the resulting images or nag screens and this, if you ask me, is something that deserves 5 stars already!
According to its official page, “PhotoEQ requires any PC (32 / 64 bit) running Windows XP or later Microsoft Windows version,” so I am sure most of you shouldn’t face any problems here. Its setup package has 12.6 MB in size and installing it is as easy as possible, without any “headache generators” like those silly toolbars or, even worse, spyware.
You only need to keep in mind that about 41 MB of free disk space is required to install SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 and, obviously, your PC should run the Windows version installed on it properly (I know it may sound stupid, but I’ve seen people complaining about the performance of their programs when those programs ran on a 1GB memory, single-core CPU machine with Windows Vista Ultimate having all the visual settings pushed to the max… on a slow onboard video chip, of course!).
Awesome. Great. Finally, some fresh air! I love the way SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 looks and feels – even its documentation looks outstanding! The only problem could be its lack of multilanguage support but, if all programs would look so good, I would study Chinese to be able to use them and forget about such minor things like support for English or any other language. In the end, you should keep in mind that this program looks great and using it is really easy. If you can’t handle English well enough to enjoy SoftColor PhotoEQ, you’d better get a dictionary and stop waiting for multilanguage support – you have no idea what you’re missing… yet, because we’re moving to the features right now!
Working with SoftColor PhotoEQ is so natural that it makes me shiver! Just think about what happens after opening the program – all you see is a small window that asks you to drag and drop your images or folders inside it, but also offering you a chance to browse and add images manually and access the offline documentation available. Excellent!!!
The list of supported file formats looks great – JPEG, JPEG2000, TIFF, PSD, PNG, BMP, PGM, PPM, JPEG XR and a bunch of RAW formats can be easily open using SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 and this program can save the retouched images to one of the following: JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PSD, BMP. Unfortunately, if you’re going to process PSD files containing a bunch of layers, the resulting files will be saved with only two layers, one of them containing the original image, and the other its improved version.
As you can see in the screenshots at the end of the review, using the tools provided by this program is a no-brainer: everything is located only one click away, so I will just tell you the name of these tools/tool collections. Ready or not, here we go: Color correction adjustments (a few processing presets are included), Rotate, Resize, Crop, Sharpen, De-noise and, finally, Fix Red-Eye. What’s really great about these tools is the way they work – once you press a button, a panel nicely slides in nicely, without taking you to a different window and/or obstructing the image and the preview of your retouch. Awesome!
Now, I only need to add two more things before moving on – SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 has batch processing capabilities and, best part of it all and enough to almost make it worth the price, it uses multiple CPU cores pretty well, although I didn’t manage to see it taking up my entire CPU power while batch processing a large collection of images, so I guess there’s still some work to do here…
Tips & Tricks
1. If you notice that your regular keyboard shortcuts stop working after you install PhotoEQ and start it, don’t worry – this seems to be a bug. For example, if I have it running in the background and I press Ctrl+S to save the article I’m writing in my text editor, I get a popup saying that the current image has been saved…
2. As it happens with most similar programs, if you’re processing large images, don’t expect everything to be complete in the blink of an eye. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
3. Especially if you’re a beginner with such programs, checking the documentation before starting to mess up things can really help. Be sure not to avoid this step, since this program’s documentation looks great and it’s far from being boring!
SoftColor PhotoEQ 1.0 may be only at its first public release, but it looks and feels much better than a lot of programs supposed to be “bigger” in every way. Well, this young one here has it all – looks, features, ease of use, compatibility with Microsoft’s 32- and 64-bit operating systems, even a trial version that gives you all a licensed user gets, but for 10 days only.
After being so delighted with the features and looks of this program, I was shocked to discover the “keyboard shortcuts hijacking” bug, but I am sure they’ll fix it pretty soon. Other than that, I think that multicore support could be improved and the price could be tweaked a little… or at least have some features like Facebook uploading added to increase the program’s value!
No matter what I just said, I love this tiny program. I wouldn’t buy it the way it is now, but trying it was nothing less but pure pleasure, and I’m sure there’s much more to see in the future from SoftColor PhotoEQ. That’s all, folks, you got our badge, wear it with pride and push this program of yours even closer to perfection – congratz!!!