Adobe Photoshop CS3 has become clearly the best bitmap photo editor, wresting the last vestiges of better features from Corel, Ulead and others. And Photoshop continues to forge huge leads in HDR/32 bit image processing, photo retouching, panoramas + photomerge, plus first steps towards 3D and video integration. It also retains a wide lead in color models support, printing features, and scripting. However, note carefully that we refer to a bitmap photo editor, the field is still open for vector photo editor and the hybrid bitmap/vector editing.
Despite the advances in Illustrator, the product still lacks the guides, snap to, stickiness, and metadata smarts of products like Corel Draw and Corel DESIGNER Pro or Microsoft’s Visio. And on the hybrid side linking vector with bitmap graphics processing, Adobe has shown promising ideas in Photoshop, Illustrator, and surprisingly, Fireworks CS3. But so too have Xara and Microsoft with its innovative hybrid vector/bitmap tool Expression Design has opened that whole field up.
But the best tool in the vector/bitmap compositional editors is still Xara Xtreme. Xara Xtreme not only handles bitmap and vector images together in new and innovative ways but also can handle huge images of 25-60MB in size with blazing speed. And Xara’s intuitive, gesture oriented GUI controls are very easy to learn and use. If you ever have had to wait forever in editing large Photoshop, Draw or Illustrator files – you owe yourself a serious look see on Xara.
So Adobe may be gaining a clear and distinct advantage in bitmap editing only to discover that the battleground has moved to convergence of bitmap and vector graphics where it is certainly not top dog. Yes, Adobe has promising directions with Fireworks CS3 but try Xara and Expression Design as well for good things happening in the world of hybrid vector+bitmap photo editors.