Who Needs GIFs?
These days, every program must have a “Save As HTML” feature to be competitive: the last major product missing this capability is Adobe’s venerable image editing program, Photoshop. Now, BoxTop Software, makers of PhotoGIF and other utilities for multimedia professionals, fills the gap with the recently released PhotoHTML 1.0. This clever plug-in (which will work in any program that supports Photoshop plug-ins, such as MetaTools’s Painter) analyzes images on a pixel-by-pixel basis and converts them into text-based HTML tables, with each colored table cell mapping to one pixel in the original image. The plug-in also creates a 43 byte transparent spacer GIF, used to fill each cell for browsers (such as Navigator 3.x) that don’t allow empty cells.
In addition to the obvious compression advantages (this plug-in currently outputs the smallest graphics files of any on the market by far), PhotoHTML’s tables will display in browsers with the “auto-load images” option turned off. Further, graphics displayed by way of PhotoHTML’s tables are difficult to copy, a boon to artists concerned with image theft and copyright issues – sure, anyone can copy the HTML, but it would take quite a bit of effort for the average designer to convert the HTML back into a format where it could be modified or viewed in graphics software.
Industry analyst Glenn Fleishman proposed a high-end use for PhotoHTML: “If you couple PhotoHTML with an image analysis program and a huge number of images, you could create those great photo-mosaics that appear occasionally on the cover of Wired and Time. Instead of background colors in each cell, an image with the closest overall color characteristics would be inserted instead.”
Although no formal development plans have been made public, BoxTop and Bare Bones Software are allegedly collaborating on BBEdit integration, which would add a PhotoHTML button to BBEdit’s HTML toolbar and facilitate setting custom height and width tags for the spacer GIF. According to Box Top’s Web site, however, such functionality may not appear until 01-Apr-99. PhotoHTML is a 100K download, and is freeware; be sure to read the attached ReadMe file for specific information on using the plug-in.