Watch & Smile

Developers are rushing to market with inexpensive photo-editing programs for consumers (see PhotoGenetics review). Binuscan, best known for high-end scanning software, has joined the fray with Watch & Smile 1.0, a cheap package that combines image-editing, digital video, and multimedia functions. The program packs some impressive features - including photo-retouching tools - derived from the company's professional software. Unfortunately, Watch & Smile suffers from a poorly conceived interface that violates Macintosh software conventions. Watch & Smile is loosely based on a television metaphor. When the program is launched, a video of a TV monitor takes over the screen - just click on that monitor's on/off button to enter the Watch & Smile workspace. At the top of the workspace is a scrollable-horizontal film-strip that can contain as many as 255 frames. Each scene can hold multiple images, text, or videos - and a soundtrack can be recorded from an audio CD or the Mac's built-in microphone. When the job is completed, the frames can be exported individually or as QuickTime movies complete with transitions. Watch & Smile offers a huge array of photo-retouching features. Brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpening can be adjusted using a paint tool or global slider controls. Brightness can be modified over the entire image, or within red, green, or blue colour channels. The program also includes an auto-correction tool for enhancing low-quality images, a clone tool, similar to Adobe Photoshop's, for reproducing one part of an image in another, a pen tool for making clipping paths, and tools that add warping and perspective effects to images. Watch & Smile's multimedia features, while somewhat limited, offer nearly everything you need to create simple movies. Scenes can be moved and copied, the display time set for each frame, and a variety of transition effects are available. Movies can be tested using a VCR-like controller at the bottom of the screen. Although Watch & Smile sports a hefty feature set, users may find the proprietary interface - which relies heavily on cryptic icons - incredibly frustrating. Even fans of MetaCreations' wild-looking interface designs will likely find this program goes too far in sacrificing function for style. It not only takes over your Mac, but also won't even let you switch to the Finder without quitting the program. Forget about using any Mac-standard keyboard shortcuts - if -Z is pressed to undo an operation or -Q to quit, nothing happens. Exiting the program is an especially frustrating endeavour - when one on/off button is clicked, a separate screen with a different on/off control appears. This finally lets you quit. Also, the program lacks any rollover tool tips, and has few text labels to offer clues about a control's functions.

OUR VERDICT

Considering its price, Watch & Smile offers an impressive array of photo-retouching and multimedia features. However, the interface will frustrate many users as they try to take advantage of those features. The most glaring omission is the inability to switch to other applications while using the program - it literally takes over a Mac until the application is quit. We also found performance sluggish, even on a 333MHz G3 system.

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