Editors' Choice Awards: Creative/Publishing

Publishing Software

Winner
Managing fonts for a large team was always a headache until DiamondSoft released this breakthrough product. The TCP/IP-based Font Reserve Server ($1,200, server software; $130 per client; www.diamondsoft.com, 415/381-3303) eliminates font conflicts, manages access privileges and font licenses, and lets you create font sets that users can work with almost instantly. The server software is Windows NT-based, but the administration and client software is Mac-only.

Runners-Up
ImagePort 1.0 ($100; www.alap.com, 888/818-5790), from A Lowly Apprentice Production, is the only XTension out there that lets you tweak the layers, channels, and paths of most Adobe Photoshop files without leaving QuarkXPress. If PDF files are part of your prepress workflow, look to Adobe Acrobat InProduction 1.0 ($699; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508). It combines PDF preflight and color-correction tools formerly available only in several separate third-party applications, and introduces a few new aids.

Graphics Software

Winner
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 ($609; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) is one of the strongest upgrades this standard-bearer graphics program has seen in years. Previous versions of Photoshop specialized exclusively in bitmapped image editing, but version 6 introduces a new set of vector tools for creating precise shapes that remain editable. Designers will also appreciate the vastly improved text controls, layer effects, and color-management tools.

Runners-Up
For Web-graphics designers, Macromedia Fireworks 3 ($199; www.macromedia.com, 800/457-1774) was the best tool to choose (a new version is now available). It offered an improved interface, better control of bitmapped image editing, and a History palette that allowed you to undo any number of steps in a single click and quickly turn your actions into executable scripts for reuse. Adobe Illustrator 9.0 ($399; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) makes an impact with the most powerful and most complete set of transparency tools around.

3-D-Graphics Software

Winner
From its speedy renderer to its manipulation of NURBS (Nonuniform Rationalized B-Splines), Maxon's Cinema 4D XL Version 6 ($1,695; www.maxoncomputer.com, 877/226-4628) packs enough bells and whistles to make more expensive 3-D applications envious. Notable improvements include a highly customizable interface, new interactive polygon-modeling tools, improved bones and deformation tools, a construction history, a rewritten lighting system, and even a sound-editing capability.

Runners-Up
From Newtek, LightWave 6 ($2,495; www.newtek.com, 800/862-7837) remains a must-have for 3-D-production and -animation professionals. It boasts numerous new features and tools, including UV texture mapping, radiosity rendering, new surface and graph editors, and powerful morphing. Ashlar's Vellum Solids 2000 ($3,995; www.ashlar.com, 800/877-2745) is the only game in town for serious industrial design. It excels at working with the curvy free-form solids and surfaces prevalent in today's industrial designs.

Audio Software

Winner
Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP Plus 2.5.2 ($50; www.soundjam.com, 800/359-4920) is the best and most approachable application for Mac users who want to play and encode their own MP3s. This time around the company added an impressive list of features, including Internet broadcast and an automatic timer, as well as support for MP2 and WAV files, more hardware MP3 players, and multiprocessing. There's even a karaoke function that lets you drop the vocals from most MP3s and sing your heart out.

Runners-Up
With Peak 2.53 VST ($499; www.bias-inc.com, 800/775-2427), Berkley Integrated Audio Software has made an already great two-track editor even better. Version 2.53 includes support for the widely used VST plug-ins (it comes with 25), has an improved interface, and ships with ASIO drivers. Best of all, you no longer need a pesky floppy-disk key to authorize the program. Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer 2.72 ($795; www.motu.com, 617/576-2760) takes MIDI and audio sequencing to the next level with its new drum editor, additional audio effects, and very accurate MIDI time stamping.

Digital-Video Software

Winner
Apple's iMovie 2 ($49; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753) revolutionizes digital video by bringing video-editing power and a host of user-friendly features to the home-movie set at an unheard-of price. QuickTime transitions and the Timeline Viewer feature make for marked improvements over the last version. iMovie 2 also lets you layer two soundtracks for voice-over-background-music capability. No longer is video editing the domain only of professionals with expensive equipment.

Runners-Up
Terran Interactive's Cleaner 5 ($599; www.terran.com, 800/577-3443) is an excellent upgrade to what was already an excellent product -- Media Cleaner Pro. Cleaner 5's superb compression algorithm, support for many formats, ease of use, and thorough documentation make it a necessary part of any video producer's tool kit. Pinnacle Systems' Commotion 3.0 ($1,995; www.pinnaclesys.com, 888/484-3366) is more than a fabulous rotoscoping tool for video producers who want to create special effects: the program also facilitates workflow and includes new compositing features.

Digital-Video Camera

Winner
When choosing a MiniDV camcorder, you'll usually pay more for portability. The Canon ZR10 ($999; www.canondv.com, 800/652-2666) is exceptional because it's both tiny and affordable. The Canon is the perfect introduction to the new MiniDV format -- it even gives you an analog line so you can convert your old tapes to MiniDV.

Runners-Up
Optical image stabilization and a Progressive Scan photo mode make the Canon Optura Pi ($1,799; www.canondv.com, 800/652-2666) a great midpriced MiniDV camera. Helping to nurture the world of nascent filmmakers, the Sony DCR-VX2000 ($3,199; www.sony.com, 800/222-7669) is a standout, with entry-level 3-chip quality. This camera lets average folks produce professional-looking films.

Consumer Digital Camera

Winner
The number of features Canon packs into the 3.5-by-2-by-1-inch metallic body of the PowerShot S100 Digital Elph ($499; www.usa.canon.com, 800/652-2666) is definitely groundbreaking. You get a 2.11-megapixel CCD for brilliant shots, a 2x optical/4x digital zoom to get in close, multiple shooting modes, and a bright LCD screen. The S100 is the perfect combination of compact size, ease of use, and excellent image quality.

Runners-Up
The Coolpix 990 ($1,000; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), from Nikon, continues to balance quality, ease of use, and price. The latest model boasts a 3.34-megapixel CCD and a 3x optical zoom lens. Olympus's Camedia C-211 Zoom Digital Printing Camera ($799; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) is a hit at any party, with a built-in printer for instant Polaroid shots. In QuickTime mode, the Camedia can capture up to 15 seconds of movie footage.

Professional Digital Camera

Winner
Canon's EOS D30 ($3,599; www.usa.canon.com, 800/652-2666) is the most advanced digital camera on the market today. Canon successfully implements a 3.25-megapixel CMOS sensor for crisp images and outstanding color reproduction. On top of that, Canon adds 11 shooting modes, 3-point auto-focusing, a 1.8-inch color LCD, and IBM Microdrive support.

Runners-Up
The Olympus Camedia E-10 ($1,999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) is the only four-megapixel camera with a custom-designed lens for digital imaging. The result is great image quality and many professional-level features. Nikon's first professional camera, the D1 ($5,900; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), will make professional film photographers feel at home, since it has many features offered on its 35mm counterparts.

Display

Winner
The world of LCD computer displays has gotten wider, thinner, lighter, and brighter. Nothing demonstrates this better than the amazing Apple Cinema Display ($3,999; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753). This 22-inch LCD monitor weighs in at only 25 pounds and takes up incredibly little space on a desktop. It also provides superwide viewing angles, 1,600-by-1,024-dpi resolution, and just one cable that handles monitor power, video signal, and USB connectivity.

Runners-Up
The bright and stylish 18.1-inch Senergy 850 LCD display from Princeton Graphic Systems ($2,999; www.princetongraphics.com, 800/747-6249) gives users both digital (DVI) and analog (VGA) connections, with a DVI-out connector for mirroring displays or connecting to a projector. The Wacom PL 500 pen-tablet system ($3,999; www.wacom.com, 800/922-9348) combines the abilities of a pen tablet with the instant feedback of an LCD screen. Yes, that means you can draw right on your screen. This new version of the pen tablet provides millions of colors, and at 15.1 inches, it's large enough to be your primary display.

Printer

Winner
This year, color ink-jet printers plummeted in price without losing quality. Our choice for best in overall print quality is Hewlett-Packard's DeskJet 932C ($199; www.hp.com, 800/752-0900). For less than $200, you can enjoy photo-realistic prints and sharp black text from its 2,400-by-1,200-dpi print resolution.

Runners-Up
The Olympus P-400 ($999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) has a convenient LCD panel for previewing and selecting images from SmartMedia, PC Card, Compact Flash, or Memory Stick. It uses dye-sublimation technology to produce photo-quality, full-size prints. The Epson Stylus Photo 1270 ($499; www.epson.com, 800/873-7766) features six-color printing, as well as solid black text with resolutions as high as 1,440 by 720 dpi. It offers a maximum print area of 12.76 by 43.76 inches for banner-size prints.

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