The next time you need to touch up a photo or convert an image file, you may have an extra software tool at your disposal: your Web browser. A handful of developers, including Extensis (800/796-9798, http://www.extensis.com ) and a new company called Avivo (415/242-0400, http://www.atomz.com ), have introduced Web sites that let you perform graphics operations that would otherwise be handled by stand-alone software. The best part is that many of these services are free. As Internet bandwidth increases and developers look for new sources of revenue, such Web-based graphics applications could become commonplace.
Web sites that duplicate the features of commercial software are nothing new. For example, SecureTax.com lets you calculate your taxes online, and Netstudio.com offers tools for creating simple Web graphics. However, these sites are largely geared toward novices and casual users. The new Web sites are aimed squarely at graphics professionals.
Extensis, best known as a developer of graphics plug-ins, has launched a Web site called Creativepro.com that offers discussion forums, service directories, links to industry news sources, and information about software products from Extensis and other companies. Nothing unusual here, but Extensis has ambitious plans to offer a variety of graphics services through the site, including digital photo enhancement, PDF-to-HTML file conversions, and portfolio hosting. You'll also be able to locate printers, fonts, and clip art--complete with price comparisons--through the site.
Avivo, a new company founded by ex-Macromedia employees, has launched a Web site-- http://www.atomz.com --that will offer free software applications for Web developers. The first application, Atomz Search, lets you quickly produce search engines for your Web site. Using tools on Atomz.com, you can create customized results pages that conform to your site's design.
The free service is limited to Web sites with fewer than 500 pages, and you must include a "Powered by Atomz.com" logo on the search page. The company offers a premium service, beginning at $30 per month, for larger Web sites or those that don't want to display the logo. The premium service also provides automatic reindexing of your site; with the free service, you must periodically hit a reindex button accessed through Atomz.com.
Avivo plans to offer other applications for what the company describes as "mission-critical" Web operations, including workflow management and dynamic generation of data and graphics.
Targeting the newspaper business, B-Linked (800/254-6533, http://www.b-linked.com ) and iPrint ( http://www.iprint.com ) have teamed up to offer the Virtual Ad Design Studio (VADS), a service that allows advertisers to create and customize print ads using a Web browser. B-Linked also offers an electronic ad-delivery service.
Most newspaper ads are created by each paper's own design department. With VADS, an advertiser can take an ad created for one newspaper, modify the copy, fonts, graphics, and other elements, and then redistribute the ad to other publications. The system also makes it easy for advertisers to produce local versions of print ads created by national agencies.
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