capsule review

cf/x collage 1.2.4

At a Glance
  • cf/x software collage

    Macworld Rating

Assembling a photo collage is often a complicated task that requires you to carefully crop, resize, and reposition each photo on your canvas. cf/x software seeks to simplify this protracted process with cf/x collage 1.2.4, a utility that lets you create slick, stunning collages using any number of photos.

Getting started with cf/x collage is relatively straightforward; you simply drag a set of high-resolution photos into the new document window. In somewhat of an oversight, the application doesn’t include a media browser that lets you import photos or photo albums directly from Apple’s iPhoto ( ) or Aperture ( ), or Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom ( ), so you’ll have to choose your photos, export them to disk, and then drag them into cf/x collage. (Alternatively, you can drag them directly from your photo library onto the cf/x collage window.)

Once the photos have been added to your document, the application automatically creates a collage. This computer-generated composition will need your creative eye, of course. You can move a photo by simply dragging it into any other frame, an action that swaps the placement of both photos. You can also resize and reposition a photo within its frame for the best possible fit. And if you’re not happy with a photo, it can be swiftly excised with the delete key or replaced by dragging a new photo (or photos) into the frame.

Simple controls let you adjust the color and thickness of the frame’s grid lines. The shape of any frame, or a set of adjacent frames, can be changed by dragging the red divider lines. As you drag, you’ll notice that a blue line appears to alert you when your photos are in line with other dividers, a helpful indicator that allows you align frames across your canvas. Each time you adjust a divider, photos are automatically scaled to fit the resized frames (although you may need to tweak the crops). There’s no doubt that collage-building with this app is a simple, satisfying process that would surely take hours in Adobe's Photoshop ( ).

cf/x makes it very easy to create sleek photo collages, but you’re limited to rectangular shapes.

Unfortunately, cf/x collage stumbles a bit with its canvas resolution settings. The confusion starts with the default canvas size of 1024-by-768 pixels at a seemingly arbitrary 98 dots per inch (dpi), a relatively low resolution that would normally lead to poor-quality prints. As it turns out, cf/x collage has independent resolution settings for preview (i.e. the display), printing, and exporting. It’s clear that the developer prefers that you put together the collage at a modest resolution (98 dpi) and then choose to export or print it at much higher resolution (600 dpi); in this way, the application performs faster and the heavy lifting is postponed until later. This is an admirable intent, but the execution is clumsy and certainly confusing to those used to a single document resolution setting in applications like Photoshop. Be sure to check the manual to get a better understanding of cf/x's strategy on this issue.

Beyond that, cf/x collage is far too singular in focus. Its grid-based collages can be gorgeous (and reminiscent of some paintings by Piet Mondrain), but it’s disappointing that the app doesn’t offer a variety of collage styles or alternate frame shapes (circle, triangle, polygon), or allow frames to be set to a solid color rather than a photo.

Additionally, the app lacks a basic text tool for adding notes and titles to your collages, meaning you’ll have to call on another application for the task. And although cf/x collage supports direct uploads to Flickr, it doesn’t extend the same courtesy to other popular services such as Facebook, Smugmug, or Twitter. (cf/x software offers a more flexible—but less automated and more expensive—collage compositing software called cf/x alpha for $230.)

Macworld’s buying advice

cf/x collage 1.2.4 is a one-trick pony that performs its trick with finesse but comes up a bit short in flexibility. Still, in spite of its limitations, you’ll find no better app for making simple, sleek photo collages. For the price, it is a reasonable choice.

[Chris McVeigh is an author, illustrator, and toy photographer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Collage creation is exceptionally simple and flexible
    • Collages look excellent and can be exported in high-resolution
    • Direct upload to Flickr

    Cons

    • Cannot import photos or albums directly from iPhoto, Aperture, or Lightroom
    • Canvas resolution settings are extremely confusing
    • Lacks text tool and some export options
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