There was a time when Equilibrium’s DeBabelizer was hands-down the most essential utility for multimedia developers, game programmers, Web designers–anyone who worked with digital images. Shortly after the company released version 3, it abandoned the Mac OS, but now DeBabelizer is back as DeBabelizer Pro 5, a major upgrade that delivers loads of new features, a greatly improved interface, and full OS X compatibility. Since DeBabelizer’s Mac hiatus, many other graphics apps have added automatic image processing, but not one of them comes close to DeBabelizer’s power, making it once again a must-have graphics utility.
Given that Photoshop and many other graphics programs offer their own batch-processing features, spending an extra $400 on an image processor may seem kind of silly, but DeBabelizer offers scripting strength no other program can touch. Many of version 5’s scripting features will be new to Mac users, though this upgrade offers nothing Windows users didn’t already have.
Script to Your Heart’s Content
DeBabelizer 5 provides several methods of creating and executing scripts. The New Script command creates an empty script window to which you can add steps by simply choosing desired operations and commands. Or you can use the Watch Me command to record actions a la Photoshop’s Actions palette.
You can trigger scripts by dragging and dropping images from the Finder onto designated icons in DeBabelizer, or by using the program’s Batch feature to create and manage a queue of images. You can also create special folders in the Finder that have associated scripts. Drop files in these hot folders and DeBabelizer will process the images using the appropriate script. This lets you create network-based, automatic image-processing workflows.
DeBabelizer’s scripting facility goes beyond the simple “list of actions” scriptability you’ll find in Photoshop’s Actions palette. DeBabelizer scripts can include loops, delays, conditionals, and display options that make for flexible batch processing. For example, you can build scripts that take different actions depending on an image parameter, such as size, making it possible to build one script that can process a wide variety of source images.
DeBabelizer can also export your scripts as standard AppleScript files, though depending on how you intend to use them, they might need some minor editing. All in all, there’s little missing from DeBabelizer’s scripting facility. Our main complaint is that DeBabelizer can’t read the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) header information from a digital-camera file. The program’s inability to process digital photos based on their exposure settings and other parameters is also a disappointment.
Early versions of DeBabelizer were notorious for their impenetrable interfaces. Version 5’s interface is mostly identical to that of DeBabelizer 4 for Windows; it’s much better than it used to be, but still a little cumbersome. Expect to need a lot of screen real estate for DeBabelizer’s huge array of windows and palettes.
There are plenty of scripting tools in version 5. In addition to all the usual commands–for image sizing, rotation, color-mode changes, and applying Photoshop filters, to name a few–DeBabelizer provides several unique tools.
DeBabelizer’s most powerful tools are its palette-manipulation controls. SuperPalette, a DeBabelizer mainstay since version 1, can automatically analyze a group of images and create a single 8-bit palette that’s optimized for the whole batch. You can also specify certain colors–such as those of interface elements–that should be preserved when images are processed, and SuperPalette can now automatically download all of the images from a site for analysis and automatic palette creation.
DeBabelizer includes a bare-bones set of retouching tools–paint brush, eraser, pencil. However, because these tools are hard-edged and move with something of a stutter, you’ll want to stick with the tools in a good image-editing or painting program.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If the limited scripting and batch-processing features of your favorite image editor frustrate you, then DeBabelizer will most likely satisfy your processing needs. If you’re a Web or game designer who needs to modify and manage custom palettes and image optimizations, DeBabelizer is the only program you should consider for these chores.