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Resco Photo Viewer 5.32 for Pocket PC

Reviewed Nov. 2005 by Tanker Bob

Just about every wallet contains a picture of friends or loved ones. These days, many Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and phones even come with built-in cameras. While Windows and Mac desktop computers sport sophisticated programs to cleanup and edit your photos, handhelds have had few such options. Resco Photo Viewer 5.32 fills this gap by bringing a sophisticated yet easy-to-use utility to the Pocket PC platform that enables users to masterfully work with their photos whilst mobile.

Tanker Bob tested Photo Viewer on a Dell Axim X50v running Windows Mobile 2003SE with a 624MHz CPU and VGA screen. Photo Viewer was installed into Built-in Storage.

Managing Your Photos

Photo Viewer provides a warm welcome when first executing the program.

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The opening screen offers you the most useful options for finding and viewing your photos. Tapping Open Photo takes you right to the last directory that you opened. Last Opened goes to the last picture that you viewed. Browse Folder opens a tree presentation of your RAM folders, while Browse Card does the same for your storage cards. Options takes you to the program's plethora of settings. Help displays the excellent, hyperlinked help file provided by Resco.

By default, Browse Folder's tree view presents the folders under My Documents in RAM. It bolded Captures because on my X50v, that's the directory in RAM that holds images. By navigating the tree, you can pull up any directory you wish, meaning that you can store your images anywhere you wish.

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Of course, the most useful way to scan a large photo collection requires thumbnails. Photo Viewer gives you the option of packing thumbnails four, three, or two across the screen. Another display option will put a thumbnail on the left side accompanied by the file name, date, file size, and graphic size in pixels. The last icon on the right of the bottom toolbar offers a selection box at the upper left corner of each thumbnail for actions on multiple files. Using the menus, you can email the selected files or transfer them using IR or Bluetooth.

Photo Viewer supports JPEG, PNG, and TIFF formats from digital cameras, preserving and viewing their EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) information. It will additionally view BMP, CFX, PSD, PCX, GIF, RAB, RAW, PGM, and PPM formats. The program views multi-page TIFF faxes with no problem. When viewing pictures larger than the screen, Photo Viewer can automatically zoom them down to fit the screen, or leave the image at its native size. Image areas beyond the screen edges may be viewed by tapping and dragging on the picture. Viewer fully supports VGA screens.

The icon on the bottom bar next to the menu names shows or hides what I call the "action toolbar" above it. The action bar changes based on the screen which you are using, providing the user easy access to most-used functions or "actions", hence the name I've given it. When displaying the thumbnails or file list, the action bar allows you to open a different folder, open a favorite folder or file, start a slideshow, copy the selected file to a folder, move it to a folder, delete it, move the selected file down and up in the list, and change the alphabetic sort direction. Resco thought these action toolbars out very well.

In addition to opening folders on your handheld and network, Photo Viewer will open a specified URL if you are connected to the web. This allows you to download images from the Internet right into the viewer. Slick!

Editing Your Photos

At this point, Resco Photo Viewer leaves the competition further behind.

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When viewing a picture, the action bar offers single-photo and editing-related functions. This toolbar permits users to open files, go to favorite folders/files, initiate a slideshow, rotate the displayed picture, edit the picture, record or play an attached sound note, add or read a text note about it, annotate the photo itself, and obtain detailed information about the file. Although this bar can be hidden, I left it up most of the time because it proved so handy.

Resco takes PDA image viewing to a new level with bilinear interpolation. This kicks in when you zoom a picture below 100%. It smoothes the result so that details that would normally be lost when reducing an image remain discernable. Text and complex images especially show the benefits of this approach. Your eyes will easily see the difference that this technology makes.

Using the menus, Photo Viewer will even save files as your Today background image. It will also convert images to JPEG, BMP, or PNG format, and even preserve the EXIF information in the process. JPEG image quality may be specified to control file size.

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You can annotate or otherwise draw on your photos. Tap on the drawing icon and Photo Viewer displays the drawing toolbar. Lines, rectangles, ovals, and text may be added to graphics. Line and background colors may also set. Thus you may emphasize parts of a picture or add an explanation right on it. For example, the screenshot depicts the Rand Corporation's 1954 guess at what a home computer might look like in the year 2004, opining that the teletype interface and FORTRAN language would make it easy to use. I've annotated a comment about the "steering" wheel.

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Tapping on the edit tool changes the action bar to one that accesses more complex functions. From left to right, these include the core image-appearance properties, resizing, cropping, and rotations. As holds true for other editing bars, the blue check saves the changes and the red 'X' cancels them. Upon saving the changes, Photo Viewer offers to save the file under a different name if you do not wish to overwrite the original picture. Edited pictures may be saved in JPG, PNG and BMP formats. Again, the quality level may be set for JPG images, which lets you balance file size vs. image quality.

The resizing screen simply offers a percentage change in size, direct pixel-size specification, or a user-preset size. It couldn't be simpler. Cropping is equally simple. Just tap at your starting point, and then drag across to your end point. Tap inside the cropped area so finish the crop. I routinely use Photo Viewer to resize screen captures for all my PPC software reviews. Usually images look better reduced in Photo Viewer than when I use any of my desktop image programs.

The picture brightness, contrast, and gamma correction may be adjusted. Just select the item on the bottom toolbar that you wish to change, and then move the slider to change it. Access this capability by tapping the far left icon of the editing toolbar.

Photo Albums
Again, Resco goes well beyond the basics here. They furnish a desktop program, Album Generator, to format, create, save, and transfer photo albums to your handheld.

Resco constructed the desktop program as a wizard to lead users through the process. The first screen offers a list of common tasks to perform: opening an existing photo album, PowerPoint presentation, individual images, or browse your PC for images.

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Opening individual images brings up the illustrated screen. Album Generator thus facilitates reformatting images to suit the target platform. Changes available include resizing, rotation, brightness, contrast, gamma, and color depth. Add files one at a time while customizing each, or apply existing changes to all listed images. Resco makes a difficult and time consuming task both simple and quick.

If that's not enough, Resco allows you to add MP3 tracks and picture transition effects to slideshows. This kind of capability normally requires a heavy-duty desktop program. Adding music to a themed slideshow combines the two most powerful mediums for moving audiences emotionally.

Resco dramatically simplified converting a PowerPoint presentation for viewing on a handheld. Simply select a presentation and Album Generator will convert all the slides to JPEGs in a few minutes. Upon completing that task, the Optimize Images screen appears whereupon you can customize the presentation to suit your desires. The quickest approach entails tailoring one slide to the intended medium, then click on Apply Settings to All Images. I converted a 19-slide presentation with Master Slide elements, full background, and slide transitions, and optimized it for VGA. The PowerPoint version weighed in at about 1.1MB, and the Resco created the output at almost exactly the same file size with JPEG quality set to 95%. The resultant slide show came out perfect, including the slide transitions. Amazing!

If desired, Resco Album Generator will save converted PowerPoint presentations as separate JPG files rather than an as one slideshow file. This can be handy for reordering, down-selecting, or adding slides or images on your PDA.

Video Player Too?

Oh yes, Photo Viewer plays MPEG 1 videos as well. Videos may be set to play automatically upon loading if desired.

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The action toolbar for videos offers appropriate tasks. In addition to the standard control functions, you may also increase the video to full screen and obtain detailed file information.

I tested the video play with a high-quality test video called Chosen with Clive Owen which we use for benchmarking at MobileTechReview. The clip was encoded at 320x144 pixels, 16-bit color, 24 frames/sec, and 240 Kbits/sec video data rate, and I had it loaded on the CF card. The video played pretty well, but I could regularly discern skipped frames. Less aggressive data rates should play fine, though.

Screen Capture Utility

Reviewers and beta testers live and die by screenshots. Resco's included Capture It! proved incredibly simple and perfectly reliable. Upon execution, it pops up a dialog window offering to take an immediate screenshot or wait 10 seconds in the background. The latter comes in handy when trying to capture menus and other transient objects. If you always want it handy, simple assign it to a hard button.

Upon completion of the capture, the program pops up a screen for the user to input a file name and location to save the image. The location is retained for subsequent images. Alternately, Capture It! may be set to save automatically using successive default names. By saving images in the default \My Documents\Captures\ folder, they transfer automatically to your desktop through ActiveSync along with the rest of your documents.

After saving the file, Capture It! offers to open it for you in Photo Viewer. This conveniently allows me to immediately resize images to embed in reviews. I've used this excellent utility for every one of my PPC software reviews. It always performs perfectly.

So many options, so little time…
It should surprise no one by now that Resco made Photo Viewer highly configurable. The tabbed options screens allow the user to set a default folder for Browse Folder, to start with the wizard or the last pictured viewed, how to load large pictures, setting the memory cache size for thumbnails, general viewer settings, how to handle notes and drawings, skin, thumbnail screen details, slideshow speed and effects, how to handle video previews and animated GIFs, customize button assignments, and more. I found the defaults to be well-considered and only changed a few settings.

Bottom Line

Resco has again created an application without peer. Resco Photo Viewer 5.32 performs all functions marvelously well, and includes lots of useful features. Its simplicity of use and elegant interface gracefully tap the underlying depth of its capabilities. From simple image viewing to complex editing, screen capturing, converting PowerPoint presentations, and creating slide shows, Photo Viewer stands alone as a uniquely complete package ready for the novice and professional alike. A good buy at $24.95 retail, it is a steal when purchased along with Resco File Explorer 2005 and Resco Stickies in the $34.95 Resco Utility Pack. Tanker Bob would not be caught without these gems on his Axim.

Pros:
Simple-to-use interface
Full VGA support
Supports a large selection of image formats
Uses bilateral interpolation to render images at < 100% zoom
Context-sensitive "action" toolbars
Sophisticated image editing
Excellent screen capture utility
Simple photo album creation with desktop image optimizer
Easy PowerPoint conversion
Plays MPEG 1 videos
Makes your lunch (just kidding, so far…)

Cons:
Some frame skipping in video playback
Not having Photo Viewer on your PPC

$24.95

 

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