It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am long time fan of Photoshop, and consider myself to be at least moderately proficient with its vast array of tools… and it is a VAST array. Photoshop is nothing if not BIG. Entire libraries can be filled with the books that have been written about how to use its’ myriad tools and functions effectively, and of course this vast depth of functionality translates into an equally vast SLOW’ness if it is not used on very capable hardware.
Yes, gentle readers, Photoshop requires significant CPU horsepower to deliver all of its’ goodies to you. This fact becomes abundantly clear when you look at even the simple metric of startup time. I ran a test on this sometime back. Photoshop 7 takes 1 minute and 30 seconds simply to start up on my Power Macintosh 7300/200. Photoshop 6 is a little more forgiving of your time, but still requires a hefty 50 seconds to get itself together.
Sometimes you just don’t need that much muscle when manipulating images, and today’s post focuses on BME, a program you might consider to be “Photoshop Very Light” and consequently a good alternative for less demanding image editing tasks.
All of that having been said, BME is no slouch. This pleasingly small and fast image editor packs a real punch. It does all the basics (resizing, cropping, flipping, rotating, adjusting brightness and contrast and so on) well, but it also comes with a sizeable complement of additional capabilities. Full undo is just a start, with a configurable number of undo levels, and let’s not forget the complete help instructions, available from within the program.
BME also delivers a large set of what it calls “effects” that can be applied to the image you are working on: sharpen, blur, reduce noise, pixelate, emboss, negative and more. The below screen shot shows the Effects menu, with these (and other) selections.
The image above may look a little confusing at first glance. I was editing a screen shot of Logitech’s QuickCam software when I snapped it!
BME also lets you “get your artist on”, allowing you to paint or write onto the picture you are working on (the undo really comes into its own here, until you get the hang of the writing clearly with a mouse!). It also lets you cut and paste pieces of the image onto itself, or between images, in a sort of layers kind of way. It is NOT a full layers implementation by any stretch of the imagination, but it IS quite usable.
As if all of this is not enough from a “Photoshop Very Light” sort of program, BME ices the cake with the ability to create on-the-fly macros. BME allows you to record the steps you are taking and then save them as a macro. That macro can then be executed on any file you open, really saving you time and mouse work for repetitive editing tasks.
Finally of course, BME is more than happy to save your results in any of JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PICT and IFF ILBM (whatever THAT is!). This multi file format support makes BME very handy for converting TIFFs to JPGs, something I find myself doing quite often, since one of my screen capture utilities insists on writing its results out as TIFF files.
BME has several other functions that I haven’t covered, and I encourage you to explore them for yourself. For myself, I can honestly tell you that BME is my “go to” image editor for Mac OS, unless I really need to do some heavy lifting, in which case I always turn to the venerable leader of the pack, Photoshop.
According to its’ “About BME” dialog, BME hails from http://www.SoftLogik.com and debuted in 1991. The current version, version 3.2a, arrived on the scene in 1996, and has the final virtue of being a Fat Binary, and thus both 68K and PPC compatible. I use it on both my 68K Macs and my PPC Macs.
Try BME out for yourself. I think you will enjoy it.