Watch & Smile: Notable Features, Lousy Interface

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - Given the current glut of digital cameras, software developers are rushing to market with inexpensive photo-editing programs for consumers. Binuscan Inc., a company best known for high-end scanning software, has joined the fray with Watch & Smile 1.0, an inexpensive package that combines image-editing, digital video, and multimedia functions.

The program packs some impressive features, including photo-retouching tools derived from the company's professional software. Unfortunately, Watch & Smile suffers from a poorly conceived interface that violates Macintosh software conventions in every way imaginable.

Watch & Smile is loosely based on a television metaphor. When you launch the program, a video of a TV monitor takes over the screen. You then click on that monitor's on/off button to enter the Watch & Smile workspace. At the top of the workspace is a scrollable horizontal filmstrip that can contain as many as 255 frames, which the program refers to as scenes. Each scene can contain multiple images, text, or videos; you can also record a soundtrack from an audio CD or the Mac's built-in microphone. When you complete a job, you can export the frames individually or as QuickTime movies complete with transitions.

Watch & Smile offers a huge array of photo-retouching features. You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpening using a paint tool or global slider controls; when modifying brightness, you can work on the entire image or within red, green, or blue color channels. The program also includes an autocorrection tool for enhancing low-quality images; a clone tool, similar to Adobe Photoshop's, for reproducing one part of an image in another; a pen tool for making clipping paths; and tools that let you add warping and perspective effects to your images.

Watch & Smile's multimedia features, while somewhat limited, offer nearly everything you need to create simple movies. You can move and copy scenes, set the display time for each frame, and choose from a variety of transition effects. You can test your movies using a VCR-like controller at the bottom of the screen.

Although Watch & Smile sports a hefty feature set, Mac users may find the proprietary interface, which relies heavily on cryptic icons, incredibly frustrating. Even fans of MetaCreations' wild-looking interface designs will likely find that this program goes too far in sacrificing function for style.

It not only takes over your Mac, but also won't even let you switch to the Finder or another application without quitting the program. Forget about using any Mac-standard keyboard shortcuts: if you press command-Z to undo an operation or command-Q to quit, nothing happens. Exiting the program is an especially frustrating endeavor: you click on one on/off button, and then you end up in a separate screen with a different on/off control, which finally lets you quit. Adding insult to injury, the program lacks any rollover tool tips and provides few text labels to offer clues about each control's functions.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Considering its price, Watch & Smile offers an impressive array of photo-retouching and multimedia features. However, the poorly conceived interface will frustrate many users as they try to take advantage of those features. The most glaring omission is the inability to switch to other applications while using the program-it literally takes over your Mac until you quit. We also found performance sluggish, even on a 333MHz G3 system.

RATING: 2.5 mice

PROS: Affordable; extensive photo-retouching and multimedia features.

CONS: Slow performance; poorly designed interface.

COMPANY: Binuscan (212/681-0600, http://www.binuscan.com).

LIST PRICE: $90.

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