Web Site Of The Month
Ultimate Photoshop

The Filters and Plug-Ins section provides easy access to a wide collection of commercial, shareware, and freeware plug-ins for Windows and Mac OS computers.
Photos © 1999, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

This new column in Shutterbug will introduce you to a new photographic or digital imaging web site each month. Some of the sites you will see are created by companies and others by individuals, but all will provide the kind of practical information that every photographer--digital or traditional--will find useful. Certain sites will be technique oriented, while others will focus on image creation.

In short, Web Site of the Month looks at the wide world of photography as seen on the World Wide Web.

Since the theme of the July issue is "digital," the first web site of the month is Ultimate Photoshop which is found at: www.ultimate-photoshop.com created by Prat Itharat, a graduate student at the University of Michigan. The site provides access to different kinds of tools as well as information about using Adobe Photoshop. Don't be put off by the first page that you see. While lacking the design panache of the rest of the site, the opening page serves merely as a table of contents and a way the Webmaster communicates with visitors. Since the web is volatile, chances are quite good that the first page may be redesigned by the time you read this. If not, don't worry; it's your gateway to some of the best Photoshop-related content and links you'll find on the Internet. While on the first page, take the time to "subscribe" to the site by providing your e-mail address in the space provided. Whenever the site is updated with new links, tools, or techniques, you will receive an automated e-mail message from the Webmaster inviting you to see what's new. Worried about spam? There's also an "Unsubscribe" button, and Itharat promises that "Your privacy is respected; your address will not be given to third parties."

The Tips and Techniques section of the Ultimate Photoshop web site has extensive information that can help visitors improve their own Photoshop efforts.

Ultimate Photoshop has three major sections and several minor ones. The Filters and Plug-Ins section provides download access to a wide collection of commercial demo, shareware, and freeware plug-ins. All plug-ins are identified as Mac OS or Windows-based. Even though this site was created on a Windows computer, it isn't biased toward one specific platform--unlike many such sites. While searching through the available downloads, there are as many Windows plug-ins as there were for Macintosh users. The graphics in this section, like most of the others, are quite professional and include a "What's New" listing of new items added since the last update and a search function designed to help you locate a specific plug-in. The Webmaster is modest enough to provide links to other sites with plug-ins available for download.

This web site is not just about downloading tools, its Tips and Techniques section contains files packed full of information that will help improve your own Photoshop efforts. Subsections include Basics & Tutorials; Creations (how-to information); Design & Layout; Special Effects; "Image Stuff"; and Scanning & Photos. Most of the listings under each heading are links that take you to the web site of a photographer who created that particular tip or technique, but you have to marvel at how much research the Webmaster has done to find these links in the first place. Whenever a tip or technique is opened, it's displayed in a new window, so you only need to close it to get back to Ultimate Photoshop. Here's where HyperText linking of the web works the way it was designed to. While reading about a specific technique, you may, as I did, uncover many sites you may not have otherwise found. Consider this part of Ultimate Photoshop to be the most serendipitous.

While less extensive than Actions Xchange, Ultimate Photoshop's Actions section provides an excellent introduction to Photoshop's Action feature.

Of all the three major sections, the site's Action Archives is the least extensive. When last I visited the site it contained 39 Actions, so fans of Photoshop Actions might want to visit Actions Xchange (http://jmc.mit. edu/photoshop) for a greater number of Action downloads. Yet, there are still plenty of interesting Photoshop Actions available for download here that are designed for images and text. There are no platform designations for Actions because they are inherently cross platform. An Action created on a Macintosh will run on any Windows-based computer. The only restriction is that you must be using Adobe Photoshop 4.0 or later. If you've never used an Action before, download one from Ultimate Photoshop. Action files are so small that, at 56K, downloads are almost instantaneous.

The site contains a Guestbook you can sign and leave a message for the Webmaster as well as a Forum allowing you to ask and answer Photoshop related questions. Looking for an expert? On the first page, you'll find an e-mail link to a Photoshop Wizard who you can ask questions that might not be addressed in the Forum. Like any good site, Itharat provides an "About this Site" section providing background on this site and himself and there are also pages containing Help and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

At 56K, Ultimate Photoshop loads quickly and there are no annoying delays moving from page to page and item to item. The site features an occasional advertising banner, but they are small, unobtrusive, and computer-related. As the Webmaster states on the first page, he's not "making any money off this site" and you can't blame him for trying to offset his costs. Ultimate Photoshop is obviously a work in progress but that doesn't take anything away from what is a beautifully and lovingly crafted web site. Part of the joy in my seeking out candidates for Web Site of the Month is finding sites, like this, that embody the best intentions of the WWW--sharing information with others. Ultimate Photoshop accomplishes all this and more. Give it a visit.

In seeking candidates for Web Site of the Month, I use 56K modems with Macintosh and Windows computers. My Internet Service Provider is CompuServe Information System and I use Netscape Navigator as a browser, but that's subject to change. This isn't a beauty contest. Future sites will be selected based on the amount of useful and practical advice they provide, not just great design and graphics. If you would like to nominate your own home page or your favorite web site, drop me an e-mail at: editorial@shutterbug.net.