Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


VirtualStudio shows how cool 'free' can be

Sept. 20, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   The best way to save money is to stop spending it. That's the idea behind my new series on the best free software for Windows and Macs. This week I'm recommending a Windows photo editor that can also run on many Macs.

   Good photo editors are easy to find. There's Photoshop, of course, and its little brother, Photoshop Elements. I enjoy using both of them. But they're far from free. Photoshop costs many hundreds of dollars and Photoshop Elements costs $80.
   But in these times, anything higher than $0 is a tough sell -- especially when you can install the fabulous free photo editor from Google called Picasa. It's earned my praise as the best free photo software on the planet. (See www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec010806.html, but note that since that review was written, Picasa became available for the Mac as well as for Windows.)
   I like Picasa so much I teach workshops about it. But Picasa only goes so far. It's basically wonderful and wonderfully basic. What's needed is a free photo editor that extends the capabilities of Picasa.
   And that's just what I've found in a program called VirtualStudio, free from www.optikvervelabs.com/virtualstudio.asp. It's modern software, with easy-to-use menus, that can make just about any kind of editing change to a photo. Best of all, it comes with a built-in super-editor called VirtualPhotographer, which you'll find absolutely delightful for turning good photos into great ones.
   I raved about VirtualPhotographer a few years ago when it hit the freeware lists (read the review at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec101704.html) and I'm still singing its praises now. Among the techniques in VirtualPhotographer are ways to add a convincing "film look" to digital photos and ways to alter the lighting to add a mood or a special look to any photo.
   VirtualStudio is a non-nags, no-nonsense program. You couldn't buy it even if you wanted to. It's freeware in the best tradition -- totally free software that works well and makes you feel good.
   Very few high-priced commercial programs can do what this free software can do. You're missing out on one of the coolest experiences in all of digital photography if you don't install and use this software.
   A bonus for Mac users: VirtualStudio runs perfectly under Crossover Mac, the software that allows modern Macs to run Windows programs without needing Windows itself. You'll find more on Crossover Mac here: www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec081008.html.