There are dozens of graphics software products on the market. They tend to fall into categories defined by the tasks they are programmed to execute. The main categories of graphics software are page layout, image editing, illustration, web design, presentation and web animation. This article provides an overview of widely used programs in each category.
Page layout software uses typography and images such as illustrations and photos to compose pages for use in books, magazines and other printed items. The industry leader is Adobe InDesign; it is the standard tool for professional graphic designers. InDesign has taken over the leading spot from Quark Xpress, a powerful, designer-friendly layout program that also offers web functionality. The main competitors are Microsoft Publisher and Corel Draw Graphics Suite. Microsoft Publisher is less expensive than the other programs.
Image-editing software can be used to edit photographs and illustrations, as well as to create graphics. This type of software is used to manipulate pixel-based images. Many professional illustrators use image-editing software to add color to their illustrations. Adobe Photoshop is the standard image-editing program across the spectrum of professional design disciplines. Corel Draw Graphics Suite is also used for image editing. Corel offers Paint Shop Pro as an entry-level image-editing program at an attractive price.
Illustration software can be used to create illustration, storyboards and graphics, including specialized, unique typography. Illustration programs create images based on vector graphics. Vector graphics have the advantage over pixel-based graphics in that they can be rescaled to a larger size with no loss of resolution, maintaining the quality of the image. The leading illustration program is Adobe Illustrator. Corel Draw Graphics Suite has a loyal following of professional illustrators and designers. This unique product offers vector-based illustration capability, along with image-editing and page layout features. Open Office offers a free download of a suite of programs, including Open Office Draw.
Web design software is used to create websites. While web design software creates and edits html code for websites, most web design software programs allow the user to work with typography, images and other files while it automatically generates the code. Microsoft offers the attractively priced Expression Web program and the more expensive Expression Studio, aimed at web professionals. Adobe offers Dreamweaver, the industry standard web design program.
Web animation software can be used to create animated clips for websites, interactive buttons and gadgets for websites, entire websites and even animated pieces for use outside the Web. Adobe Flash is the leading web animation program. For three-dimensional animation, the gamut runs from entry-level programs such as Strata 3D and Corel Bryce 3D to industry leader Maya 3D.
Graphics presentation software is used to create graphics that are to be projected for an audience, for example at a lecture or business presentation. The leading presentation program is Microsoft PowerPoint. Open Office Impress is available as a free download. Other competitors in the field include Apple Keynote and Google Presentation.
Most of the graphics software profiled in this article is available as a free download. Most programs may be downloaded and used free for 30 days. Typically these programs come with lessons and/or sample files and tutorials bundled with the software, making it possible to learn the program prior to purchase. This may be a valuable option when considering an expensive software purchase.