zview beta 2
So it's another picture viewer, why get excited about it? Well this has
been quietly bubbling under for a little while, it is a new picture viewer,
but with some interesting extras and future attractions. Indeed, with a
closer look you could be quietly optimistic that this is that rarest and
most precious of creatures, a genuine next-generation Atari application!
We have a lone French coder Zorro, maker of zBench, to thank for this
tireless effort to bring this newness to our Fuji boxes. zView has been in
development since summer, but this latest version, the 'Beta 2' released at
the end of October, really sets itself apart from other run of the mill
At first glance, there seems to be nothing too special about zView, it
supports a handful of formats, the industry standard Jpeg, .GIF, and Atari
specific Degas are included, also .NEO, .IMG, and .PNG. Targa, Windows
Bitmap, and .IFF aren't though, and don't even ask about things like
Godpaint! So the multi-format eating Smurf, it 'aint, at least just yet
anyway. That said, there seems to be some future promise, as a plugin
system allows scope for future additional formats, as and when they are
It is advertised as needing a 68020 (or higher) and an FPU. The picture
displayer routines aren't the quickest on the market. It is left behind by
the current Olympic .JPG sprint champion Aniplayer. In fact you tend to
notice that it really needs a higher end machine to do it justice, ideally
in the '060 class in fact, but this then opens up other exciting
possibilities which we can now reveal.
Clicking on the browser option brings about one of those "Hey wow!"
moments, which are all too uncommon around these parts. A graphical
representation of the hard disk directories appears on screen, and where a
sub-directory contains compatible pictures, these are displayed in a handy
previewable thumbnail format! It is here that ownership, or lack thereof,
of a higher end machine becomes telling, as the time taken to set up and
draw a sizeable thumbnail gallery slows to a crawl on a standard machine.
The waiting is more tolerable on a CT2, but any large jpeg files still
cause a significant time lag. However, the CT60 presented no problems at
all. As far as I know, zView is the first Atari application that uses a
graphical thumbnail gallery, common enough to Windowze and other mainstream
platforms, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong...
Of course, then you click on the thumbnail you want to see on screen, and
it redraws and displays in its full size. There is an information option,
which not only gives you commonplace information like the picture name and
format, but also the compression ratio, the uncompressed size, and colour
Further examination of the directory window on the left of the browser
reveals another technique common to Windowze apps like Outlook, but not
usually seen on Atari. This is the extendible tree directory. With that,
you can open out the subdirectory structure to the desired folder, and
click to open the target folder directly, without having to open and
tediously redraw all the galleries before it.
This 320 x 200 peephole scarcely does zView justice, but you can see the
browser in operation, with the extendible tree directory, and a glimpse of
a thumbnail gallery (of holiday pictures I took in Turkey with my lame Nokia
mobycam, if anyone is remotely interested ;-)
So we have a rather superior picture browser which looks very nice on a
higher end machine with a modern replacement desktop, but what else? Well
the really exciting news is, that zView is intended to be the digital
camera picture handling software for the (hopefully near future bound)
EtherNat and CTlink USB interfaces! Now this would make Zorro worth his
weight in gold, and put zView in the Aniplayer and Highwire class of really
zView is made with Mintlib, and works best on that operating system. It
will work under plain TOS and Magic, but tends to be somewhat brittle
running on the latter two and will crash eventually at some point. However,
my cheap and nasty Cripplemint installation coped rather well, and zView
came up rock solid there. Surely this is a reason to treat yourself to that
full-on multitasking Mint installation, with a nice higher end desktop to
go with it?
What more is there to say? Let the ratings talk!
It's a genuine 'next-gen' application.
Good looking, especially on higher spec desktops.
Really does justice to higher-end machines.
Neat and unique(?) thumbnail picture browser.
Future USB support for digital cameras will be brilliant!
(If that last item makes it to a future version, Zview will be the 2005
application of the year!)
Sluggish on standard Falcons.
Tends to break if running under an o/s other than Mint.(FIXED on Beta 3!)
Limited number of picture formats supported (so far?)
zview update beta
Since I wrote this report, oh a few days ago, Zorro goes and pulls a major
version update from under his coding hat!
This is the 'Beta 3', which features several improvements over the equally
gorgeous but slightly flawed Beta 2 version. The good looking interface
remains the same as before, as does the method of operation, but there have
been several useful changes made below the surface.
The inability to run under Magic for long without falling over has been
fixed. This is a most welcome addition to zView's capabilities. I can
confirm that it is rock solid after extensive testing of the browser
gallery under that o/s. With this single change zView has now been promoted
from my 'temp' folder, to the permanent and useful graphics apps home on
zView is also gaining more viewable formats, the most significant ones
being Targa Truevision, and Windows bitmap (.BMP). Still no Godpaint yet
(grin!) but this can only be a matter of time.
There is even an attempt made to rectify some of the sluggishness on those
Falcons which aren't running at CT60 spec. A DSP-friendly Jpeg decoder is
included as an option. This is compatible with the universally accepted
'Brainstorm' DSP decoder. I can report that this does offer a big
improvement in loading times for full-sized pictures, especially in
Truecolour modes. The loading speed is directly comparable to CT60 with
those picture types now. There is a drawback with the current version of
this decoder module though, as some Jpeg files do not display correctly. In
fact, you get some spectacular and unwanted distortion and warping effects
on some of the pictures in the Browser. It does not get any better if you
skip the browser, and load a picture straight in.
A coincidental browse on comp.sys.atari.st reveals that the problem is with
the rather elderly Brainstorm decoder, which does not cater for some types
of Jpeg files. Zorro is looking for an alternative, possibly seeking the
help of Didier 'Aniplayer' Mequignon for his insights into fast and modern
Jpeg DSP depacking.
Many other things have been added or fixed, improved dithering routines for
lower colour modes for example. Also an info-bar at the top of a picture
display window tells you the resolution/bitplanes, and number of colours.
There is even a added information category which tells you if a picture has
been made with a well-known PeeCee graphics app.
All in all, zView Beta 3 is a very big improvement on an already brilliant
CiH, for Alive Mag,Nov/Dec '04