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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
picture viewers.

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
essential utilities.

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!)

Con's ..
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 3

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
drive F:

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 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

Alive 9