The Creativepro.com Holiday Gift Guide
Even though the old adage is that it's better to give than to receive, we all know that when it comes to holiday presents we hope to get as good as we give. And what better way to find out what to give the creative professional on your list than to ask creative professionals themselves what they're secretly coveting. By the way, you help to support creativepro.com when you buy items through our affiliation with Amazon. -- Compiled by Pamela Pfiffner, creativepro.com editor in chief
Unwrapping software may seem like the equivalent of opening that long narrow box containing a tie from your Aunt Ethel -- dull, predictable, and decidedly anti-climactic. But at the same time, what creative professional doesn't need applications?
David Morgenstern: As longtime readers are aware, I've been spending much of my Mac computing hours in OS X and recently in the Version 10.2 update, dubbed Jaguar (see figure 1). It's great fun, but as we all know, that transition means upgrading third-party software, and that can tax the budget.
Updating the big titles is an expensive proposition and after a short while, even the smaller products add up quickly. Hence, I'm still using the older Classic versions of Macromedia Dreamweaver and Adobe Photoshop, while wishing I were using the latest versions. So if you know someone who's been making the switch to Mac OS X, don't overlook giving software basics, including big-ticket products and low-priced utilities. All are essential to the OS X experience. And don't forget that on New Year's Day 2003, Mac users live in an all OS X world, as all new mac henceforth ship with that OS only.
Figure 1: Mac OS X 10.2 aka Jaguar -- and the software that runs on it -- is perfect for the Mac user on your list.
Pamela Pfiffner: There are now four good page-layout programs to choose from: Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker, QuarkXPress, and Corel Ventura. All have had upgrades recently -- make sure your friends and relations have the latest. Best idea: Expose him or her to one of the other products. Give a PageMaker or QuarkXPress user InDesign 2. Give version 5 of QuarkXPress to an InDesign user. Haven't looked at Ventura recently? Give version 10 a whirl.
David Morgenstern: Speaking of updates, I have been experimenting with Binuscan's PhotoRetouch Pro 1.0.6, a $749 photo-editing and color calibration package offered in Mac OS 9 and OS X-native versions. The software provides a number of very interesting tools, one of which lets users examine underlying scanner and CCD artifacts in images. I will discuss these technology and the hardware issues in a forthcoming column. The company demonstrated Version Pro 2.0 at Photokina earlier in the fall and I'm looking forward to seeing it in action. A demo of PhotoRetouch Pro 1.0.6 is available here.
Sandee Cohen: I drooled over Ben Long's review of Auto FX DreamSuite. Those are the types of effects I love to apply to Photoshop files. Please, Mommy, can I have one of those? What I also want is a copy of Woodwing Software's Smart Styles 2 for InDesign 2 Smart Styles combines object, table and smart text styles into super powerful Smart Styles. Just one click is all I need to apply intricate formatting to InDesign tables. (Both products are available as downloads from their respective sites.)
Pamela Pfiffner: I've praised it before and I'll praise it again: Photoshop Elements 2.0 is a great buy and not just for entry-level users. If you have a digital camera, this software is a must (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Many new digital cameras ship with Photoshop Elements 2.0, but owners of last year's model can use it, too.
For Hot Hardware, turn the page.
Like buying a flat-screen TV or a DVD player, purchasing computer hardware for the holidays can be a luxury that requires shelling out big bucks. But that's not always true. As technology becomes more mainstream, prices come down. Still, a sugar daddy who can make hardware dreams a reality would be mighty nice this time of year.
Susan Glinert: I lust after the Apple Cinema HD Display (23-inch flat panel). My knees grow weak, my eyeballs bulge, and for the first time ever, I considered buying a Mac. If the darned thing worked on a PC, I would sell my car... This 24-inch Samsung SyncMaster LCD display would do in a pinch, though.
Sandee Cohen: I too would love a 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display. But sadly, at $3,499 srp, even if you (or I) could afford it, I can't use it. I don't have enough space in the small area on my desk for the monitor. So I'll just settle for Cornea System's MP704 ultra-slim panel that costs less than $500 (see figure 3).
Figure 3: Black, slim, and stylish -- Cornea's MP704 looks good and costs less than Apple's 23-inch version.
I'd also like the Macally Icekey Keyboard ($49). I really like its touch and the white keys are much easier to read than the black ones that came with my G4.
Sonja Schenk: As a freelance writer, I spend an inordinate amount of time in cafes and I couldn't help but notice that wireless Internet access is turning up at almost all the cafés I frequent in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. That's why even though it's not exactly new technology, my number one wished-for gift is an Apple AirPort card for my laptop. It's the missing link in my virtual office.
Sandee Cohen: For gifts that I'm giving, I can't think of anything better than El Gato Software's EyeTV digital video recorder ($199). Most people think of EyeTV as a Tivo-like recording device to record TV shows on your OS X machine. But what I like it for is the ability to record TV shows on my G4 PowerBook and then watch them back on the airplane as I travel cross-country.
Pamela Pfiffner: Prices for external hard drives, CD-R burners, and digital cameras have come down so much recently that it's a shame not to share the wealth. External hard drives aren't terribly sexy, but 120 GB for less than $300? What's not to like? This 7200-RPM Maxtor unit has both FireWire and USB connectivity, making it ultra versatile. You also can't go wrong with a FireWire CD-R drive, a copy of Toast, and a spindle of discs.
As for digital cameras, there are a gazillion to choose from these days. This might be a good time to re-read Ben Long's story "How to Buy a Digital Camera" to brush up on the basics.
SeanWagstaff's review of the Nikon CoolPix 2500 with the swiveling lens made me wish I had held off buying the one I have (see figure 4) -- complete the picture with a camera case and extra battery. Now until December 31, too, you can get a free 32MB Flash card with purchase from Amazon. Click here for details.
More upscale is the $2,000 Nikon D100 which has been getting good word of mouth. Add in the book "A Short Course in Nikon D100 Photography," available in print or as an e-book. On the other end of the spectrum, earlier this year Ben Long reviewed the sub-$300 Canon PowerShot S200 Digital Elph and liked this pint-size camera very much. It's just the thing to tuck into a pocket to slyly snap New Year's Eve revelry (see figure 5). Like the Nikon, the offer of a free 32MB memory card applies to the S200, too.
David Morgenstern: While I would love to upgrade my digital camera or head into video, I admit that I miss the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match I evaluated last spring. This color calibration system really did the job and my scanner profile could use updating. As I mentioned in the column, the $3,000 cost is the sticking point. Still, I buy my Lotto tickets twice a week and hope for the best.
For Great Gadgets, turn the page.
The holidays are the time to ask for (and give) stuff you'd never buy for yourself. New technologies, hip form-factors, dubious products for which there is no need but they're kind of cool nevertheless -- the items listed below all fall into this group.
Pamela Pfiffner: As my work moved from print to online, my dad realized that to share in his daughter's career he could no longer go to the newsstand and pick up a copy of whatever magazine I was working for. He'd need to go online. The computer he bought to do so was far too complicated for him (Did he listen to me? Nooooo!) so he gave it away. I want him to at least send and receive email, so I'm looking at the Earthlink Mivo 350 Cordless Email Appliance. It connects through standard phone lines to let him access email throughout the house and see HTML, JPG, and GIF attachments without cumbersome hardware. Another option I'm investigating is the RCA MSN TV Internet Receiver which would give him email and Web access through MSN via his television set. And as my dad is (shall we say ) very familiar with his TV, this may be the right route to take.
Eric J. Adams: On the techie side, I say go digital music this year. For instance:
- The $49 Xitel HiFi-Link PC to Stereo Connector that lets you bypass inferior computer sound cards and play MP3 or streaming radio on your stereo;
- The $399 PoGo Flipster, a dedicated portable multimedia player equipped with LCD display for watching downloaded videos, listening to MP3s, recording voice memos and live recordings, storing and viewing high resolution still images, and soon watching TV (see figure 6);
- The $99 AVerFoto Play: TV Digital Photo Player, a palm-sized plug-and-play device that allows you to display and browse pictures captured by digital cameras on a big screen using such remote-controlled features as a 16-picture preview, 90-degree clockwise rotation, and digital zoom.
(Pamela Pfiffner: I feel like I'm the only one on the planet without an Apple iPod. I'd like that to change, please.)
David Morgenstern: One of the coolest products I've seen in the past couple of years is the ProScope by Scalar digital microscope for Macs and PCs (see figure 7). The high-resolution USB camera costs around $229 and is sold by a number of online retailers (the lowest price I've seen is from Proscope.net).
ProScope comes with a 50X lens, but also supports a variety of optional lenses, from 1-10X to 200X; there's also an adapter for standard C-mount photographic camera lenses. The camera can take extremely close still images at 640-by-480-pixel resolution as well as movies in either QuickTime or .AVI formats. Certainly, the ProScope could replace the optical loop for some gadget-minded folks.
Figure 7: . The ProScope is usually pictured looking at butterflies or bugs, and works just as great for examining the CMYK dots of printed output. For a disturbing personal tour, point it at the pores of your nose. While its name suggests professional use, Scalar sells a "real" USB microscope for about $500.
For Stocking Stuffers and Miscellaneous, turn the page.
Stocking Stuffers and Miscellany
To badly paraphrase Mies van der Rohe: "Gosh" is in the details. The bits and pieces, the odd little items, the amusing and unexpected stuff that fall under the category "stocking stuffer" are often the most welcome gifts. They're often the most fun to shop for, too.
Sandee Cohen: I've already been giving away ScreensavRz ($10) available from www.radtech.us. These thin cloths lay between a PowerBook or iBook keyboard and the LCD screen to protect the screen from the oils deposited on the keys. Finally, for my aging eyes, I need a few Bausch & Lomb Magna-Page magnifiers left all around my house to help me read.
Pamela Pfiffner: I think back to an article David Morgenstern wrote earlier this year about cleaning your computer. Put together a cleaning kit containing some cans of compressed air, a keyboard brush, and a mini-vacuum cleaner for getting into those tiny crevices. Monitor wipes come in handy, too.
Also, I discovered much too late that Titanium PowerBooks are prone to unsightly wear and tear on its exterior beveled case, resulting in chipped paint. The warranty doesn't cover fixing it, but you can buy touch-up paint from TiPaint ($12.95 for single color; $19.95 for the set). Sooner or later your TiBook-toting friends will need this.
Pamela Pfiffner: Speaking of DVDs, I think the following DVD documentaries would be great for the budding -- or even established -- photographer on your list:
- Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light;
- Alfred Stieglitz: The Eloquent Eye;
- National Geographic: The Photographers.
Those who appreciate fine photography should also consider a print by Stephen Johnson. This photographer of the natural world uses only digital technologies -- high-resolution cameras, Adobe Photoshop, archival-ink printers -- to produce beautiful prints with stunning detail and tonal gradation (see figure 8). Prices range from $195 for an 11x14-inch print to $1,500 for a 20x25-inch print. View the gallery of available images here.
Figure 8: Stephen Johnson's photograph of Bridalveil Falls displays the subtlety for which his digital prints are known.
David Morgenstern: Late at night recently the lights went out in my office and the surrounding neighborhood. It was really dark and I stumbled around a bit before I found a flashlight. It glowed weakly and then went out. Thankfully, I didn't knock over the digital camera or printer in the dark.
Following that experience, I checked out flashlights and discovered this venerable technology has entered the modern age. Instead of the traditional incandescent bulb, these next-generation flashlights use an array of light-emitting diodes (LED).
These lights have several advantages over the previous generation: low power requirements and reliability -- as far as I know LEDs don't burn out and most are guaranteed to run continuously for 11 years. However, they cost a lot.
I chose the $33 Lightwave 2100, which has a 4-LED array and uses three AA batteries. Reviews tell that a set of batteries will last more than 40 hours of continuous use.
Pamela Pfiffner: Give the font fan on your list real metal type or wooden printing blocks, like those used in advertising. You can find great ones on Ebay -- the Printing Equipment category is a good place to start, then poke around through the Type, Fonts, Clip Art section.
For Beautiful Books, turn the page.
Books are the spine of holiday gifts. You can never go wrong with a good book -- and that's especially true for creative professionals. Fantastic art books abound. And it's OK to be practical too: a guide to using newly acquired software is always appreciated.
Eric J. Adams: Considering the year it's been, for the creative professional in my life I'm thinking escape, as in some really nice art books like:
- "The Art of the Fillmore," which is still cool to look at (see figure 9);
- the truly wild "F*****d Up + Photocopied: instant art of the punk rock movement";
- and something no one else has, like Tarot Universal Dali," a set of Tarot cards created by the master himself, Salvador Dali.
Pamela Pfiffner: Those seeking typographic inspiration should look up "Avant Garde Page Design 1900-1950. John D. Berry wrote about this handsome coffee-table book earlier this year and I'm still lusting after it. A similar and equally impressive tome is "The Russian Avant Garde Book, 1920-1934" -- I can't get enough of that constructivist stuff!
Sandee Cohen: I'm waiting for Real World InDesign 2," by Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner to finally get printed. But if it's not in print yet, then I'd be giving Sharon Steuer's Creative Thinking in Photoshop (see below). I also expect to use the holiday season to memorize every word in Michael Kieran's "Photoshop Color Correction."
Sharon Steuer: How many times have creative friends told you they don't feel comfortable creating art with a computer? Well, why not give them "Creative Thinking in Photoshop: A New Approach to Digital Art" for those digitally phobic or uninspired artistic friends and family (see figure 10). Ok, so I wrote "Creative Thinking," but I promise you (and lots of reviewers agree!) that my book really enhances creativity for artists, photographers, and designers who need a kick-in-the-pants to delve into the digital world. Just between us, my secret is this: you don't have to master Photoshop to integrate it into your creative process. I teach you to "think in Photoshop" so you can envision how to integrate traditional and digital tools. It's a great gift that is both practical and will give someone pleasure. If you want me to sign the book for you, stop by my Web site and request a custom bookplate.
Pamela Pfiffner: We've featured many books on the site this year. Most of them can be found in our creativepro.com bookstore. But 'd like to draw your attention to those books written by our contributing editors. By buying their books from us you support not only the authors but the site itself. Here are their most recent efforts:
- "Real World QuarkXPress 5," by David Blatner (read an excerpt here)
- "QuarkXPress Power Shortcuts: Productivity Shortcuts for QuarkXPress 4 and 5," by David Blatner
- "Real World Photoshop 7," by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser
- "Fireworks MX for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide," by Sandee Cohen
- "InDesign 2 for Windows and Mactintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide," by Sandee Cohen
- "Adobe Acrobat 5 Master Class," by Pattie Belle Hastings, Bjorn Akelsen, and Sandee Cohen (read an excerpt here)
- "Real World PDF with Adobe Acrobat 5," by Anita Dennis (read more here)
- "Complete Digital Photography," by Ben Long
- "Making Digital Videos," by Ben Long
- "The Digital Filmmaking Handbook," by Ben Long and Sonja Schenk
- "Type Graphics: The Power of Type in Graphic Design," by Margaret Richardson
- "Digital Non-Linear Desktop Editing, by Sonja Schenk
- "The Illustrator 10 Wow! Book, by Sharon Steuer (read an excerpt here)
- and of course, "Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story," by Pamela Pfiffner (read an excerpt here). It's got a hardcover with embossed type with a dust jacket and everything! An elegant gift for the graphic designer or publisher on your list.
Liked This? Read These!
In the latest addition to its award-winning EASYSHARE consumer digital photography system, Eastman Kodak Company today announced four new innovative and user-friendly products to the C and V lines of... Read More
TypeTalk is a regular blog on typography. Post your questions and comments by clicking on the Comments icon above. If Ilene answers your question in the blog, you'll receive one Official... Read More
Some digital cameras are very stylish. Others simply take great pictures. Those looking for the best of both worlds will enjoy the latest addition to Nikon's award-winning line-up of Coolpix digital... Read More
lynda.com, the leader in video-based training for digital media and design software, today announced its new relationship with author and instructor David Blatner, and the immediate availability of... Read More