Okay, I am diverting a bit from video for this news, but I know that a lot of people who read my pages also design websites as a sideline as well.
One of the problems of creating graphics for the web is Internet Explorer 6. This useless POS web browser has been the bain of many a web designers life. Aside from being a total pain in the backside from the point of view of getting your site to look anything like you intended it to, it also has a complete lack of transparent PNG support.
Usually designers would like to use PNG24, which contains full alpha transparency effects. This allows all sorts of cool things to be done with graphics layering. But IE6 will not display such graphics without cumbersome workarounds that only work in limited circumstances, and in any case 24-bit PNG files can be rather large.
A little known fact about the PNG format is that you can in fact have 256 levels of transparency within 8-bit PNG files. Such files show fantastic looking anti aliased transparency in the better browsers such as Safari, Firefox, and Opera, but they degrade automatically to display simple binary transparency in IE6. Even better is that when these files are displayed in IE6, although they do not look anywhere near as good as they do in the other browsers they do at least show without a background halo, something that has been an issue in the past when creating standard binary transparency PNG files.
The trouble is that the only widely available program that really saves such files is Adobe Fireworks. This is a problem for those of us who have shelled out for the outrageous cost of Photoshop and refuse to shell out again for Fireworks just for some optimisation features. After all, isn't that what the "Export for Web" option in Photoshop is supposed to be for?!
On the Mac there is also a complete lack of decent PNG utilities, so I was very happy to discover a company called Ardfry
They have a Photoshop plugin called PNG Out for $29 that not only optimises the PNG file sizes, but also allows 8-bit PNG files to be saved with 256 levels of transparency.
Mac users who visit the site will notice that that version of the plugin is not downloadable at the moment. However they are in need of feedback on the Beta version of the software. If you email them nicely you may be able to get a current trial version of the OS X Mac version of the plugin.
I highly recommend giving them your support as, certainly from my point of view, I have been waiting for such a Mac compatible plugin for a very long time!