[Review] Magic Collage

{rw_text}Software reviewed in this article:

Magic Collage by PixelApp Studio

Version reviewed:

v2.3

Supported OS:

Windows XP, 2000, 2003, Vista, Win7

.NET Framework is required

Price:

$26.95 (USD) but you can get it for free for a limited time at Giveawayoftheday.com!

Software description as per the developer:

Magic Collage is an automatic and easy to use photo collage creator software that lets you to create impressive photo collage automatically in a few clicks!

Magic Collage creates photo collage by using a special photo processing engine that can automatic place and arrange the photos from different graphic, shape and text that you specify.

Ashraf’s note:

This review was originally written on Magic Collage v2.1. It has been updated to reflect Magic Collage v2.3. There is no official changelog which I could find to indicate the new features in v2.3, but as per my tests the only changes in v2.3 is Magic Collage now supports PSD output while in v2.1 it did not.

————————-{/rw_text} –>

{rw_good}

  • Straightforward and easy to use.
  • Users can create picture collages based on shapes modeled after graphics or text.
  • As a model for the collage, users can use a handful of graphics that come with the program or draw/import their own.
  • There are various different settings for collages which can be controlled by the user, such as individual picture size, amount of pictures used, picture shadow, collage background color, etc.
  • Users can view a “live preview” of the collage as they create it.
  • Can output collages as PSD, in addition to JPG and PNG.

{/rw_good} –>

{rw_bad}

  • Extremely memory inefficient.
  • Lacks support for other popular image formats like GIF and BMP when outputting collages.
  • Program window is not resizeable.

{/rw_bad} –>

{rw_score}
{for=”Ease of Use” value=”9″}Very easy to use. The only problem in terms of usage is that the program window is not resizable.
{/for}
{for=”Performance” value=”6″}Performs very well – creates nice collages. The only two problems are 1) Magic Collage is very, very memory inefficient (expect to receive an “out of memory” error occasionally if you plan on using a lot of images – by a lot I mean in or near the thousand mark) 2) Only PSD, JPG, and PNG are supported for output for collage – no GIF or BMP support.
{/for}
{for=”Usefulness” value=”6″}I can see quite a few people finding this useful, if not for productive needs then maybe for the “fun” factor. However, the extremely high memory usage will deter a good number of potential customers.
{/for}
{for=”Price” value=”7″}$26.95 is a fair price but I think $19.95 would be more attractive.
{/for}
{for=”Arbitrary Equalizer” value=”7″}This category reflects an arbitrary number that does not specifically stand for anything. Rather this number is used to reflect dotTech’s overall rating/verdict of the program in which all the features and alternatives have been considered.
{/for}
{/rw_score} –>

{rw_badb}There are allegations that Magic Collage is a ripoff of Shape Collage. I agree Magic Collage and Shape Collage are uncannily similar but I don’t have concrete proof to say for sure which one is the original and which one is the ripoff. For what it is worth, if I was asked to pick between the two, I would say Shape Collage is the more polished program (and Shape Collage Pro is $1.95 cheaper).

See discussion in the comments below for more details on this issue.

{/rw_badb} –>

{rw_verdict}[tup]
{/rw_verdict} –>

Magic Collage is a collage maker that allows users to create picture collages. The collages are more mosaic than a typical photo collage in the sense that the collages are based on either a graphic or a text rather than being a random collection of images.

This is what Magic Collage’s main program window looks like:

Using Magic Collage is very easy:

  • Add the images you want to make your collage out of. This can be done with the “Add Picture” button (you can select multiple images to add at one time) or by clicking the down arrow next to the “Add Picture” button and selecting “Add Folder” to add all the images in a folder. The developer is not very specific as to what image formats are supported as input only caring to state “Picture File” when browsing for images. As per my tests, JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP are supported; other formats may also be supported.
  • Configure the collage settings. This can be done from the “Shape & Option” and “Appearance” menus located at the right of the program window:

A handful of key things to note when configuring collage settings:

  • You can create your collage based on a graphic or based on text. If you decide to base it on a graphic, you can select from 25 graphics that come with Magic Collage, import your own…

…or even draw your own:

You may also edit the graphics that come with Magic Collage if you feel the need to customize them.

If you decide to base it on text, you can type in the text you want and select the font type.

  • Under “Option” there is a setting to control how many images will appear in the collage. This number is at 300 by default, and can range from 2-1,500. If the number of images you loaded into Magic Collage is less than the “Pictures” number under “Options”, then your images will be repeated as needed. If the number of images you loaded into Magic Collage is higher than the “Pictures” number under “Options”, then not all pictures will be used in the collage.
  • Under “Picture Property” you can control the size of each individual image. By default it is set to 150 px but can be as low as 2 px and as high as 500 px.
  • You can set the background of the collage to be transparent, a solid color (it is white by default), or use an image for the background.
  • As you change the settings of your collage, you can view how it looks via the “live preview” feature:

  • When all is ready, simply hit the “Output” button had save your collage. You can save as JPG, PNG, or PSD. Unfortunately there is no support for GIF or BMP formats when outputting. (Note: The trial version of Magic Collage has output as PSD disabled; since I used the trial version of Magic Collage to write this review, I was unable to properly test if output as PSD works as intended.)

Truly the only major problem with Magic Collage is that it is extremely memory inefficient. Indeed, at one point Magic Collage was using 1.4 GB of RAM after I loaded about 2000 images into Magic Collage. Of course, 2000 images is a bit of an extreme I would say, so that much RAM usage is not going to be typical. However, even 200 images causes Magic Collage to use around 200 MB of RAM. (Although, it is worth mentioning after loading one image into Magic Collage, the RAM usage was highly fluctuating, going over 1 GB at one point. I had to close and reopen Magic Collage, because I believe it was bugging out – 1 image should not cause that high RAM usage. Reopening Magic Collage seemed to have fixed it.)

Similarly, you may run into errors like the following:

The first error means that you are trying to load too many images into Magic Collage. I was able to max out at about 2020 images. The second error means that you need to either lower the amount of images in the collage (“Options” -> “Pictures”)  or lower the size of each individual image (“Appearance” -> “Picture Size”). For the second error, I have noticed that the more images you have loaded into Magic Collage, the lower you have to set your “Pictures” and “Picture Size” values; so you may be able to keep the same amount of images and the same picture size if you load less images into Magic Collage.

This review was conducted on a laptop running Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. The specs of the laptop are as follows: 3GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 2600 512MB graphics card, and an Intel T8300 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor.

{rw_freea}

Shape Collage

Make picture collages in less than a minute with just a few mouse clicks

-Developer

<<<<>>>>

Shape Collage is actually very similar to Magic Collage in terms of features and what it does. Interestingly enough, though, is that Shape Collage has no memory problems when handling large amount of images – it is a lot more memory efficient. It is worth noting that Shape Collage is written in Java while Magic Collage is written in .NET so that could be one of the main reasons why (I don’t know for sure).

The “free” version of Shape Collage is supposed to have a watermark on the output files, but I tested out Shape Collage and I was unable to find any watermark on my collages. Regardless, though, even if a watermark is placed, it is easily removable since the watermark is not placed on the actual collage but rather on the background.

Foto-Mosaik-Edda

With Foto-Mosaik-Edda you can create mosaic-pictures, which are composed of many small pictures (tiles), from your own photos.

The single pictures will be analysed and copied into one or more databases. You can use your holiday photos, pictures of the last family celebration or even take over whole picture-CDs into the database.

A simple to use wizard will guide you through the program and will turn the creation of your own photo-mosaic into a piece of cake. Amaze others with this extraordinary effect.

Just try it!

-Developer

{/rw_freea} –>

{rw_verdict2}I really like Magic Collage. It is easy to use, and can create really nice collages. I give it a thumbs up but stop short of recommending it – rather giving you the choice to decide if you want to use it or not – because of its memory usage problems. I do say, however, if you are looking for a collage maker, you should give Magic Collage a try before just dismissing it.
{/rw_verdict2} –>

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26 comments

  1. Ramesh Kumar

    @Patrick:

    Dear Dear Friend – if this is your awesome expertise when you claim to be “only an interested amateur” I can hardly wonder at what you would be if “you are an interested professional”. Awesome talent AND humility too. Friend anyone can copy paste *the difference lies in doing it by application of mind*

    Its a pleasure meeting you.

    Why don’t you post on topics relating to “photography, video, sound and/of music, ITC applications” in our forum too. We’d feel happy & could learn as well. That would be a nice & constructive way for a very intelligent 50+ to say thank you to Ashraf.

    As you come to the forum you’d notice that there is no generation gap at all. We love people who are bright & honest.Period. Besides Ashraf keeps doing so many good things that thank you from one more family member would help matters all the more. So say all of us. :)
    Ramesh :D :D

  2. Ramesh Kumar

    @Polytopal:

    Your reply was not only intelligent but had an adorable “twinkle in the eye” as well leading me to respond. :) I know my reply is slightly off topic but I do hope “sense” counterbalances “tangentiality” at least this once; at least for me :)

    Polytopal I intuit “FileMinimization” has already earned itself 2 enemies:- ;)

    1)Cloud computing guys would hate it. They’ve been saying “save in a cloud; why bother about buying larger hard disks”. FileMinimization takes the “wind out of those” who support “cloud computing”! Why would someone even look for clouds (except of course if they want rain ;) ) when hard disk space usage can shrink so hugely. Zip technology did not bother the “Cloud guys” but I intuit FileMinimization technology certainly does ;)

    2)Hard Disk vendors hate it too. Invariably they make larger “margin of profit” on larger hard disks. Prices of larger hard disks would come down now. China & Taiwan won’t be happy with FileMinimization technology since many hard disks are made in those 2 countries. That’s for sure. Earlier hard disk vendors hated only Cloud Computing. Now of course they would hate FileMinimization technology as well.

    On a serious note FileMinimizatiom while achieving 98% file size shrinkage may not “necessarily” always achieve it by maintaining image quality. Ashraf’s review testifies that.

    If you visit the Balesio site you’d have noticed that the price of the app is very low. Aka at least for the present it caters only to “home” use rather than the “office” segment aka “commercial” use

    Anyway, I am allowed to go off topic not more than once in a day :)
    Ramesh :)

  3. Patrick

    Hi,

    I’m referring to above:
    – Polytopal #8 and #23
    – Ramesh Kumar #14

    It seems to me that the issues touched upon are more closely related to file size/file compression than to “collage”-ing.

    The “problem” may have its origin in “lacks support for other popular image formats like GIF and BMP”? Who indeed still uses BMP? I know lecturers on journalism and communication sciences (in Belgium) who refuse BMP format in presentations that are part of exams…

    As for the compression part: on today’s (March 4) GOTD FILEminimizer Pictures page I posted comment #41 questionning developer Balesio‘s claims on “innovative image optimization technology” etc.

    @ Ramesh Kumar – #10 above:
    You’re really giving me too much credit for my comment #3! As I said: “All this is just the result of copy/paste.”
    Therefore credit is due to people like Ashraf and others who provided the basis for “my” small compilation.
    Besides, “I certainly do not have his extensive expertise on this subject”… I, Patrick, really do not have that extensive expertise on the subject –wish I had though. I’m just an interested amateur who still feels a bit ‘triste’ about the relatively fast near-disappearance of good old non-digital photography. All in all I’m a 50+ old “student” and somewhat in awe of today’s immense possibilities in photography, video, sound and/of music, ITC applications, etc., etc.
    And I feel very happy about a lot of all that, and also a bit worried about the darker side of modern technology.
    Anyway, thanks a lot for the compliment! I’ll keep on gathering bits and pieces of useful information –coming from many others.

    Greetz.
    Patrick.

    [Submitted 04-03-2010; 23:35 GMT+1]

  4. Polytopal

    @Ramesh Kumar:

    Thanks for taking the time to answer, I thought it was so clever when internal compression was added to the PNG file format :-/. I read the review for fileMinimizer and I’m thoroughly impressed, I’d like to see a white paper on the algorithms used to reduce the file size so dramatically, when I took cryptology, we discussed compression as the sister of encryption (due to the minimization of reducible pattern) and I sadly did not investigate any further. I’m blown away by the ability to lose 97.5% of the slack in an image file, it makes me think there should be specialized hardware to improve image compression/decompression in this manner whilst reducing the load on HDD space by ~90% (RIDICULOUS)! 8o

    Once again, thank you! :D

  5. Vincent Cheung

    @Ashraf: Shape Collage has been around since April 2008. You can see one of the first reviews for the program here, which is dated May 31, 2008: http://abe.rocketmonkeys.com/2008/05/isaiah-collage/

    You can also verify the date on delicious:
    http://delicious.com/url/daedfb03ecbd2bf97e1b499f5a0c32ae?show=all&page=24

    Magic Collage came onto the scene in December 2009, oddly enough starting with version 2.0, probably to seem closer inline with the version numbering of Shape Collage.

    @Ramesh Kumar: No worries, it was an easy mistake to make!

  6. Ramesh Kumar

    @Vincent Cheung:

    Friend Vincent sorry for my typo. I meant Shape Collage 2.5. I remember you as an enterprising student – you wrote it while studying am I right. That’s admirable. I do not have Photo Collage at all. I only have Shape Collage. Yes, apart from those icons it has a cat & other things too. Sorry for my typo friend. I am only a user not a developer

    Ramesh :)

  7. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Vincent Cheung: I am not a big user of Shape Collage (the last time I tried it – which was really long ago – it didn’t work properly for me, but I can clearly say you have improved the program much since then) so initially I just thought the similarities between Magic Collage and Shape Collage are just that – similarities. However, now that you mention it, yes Magic Collage does seem very, very identical to Shape Collage. Of course, it would be hard for me to accuse PixelApp of copying your software without proof (who is to say you didn’t copy them – no offense, I am just trying to be fair), but I can say someone copied someone.

    Oh and I do agree to one fact: Shape Collage seems to be more polished than Magic Collage. If I was going to purchase one, I would probably get Shape Collage Pro over Magic Collage.

  8. Vincent Cheung

    @Ramesh Kumar: Sorry, I misunderstood you because you said that you used “Photo Collage 2.5″, which is actually the name of a program by a different company.

    Anyways, I’m glad to hear that you enjoy Shape Collage!

    I’d love to have Ashraf post a review about Shape Collage. It peeves me that he posted a review about this Magic Collage program, because it was made by some guy in China that stole my idea of automatically creating photo collages in different shapes and then he did a poor job of copying my program.

    The guy even uses the same shapes on his website (heart, world, snowman) and copies phrases that I have on my website…

    I take pride in the minute details of my program, everything from the proper gaussian blur in the drop shadows, fast multithreading, intelligent arrangement of the photos, efficient use of memory, data interoperability, and its cross-platform nature. If you’re going to copy my program, don’t insult me by doing a botched job and passing it off as your own idea.

    Vincent

  9. Ramesh Kumar

    @Vincent Cheung:

    I agree & am a happy user Vincent. I’ve happily used it & not just as a fun app.

    Perhaps you’ve misunderstood me. Perhaps its my English. I am happy to hear from you directly though………because I’ve always wanted to thank you for developing such a fine program

    Btw I’ve already visited your wonderful website, have used those icons & have even created text collage & image collage. I haven’t used it in Photoshop but I’ve used it in Gimp.

    What’s more I’ve even got appreciation from my family members who have seen those creations on my desktop.

    The other good thing is that your app is not a kiddish app but caters to “all” age groups. Which is what I was telling Adrian in paragraph no. 3 btw ! Perhaps you missed reading that Vincent.

    Do consider getting in touch with Ashraf. Ours is a nicely growing family. We’d be lucky not only because Ashraf is great webmaster but also because Vincent Cheung is a great developer. Naturally that’s a decision between the two of you. Good wishes!
    Ramesh :)

  10. Ramesh Kumar

    @Polytopal:

    Both BMP & PNG are “lossless” image formats as opposed to other image formats which are “lossful” image formats.

    BMP files are >>>>>>>> than PNG files in terms of file size. Both BMP & PNG fall under the category “resolution-dependent file formats” as opposed to “vector format aka resolution independent file format.” Consequently both BMP & PNG will pixellate (i.e. crackle up & show crystals) if you change resolution whereas Vector file formats won’t. :)

    Since a BMP format is >>>>>>>> than a PNG file a BMP file (in terms of file size) BMP offers far greater opportunity to reduce file size if you use a technology called “File Size Minimization”.

    Friend search for & read Ashraf’s review of FileMinimizer – an app from Balesio of Switzerland which can save image file size by upto 98% of its original size – yes 50 times smaller…….without “necessarily” affecting quality! :)

    Btw when you use zipping technique you might only be able to reduce image file size by around 24% or so………max (without using mutiple zipping that is)…….without affecting quality.

    Ramesh :)

  11. Vincent Cheung

    @Ramesh Kumar: I suggest you check out Shape Collage’s website (www.shapecollage.com), which has examples of what it can do. I guarantee you that it’s more than just kid’s play. You can export collages to Photoshop PSD where each photo is in its own layer.

    The program has been used in published books (www.smashingbook.com) and even in large advertising billboards in Thailand.

    Vincent | Founder of Shape Collage

  12. Ramesh Kumar

    @Ashraf
    Ashraf in his customary “high IQ”, “high intellect” manner said & I quote – “It is worth noting that Shape Collage is written in Java while Magic Collage is written in .NET so that could be one of the main reasons why (I don’t know for sure)”. :)

    I intuit that we also have several coders & lead developers in our dottech family. I for one would love to know what is the take those coders & lead developers have on this. :)

    At the risk of getting slightly off topic I’d appreciate if an article on .NET versus Java illumines this web page sometime. I for one would keep my eyes peeled for such an article in the future. ;)
    Ramesh :)

  13. Ramesh Kumar

    @Adrian:

    A perceptive issue Adrian raised (point no. 2). Is this genre of app always only “fun-oriented” or can it also have a “productivity purpose.” Wow!

    I’ve used this genre of apps effectively for “productivity purpose” & not “only for fun use”.

    Introspect. In our real world we often live in an intensely competitive environment. Very many of us lack a large array of “icebreaker techniques” & languish as a result of it. Whether we entertain our bosses, spouses (sometimes both these categories mean one & the same sigh! ;) ), friends, business associates etc we fall back on cliched stereotyped approaches. Our icebreaker techniques fail because of our “stereotypedness”. Trust me, apps like PhotoCollage 2.5 provide you out-of-box techniques for getting ahead in life via icebreakers.

    All that holds you back is the power of your own imagination. :D

    That said, I understand where Adrian is coming from. Many apps in this genre are targeted at very young children. They look juvenile in terms of masks, templates, fonts, look & feel.

    I believe developers of these apps actually have a lot of opportunity to become streetsmart & offer us a differentiated product – which caters to those in the 20+ age group category. I do hope developers of apps in this genre take this hint ;)
    Ramesh :)

  14. Ramesh Kumar

    @Patrick:

    Indeed Patrick has provided us examples of an extremely useful set of fine apps. :)

    I certainly do not have his extensive expertise on this subject. In fact I have downloaded & used only 2 of the apps – Photo Collage 2.5 (Ashraf also likes this app) & Express Collage Suite 5.1 – a suite of 4 apps – Collage Album, Collage eBook, Collage Calendar or Collage Slideshow.

    Express Collage Suite 5.1 may also be of use to Ebook writers. :) who want to add some mustard to their recipe! :D

    I intuit the other examples are good too. Obviously Patrick is a rare type of person who if he chooses to get interested in something – chooses to become an expert in that domain (like Ashraf I guess!). :) We are lucky Patrick has shared his views with all of us. Thank you Patrick. :)

    Express Collage Suite 5.1 is an app which is fine & also unusual. It is somewhat out of the box both in respect of its awesome features & also being somewhat unusual in terms of how to install the app itself (the experience is rare & difficult to express in words). You’ll get the feeling – Omigod why does this installation feel so different!

    Don’t make the mistake of letting that bother you. It is absolutely safe & great. :) Perhaps the experience is different because it was coded in a different language. Btw it is not .NET. I think it is Delphi.

    Think laterally – both while installing the app also while using it. Use its help file. Enjoy its feature richness! :)
    Ramesh :)

  15. Polytopal

    Hello Ashraf,

    First off, thank you for spending your time on providing us an excellent review.

    The PNG format is pretty awesome, you can now even use lzma compression, which results in (reasonably) smaller image sizes. With all due respect, I was wondering in what applications/environments traditional BMPs are still used? I personally haven’t used them for years, but I’m actually quite curious, also, (and I appreciate that your time is valuable) what are the practical advantages of BMP over PNG, considering that PNGs can also store alpha channels, and (may) have quite competitively smaller file sizes?

    If this is a flameworthy question, please just say “p1ss off” or something similar, I’d appreciate it deeply rather than a long and lengthy verbal reprimand… Thanks!

  16. Bill3

    @Balletjebakbal: Dear Balletjebakbal,

    please read your comments, and think about what your saying, before you submit them. Ashraf is providing a cost benefit analysis.

    A good comment would be ” Ashraf : Thank you for spending your time, on providing us with your excellent review. ”

    Regards Bill3.

  17. Joji

    This also applies the same with “Comic Life PRO”. I have that on my laptop, and if I put like 40 stuff or less on one page, the program would lag, and “drag and drop” would be a harder to do.

    ~Joji~

  18. Balletjebakbal

    I think the reviews are always very useful, only maybe u shouldnt consider ‘price’ in the review, because it is GAOTD, and it is free. So why even bother including the price? I understand the review should be also for later use, but i think the price-part fits better in the conclusion, if it is worthy to buy or not.

  19. Patrick

    Re. alternative freebies…

    Hi,

    Over the past few months GOTD has offered some collage (or related) software with mention of alternative freebies, some of which were reviewed also here, on dottech).

    I’m listing some of those here because I’m not completely certain that you’ll find them in the Feebies thread in the Forum section.
    This is just for convenience!..and for “lazy” people -like myself :(
    All this is just the result of copy/paste. As far as I can remember I have added some practical or informative comments here and there. No personal appreciation, positive or negative, of software or reviews here.

    YOU ACTUALLY SHOULD CONSULT THE FORUMS FOR ADDITIONAL INFO ON THIS AND LOTS OF OTHER SUBJECTS!.. or the developers’/publishers’ sites in question.

    Anyway, here we go… (BTW, Shape College is also mentionned below)

    Freeware alternatives for today’s Picture Collage Maker Pro [downloaded and installed 04-12-2009] include:
    – E.M. Free Photo Collage : http://www.effectmatrix.com/Free-Photo-Collage/index.htm
    Be patient with that site as both download buttons, the “red” one on the page and the “blue” one at the top of the page sometimes gives this message:
    Not Found – The requested URL /files/511/ar1/winxp/graphics/empc_setup.exe was not found on this server.
    Just go back and try again ( I had to try 3 times )
    I have tracked down the culprit as being their Winsite mirror and the problem is caused by the fact that WinSite has ceased its operations on April 27, 2009.
    I have already sent an Email to the Effectmatrix site to tell them about it, hopefully they will correct the problem in the future. [this comment by third party, not by me -Patrick]
    – As another alternative, eXPress Partners have an interesting offer!
    You can get four (4) individual programs: Collage Album, Collage eBook, Collage Calendar or Collage Slideshow.
    You can also have them all at once in the Collage Suite.
    All the versions used to be shareware but are now free programs!
    Here is the link: http://www.expresspartners.com/index.htm
    And here is the link explaining why they decided after 10 years to give it away: http://www.expresspartners.com/about.htm
    You also have links to Free Templates and Collage Tutorials on the site.
    – A final alternative is this one:
    http://www.shapecollage.com/
    This one can only be explained by looking at the website, it is weird but fun!
    Here are some Videos : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMrSkUzg7ws&feature=player_embedded
    – Another nice way to make collages or manipulate photos is by Diphso
    FotoMix. – Look at this Tutorial
    The drawback: the developer has added ads.
    Quote/link: Yes, our programs are really 100% free now. After years fighting hackers we finally give up.
    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/PhotoStory/default.mspx : Bring your digital photos to life with Photo Story 3 for Windows. Download Photo Story 3 for free and experience your photos in amazing new ways.*

    There’s more on photography, but the above are more directly related to “collages”, less to editing, morphing and such.

    Greetz.
    Patrick.

  20. Adrian

    “I can see quite a few people finding this useless, if not for productive needs then maybe for the “fun” factor.”

    Is there a contradiction?

    Should that be,

    “I can see quite a few people finding this useful, if not for productive needs then maybe for the “fun” factor.”