Technology Solutions

Drawing Conclusions About Graphics

Publisher is just one of the many hats that commercial real estate professionals wear today. Though they may not be creating books or magazines, very likely they are publishing Web sites, producing printed property fliers, or sending photographs to Web professionals to handle.

For the commercial specialist looking to avoid expensive professionally created photo packages or to replace low-quality photocopied property sheets, investing a couple hundred dollars in a digital camera and a paltry $80 in a scanner is a must. Next, learning to use a scanner — as well as learning the basics of graphics naming and use — can provide a considerable boost in quality and savings in time and money.

This short glossary presents terms that are important to know when creating, saving, publishing, or sending graphics or photos to others.

Graphics Terms
Analog, as opposed to digital, is the electronic transmission of information by changing the frequency or amplitude of the carrier waves. Most people currently use modems to convert their computers’ digital information into analog form for transmission over telephone lines.

BMP (bitmap) refers to a file format, but an actual bitmap is a description of the location and color for each pixel in an image, mapped out along vertical and horizontal axes. Every pixel in a row does not get its own color defined; rather, as the computer scans across the row, each time a new color is introduced, the bitmap includes that new color information. An image that has more solid colors will have a smaller bitmap and will download faster than one that requires many color-change instructions. However Web sites use JPEG or GIF images, not bitmaps.

Compression of images reduces their size (measured in "bytes") without losing too much image quality. This lets you save more images on your computer hard drive and it speeds up transmission of graphic images over the Internet.

Digital technology operates in positives and negatives, rendering data in a string of 1s and 0s. Digital communication is the wave of the future; fiber optics and satellite communications send and receive signals in digital format.

GIF (graphics interchange format) is a file format owned by CompuServe and requires licensing for software makers that use it, but there is no cost to businesses or consumers who create GIF images for their Web sites. The later version of this file format (from July 1989) allows for the creation of animated GIF images, which are a succession of static GIF images timed to play one after the other, usually in repetition. GIFs are more likely to be used for non-photographic images on the Web. Some members of the Internet community see the PNG format as the eventual replacement of the proprietary GIF file. Until that happens, most Web graphics other than photographs are GIFs.

JPEG (joint photographic experts group) is a file format used for Web photos. JPEGs are favored for photos because the format handles the more-complex imagery of a photo better than the GIF files. JPEGs (usually seen with the ".jpg" file extension) allow you to trade off image quality and file size by choosing from a number of compression levels when you create or convert to a JPEG image.

PDF (portable document format) files allow you to present articles or other materials in the visual layout used in a print version. Post a PDF file on a Web site and visitors can use the free Acrobat Reader to view the pages in the original layout, without the changes that can occur when you translate a Word document into the Web’s HTML code.

Pixel (picture element) is the unit of color on a computer display. Pixel size depends on the screen resolution, which is in the hands of the individual computer user, not the Web site creator.

PNG (portable network graphics), the expected replacement for the GIF file, compresses images without losing image information. It also allows you to control the degree of a color’s transparency. However, PNG does not support animation of images, as GIF files do.

Raster graphics, such as GIF and JPEG files, record images in terms of horizontal and vertical coordinates.

TIFF (tag image file format) is a file format used when exchanging bitmapped images between applications. A TIFF file will have either a ".tiff" or ".tif" file extension. TIFF files are common in desktop publishing. But when you post a photo to your Web site or e-mail it as an attachment to a Webmaster, use a JPEG file instead.

TWAIN is a program used to scan an image directly into your graphics-manipulation program, where you can resize, crop, and otherwise edit it. (It comes as part of most scanner software packages.) Without TWAIN, you would be opening and closing programs, moving images, and otherwise frustrating yourself when trying to scan a simple photo. Some say TWAIN stands for nothing; others say it stands for "technology without an important name."

Vector graphics can be modified more easily than raster graphics. Instead of describing where every dot in a line would be, a vector graphic describes a series of points to be connected. Vector images then can be converted into raster images.

Graphics Help
For further information about using graphics, this roundup of Web site links offers graphics users reviews, frequently asked questions, and other resources.

  • Adobe () produces the free Acrobat Reader, essential for viewing PDF files, and the $249 Adobe Acrobat for converting documents into PDF files.
  • America Online (keyword: scanning) offers message boards on scanning, as well as related chat rooms and FAQs.
  • Commrex scanning tips () offer guidance on scanning images for the Commrex commercial property site that also are useful for other scanning needs.
  • City University of Hong Kong’s Scanner and Related Information page () offers a wealth of glossaries, products, computer company links, and other help.
  • Cnet.com () is a well-known Internet resource. Use the link to hardware and then scanners to get a list of scanners, reviews, and prices.
  • The Scanning FAQ () offers scanning answers.
  • Sullivan’s Scanning Resources Website () offers help for "Finding Your Scanner’s Sweet Spot," "Correcting Poor Color," "Sharpening Scanned Images," and more.
  • Whatis.com () is an excellent Internet resource, offering an extensive glossary and other reference tools.
  • ZDNet () has a shop and compare section for scanners.

John Zipperer

Tech Links is written by John Zipperer, new-media editor of the Commercial Investment Real Estate Institute. Contact him at (111) 111-4466 or [email protected]

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