Ptolemy ImageMap Editor Review

by Adam Hough

Ptolemy Toolbox One thing that's a little annoying on the Amiga to do at the moment is creating imagemaps. These are the graphics on webpages that do different things depending on where you click on them.

The concept behind them is simple -- the graphic is divided up into rectangles, circles and other simple geometric objects which have specific links attached to them.

The problem is that to find the coordinates that those objects are based on you had to load up a paint package of some sort, find the coordinates, flip back to your text editor and type them in without making a mistake. While the Amiga's multitasking setup makes that relatively straight forward, it does take time.

However to complicate matters there are four different (and incompatible) variations on imagemaps -- three are based on different server software, and one is used by the browser itself -- so that has to be taken into account when creating the text that is the imagemap.

As I said it's a bit of a pain.

However there's a rather nice new program in beta called Ptolemy which is available only via its author's website and he is extremely license concious. Pulling it down is an exercise in patience as you go through license agreement and threat after... You get the idea.

However once you have it, Ptolemy is quite simple to use. You load in an existing imagemap if you want to edit it or alternately load in the image you want to create the map for. As it uses datatypes you can load in GIFs, PNGs, JPEGs, IFFs or indeed anything else you want. Once you have the graphic on screen you can then choose the type of object (such as a rectangle) and draw it such that it covers the area of the graphic you want. Then you type in the link you want it to go to and go onto the next layout. This means that instead of a moderately complicated imagemap taking upwards of forty minutes to do, you can get it done in about five.

By toggling the save options you can choose which format of imagemap you want to save it as so you can actually use the program as a imagemap convertor, a nice feature if you've previously typed in an NCSA imagemap and want to convert it to a client side one.

On the downside, it's MUI. Well, it's not a downside for me, but other people seem to have the odd allergy to those three letters so I thought I'd better mention it.

Ptolemy doesn't support a command line interface so you cannot start up the program to automatically load a specific file -- say when you double click on a .map file in DOpus. You have to start Ptolemy and then load it. Bah.

The default Imagemap directory defaults to one within within Ptolemy's current directory and it doesn't appear to be changeable so if you want to load in an existing file it'll be a number of clicks away.

The documentation is a little hard to find and in HTML format. There is more practically more verbiage in terms of legalese than there is on how to use the software. It's just as well that the interface is well thought out. While HTML is a nice idea in that it allows tables and imbedded graphics, you do need to have a decent Web browser to play with.

One major shortfall (at least to me) is that it doesn't deal with overlapping links well. Under the way imagemaps work, you can have say a rectangle overlapping a circle. This is important. Say you have a desk with a crystal ball on it and you want the user to be able to click on either and go so a suitable link. Because the circle (ball) is completely enclosed within the rectangle (desk) you have to set a relative priority so that the circle can be clicked on. With Ptolemy you have to plan ahead because the ability to change that isn't there. Draw the rectangle first and you'll never be able to select the circle as it'll be covered.

Another problem is once an object is placed it can only be deleted and not moved or resized. You can imagine why that's annoying.

So in conclusion I'd say the program is good, useful and still short of some badly needed features. It's not buggy and that's very good. It's also not free -- there's a $10US registration fee -- but I figure it's worth it. The program fills a definite void on the Amiga; where else am I going to go? The PC? :)

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