Adding some pizzazz to your next PowerPoint presentation can be easy with PhotoActive
FX from CrystalGraphics. This two volume add-in for PowerPoint allows you to
create photo effects right inside PowerPoint. It also includes a video rendering
engine that creates customized video clips that integrate seamlessly within
your presentation. CrystalGraphics, based in Santa Clara, California, United
States, is probably the largest provider of PowerPoint
add-ins. Their PowerPlugs series of add-ins include Transitions, Music, SuperShapes,
Headings and PhotoActive FX, the subject of this review. In addition, CrystalGraphics
also creates a combo collection of PowerPoint add-ins called the Ultimate Combo.
Download and Installation
You can download a demo version of PhotoActive
FX from the CrystalGraphics website:
The download weighs over 9 mb. Installation is simple—just click the
downloaded file to install the product. The next time you run PowerPoint, you'll
find a small PhotoActive FX toolbar within the program. Also, you'll find two
new options in your Format menu.
In addition, you'll find a new PhotoActive FX group within your Windows
Start menu. If you have more than one version of PowerPoint installed on your
system, you'll find that PhotoActive FX shows up only in the latest version
of PowerPoint. To enable it in an older version of PowerPoint, follow these
- Open the version of PowerPoint in which PhotoActive FX does not show up.
- While PowerPoint is still active, go to your Windows Start menu and choose
the Reconfigure option from the PowerPlugs/PhotoActive FX
- Within the Reconfigure dialog box, click the Remove option.
Thereafter, click the Add into PowerPoint button.
- PhotoActive FX should now show up in the open PowerPoint window.
Now that we have got the installation issues resolved, let's get to actually
using PhotoActive FX. PhotoActive FX comes in two volumes and each volume contains
both still and animated effects. For this review, I have both volumes installed.
CrystalGraphics sells both volumes individually—you can also buy a combined
version. In addition, PhotoActive FX is also available as a component of the
Ultimate Combo suite of PowerPoint add-ins. The current version of PhotoActive
FX is 1.33 and it works with PowerPoint 97, 2000, 2002 and 2003.
Follow these steps to apply a sample effect:
- Insert and select a picture in PowerPoint. Click the Still Photo
Effects icon on the PhotoActive FX toolbar.
- This opens the Still PhotoActive FX interface (see screenshot below)—on
the left you will find various categories of effects. The middle pane previews
these effects and the right pane allows you to preview a chosen effect on
the selected image. Most such previews work only on square images—to
make them work on rectangular images, you might want to click the F
- Try and experiment with various effects—once you are happy with a
certain result, click the OK button.
While working with any effect, you can click the Advanced
button to launch a specialized image editor that offers more possibilities.
All custom settings can be saved to be used again. All settings are saved as
individual file presets in folders and can be shared with others. Amazingly,
this aspect of PhotoActive FX is not particularly well publicized.
Animated effects work exactly like still effects—the only difference
between them is that unlike still effects, animated effects are saved as AVI
files linked to the active presentation. All animated effects can be further
fine-tuned using the Advanced Edit controls. I wish CrystalGraphics
allowed rendering of these videos to MPG and WMV video formats other than plain
AVI. Many of these videos can be created within PowerPoint and exported for
use in other programs as well. A word of caution, though—experimenting
with all video effects can become very addictive and you might not realize the
amount of time you spent trying it out!
For what it does, PhotoActive FX is surprisingly very competitively priced.
Each volume costs US$49 and both volumes together cost US$98. The product includes
full image and video editing engines and is entirely customizable. What's more—presets
can be saved to be used again or shared. I have no hesitation in recommending
this product at this price point.
You can buy the product online from CrystalGraphics.
Barring a few glitches like no availability of MPG and WMV export in the animated
effects, PhotoActive FX is a winner. Also, you get a More Effects
option in both the Start menu group and the PhotoActive FX interface—clicking
this takes you to the PhotoActive FX homepage. I could find no extra effects
Having said that, PhotoActive FX is still one add-in
I would never like to be without. It saves you from running back and forth
between PowerPoint and an image or video editor. The amount of saved time
alone would be worth investing in this product.
Other than that, almost anyone can be creative using PhotoActive FX.