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Ulead GIF Animator 5 - Old-School Looks Don't Detract from This Animator's Strengths

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 3/4/2013
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Ulead GIF Animator 5 is a feature-packed application that provides functions that few others have. Although the Internet may have moved on, as I discovered, there's plenty of other uses for Ulead GIF Animator 5.

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    Editor's Note: This review was originally written in January 2008 and reflects the author's opinion at that time. The article has been archived and left up for informational purposes.

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    Introduction

    As a developer I have to say that animated GIFs are almost dead. When was the last time you visited a professional website and saw a page full of flashing GIFs? That said, would I part with $49.95 for Ulead GIF Animator 5? Yes. My first impressions weren't great, but if you put looks aside you'll find this animator offers features few others have, even on the enterprise level.

    Some of these other uses include presentations (place a couple of animations in a PowerPoint file to illustrate a point or to add a little humor); advertising (it's very useful for producing banner advertisements, as several of the preset sizes in the program are banner ad sizes); and in applications (as mouse pointers, avatars, and so on).

    If you work with GIF files or animations for anything, you'll find Ulead GIF Animator 5 is an invaluable asset. Ulead GIF Animator 5 proves that even when the market changes, a product can stay the same and seven years later still be at the top of its class.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageAt around 10MB, you can't call Ulead GIF Animator 5 a hefty download, and it installs pretty quickly, too.

    Setup was simple, just enter the product key if you have one, or hit "Try" for a 15-day free trial. GIF Animator 5 quickly loads a couple of components and you're ready to go.
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    Performance

    Rating AverageUlead GIG Animator 5 performance is flawless. It takes almost no time at all to do anything, and although there are sometimes a couple of odd crashes it is a remarkably sound application.

    Memory usage after GIF Animator 5 is saved to Program Files is less than 16MB (which doesn't exactly strain your hard drive), although this number grows slightly as you start finding the Ulead folders dotted around your document folders.

    Since Ulead GIG Animator 5 was released in 2001, it will most likely run on any PC manufactured since then with an operating system of Windows 98 or later. The machine I use daily runs Windows Vista so I was interested to see how it performed because I'd read reports from others experiencing problems running GIF Animator under Vista. Having tried it myself I haven't seen any problems with Vista or with XP (there were also problems reported with XP). Those with problems may have had more specific issues caused by other applications but GIF Animator 5 worked fine on Vista for me.
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    Help & Support

    Rating AverageEmail support is effective, though the techies do try to push you towards the community forums. Search those first before you send email and then mention that you have when you first contact support to save an extra email and the additional wait while someone replies.

    Something that has popped up running the program in Vista is a problem with product help. Unfortunately, GIF Animator 5's help files are not compatible with Vista so you've got to get at them another way. There's no update for this either, though Windows help provides a link to a download of the old version of Windows Help to get you around this. There's also a crash error every time I close help in Vista. It provides a helpful dialog box letting me know GIF Animator 5 has stopped responding, but this isn't a big deal as it's simply the result of application changes made in Vista.
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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageGIF Animator 5 is a little expensive at first peek ($49.95, or $29.95 to upgrade), but it offers some great features that do set it apart from similar freeware, for example. And the price certainly isn't outrageous for an application this good.

    Ulead also offers a plugin for GIF Animator 5 on its website which is another $19.95 (at the time of this writing) and adds 90 transition effects and 40 animated image filters. I think this plugin should be part of the application, however.
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    Product Features

    Rating AverageLet's break down Ulead GIF Animator 5's primary features:

    Editing
    GIF Animator 5 makes it fairly easy to edit your animations. There is a learning curve as some things are in odd places, but once you've played with it a bit you will quickly start enjoying it. You can also take a test drive with the Trial version first.

    There are a lot of settings to work with, and this is made easier by a series of Wizards that guide you through most tasks.

    Exporting
    There is a good range of export formats included in version 5, including GIF, SWF, and PSD, as well as various video (AVI, MPEG, etc.) and miscellaneous (UFO, etc.)
    formats.

    The program's compatibility with multiple formats is a big advantage over most competitors, including Adobe Flash (which only allows you to export in GIF, Flash format, or MOV).

    GIF Animator 5 also has scope for changing the export settings, resolutions, quality, frame rate, and so on, to meet your needs.

    Optimization
    You can optimize GIFs using the program, too; GIF Animator's value increases when used in conjunction with other animation programs that produce excessively large GIF files. Adobe Flash, for example, can export projects as GIF files and these are often packed with detail that really push file sizes up, which can render them useless with most applications.

    GIF Animator 5 allows you to import these files and optimize them before saving them again. You can remove or reduce a number of aspects, including:
    • Picture quality (by cutting down the number of colors in each image).
    • Dither value (higher Dither values mean better quality pictures but were unnecessary for my stick men animations).
    • Redundant pixels between frames (cutting out unnecessary data in the image).
    • Comment blocks (not something many programs offer).

    The optimization wizard (which guides you through the above steps) helped me optimize my test animation by 68 percent, cutting it down by hundreds of Kilobytes. Even if you haven't animated with this program, you can optimize with it, which is a really useful feature.

    Importing
    This feature certainly isn't  GIF Animator 5's strong point and you have to take some care to ensure that you aren't chopping up your media when it's imported. It seems to drop a couple of frames here and there if you've set the frame rate wrong for a video (although this is rare and you need to have gone really wrong for this to happen) and media can have a habit of being cropped.

    Resizing is a little difficult too and this function could certainly be improved. You can free transform which allows you to either distort your image or resize it by typing in an exact pixel size (this scales it exactly) but you have to guess the right size and then use the transform tool from here.

    It's easy to drag things around and you can import a wide range of files. I would try and stay away from WMV and files with DRM and codecs as it isn't too keen on those - but still offers great functuality. Does a better job of importing than Adobe Flash CS3 and you CAN add sound to your clips, contrary to some comments made by users.

    Overall, Ulead developers have created a number of very nice touches to the features in GIF Animator 5.

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    Images

    There's a handy startup wizard to help you on your wayQuickly setup your project with the animation wizardTweening between slides takes only 2 clicks!Tweens are smooth and simple to setupThere are also a fair few extra ways of tweening rather than simple fadesThe preview window shows a The optimise wizard is a useful guide for cutting down the size of your GIFIf you optimise something wrong you'll soon realise!Very useful - shows changes to the image after applying optimised settingsOops - downloading the old help center from Microsoft fixes this errorThe Ulead learning center is an invaluable source of information
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    Suggested Features

      • Needs a little updating, and resizing needs improving.
      • A little testing is also needed on Vista to ensure full compatibility.
      • The help files also need updating for simpler use with Vista.
      • Include the Ulead plugin with the main product.
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    Conclusion

    If you think you've seen a lot of negative in this review, ignore it. What Ulead GIF Animator lacks in the look of its user interface it makes up for in useful features and thoughtful touches.

    It may look old and have a couple of things that need updating but you will soon grow to love Ulead GIF Animator 5 and the animations you can make with it.

    I highly recommend it. If you need animated GIFs, look no further.
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    Related Products

    Adobe flash, ulead photoimpact
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