Website graphics generally consist of three different image types; JPG for photos, PNG for lossless images (good for logos, icons, etc.), and the antiquated GIFs (good for animation). Anyone who creates photos, images, or graphic designs for the web knows the value of file compression tools– those which optimize images to reduce file size while retaining the highest quality possible.
One of the mainstays of my work over the past 18 years is Adobe’s Fireworks (used it since it was a Macromedia product in the last century), partly because the workflow is about as efficient as possible, and partly because file compression– JPG or PNG– remains the best I’ve ever used.
Here’s the problem. Fireworks is end of life and won’t be around much longer thanks to Adobe’s new focus on Creative Cloud and other website development tools. So, over the past couple of years I’ve search for a graphic and image optimization tool, but without much success.
The latest to grace my Mac is a free and easy to use utility called ImageOptim. Drag a PNG or JPG image onto ImageOptim and it automatically compresses the image. Instantly, and in place. Drag, drop, done.
As easy as ImageOptim is to compress PNG and JPG images, it also comes with a long list of options to get the compressed file exactly the way you want, including the ability to strip out unnecessary meta data.
There are a couple of problems, though, and they’re much the same as I run into with other alternatives to Fireworks.
First, ImageOptim compresses the file you drag and drop, so make sure you drag a copy of the original. Second, the image compressions– file size reductions– are never, ever as good as those in Adobe Fireworks.
For example, I create the graphics for articles on Mac360. The typical PNG file size is about 350k in Fireworks, which can be compressed upon export to a range of 4k to 8k in size (typical JPG export). The best ImageOptim can do on the same PNG file is about 18k. Ditto for almost every other image or photo app I’ve tried, sans Photoshop, which exports (at 70% quality) about the same file size as Fireworks.
For my needs, Fireworks is and has been an excellent application for web graphics, but because it’s end-of-life a replacement needs to be found. Photoshop is overkill, of course, and I’m not inclined to pay $10 a month forever, but that may be the only way to get the highest quality file with the lowest file size.
The highly acclaimed Pixelmator performs better than ImageOptim and can reduce a 350k PNG file to less than 10k, but still heavier than Fireworks or Photoshop.