Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 133 / SEPTEMBER 1991 / PAGE 114

Hijaak. (graphics translation program) (evaluation)
by Tom Campbell

Tame the Tower of Babel that PC graphics formats have become--that's the goal of HiJaak, an all-purpose graphics-translation program and unparalleled screen-capture utility. Despite a buggy user interface and lack of a screen-preview program, its reasonable price and encyclopedic list of both raster and vector formats make it a formidable product.

HiJaak's installation program is a little terse, with no options and no explanation of its functions. It doesn't tell you that an installation is successful, and it doesn't start HiJaak or mention that you must choose a configuration from the main menu the first time that you run it (although the manual's instructions make this very clear). The program takes up about 1.5 megs of disk space and requires 320K of free RAM, or 5K of RAM if run in TSR mode, which uses the hard disk to hold the foreground application at bay temporarily. JiJaak loses no features in TSR mode, so actually only 5K of RAM is needed to run it, albeit with a performance penalty exacted in more disk accesses.

HiJaak can be run completely in TSR mode and is not limited to the screen-capture utility in this mode. That's the good news. The bad news is that running in TSR mode requires three other programs: RPM.EXE, LOADRPM.COM, FREERPM.COM, as well as JiJaak itself. RPM is the Resident Process Manager, which serves as a sort of master menu to save screens, print them, or run HiJaak. LOADRPM turns RPM and HiJaak into memory-resident programs. FREERPM removes everything from memory. I'd much prefer that all of these functions be rolled into JiJaak itself. And I'm sure inexperienced users would prefer that RPM be described in better detail; the manual gives it short shrift. I had many more problems with RPM than with other TSRs, but it was still useful. I'm especially fond of its ability to save the state of HiJaak at any moment, even in the middle of a dialog; I never lost my place when I popped back from the foreground application.

Discussion of RPM is about the only thing the manual stints on, except perhaps for the index (for example, neither Windows nor BMP could be found there, even though the program supports Windows bitmap files). Otherwise, the manual is a model of its kind, blessedly covering even the most challenging topics with dogged thoroughness, never underestimating the reader's experience or intelligence. Two other unusual aspects of the manual deserve mention here. An initial chapter titled "Condensed Instructions" allows power users to be up and running quickly and completely explains the support policy. And because of the wild profusion of PC graphics formats, the manual's more-the-merrier approach is welcome; it covers every detail. The section for each graphics format, for example, starts with a box giving the address of the organization that developed it and a Vital Statistics box summarizing answers to the most frequently asked questions about the format.

HiJaak stands out for both its wide variety of supported formats and its worldclass screen-capture/print abilities. If you need to produce screen shots for publication or in-house documentation on laser printers, HiJaak is the way to go. If you need support for literally every popular graphics format used on the PC, HiJaak will do the trick. A partial list of supported formats includes Amiga IFF, ASCII text, AutoCAD DXF, CompuServe GIF, GEM metafile and image files, HPGL plotter files, Lotus PIC, MacPaint, MacDraw, Windows metafiles, TIFF, WordPerfect, and about 20 fax formats. HiJaak offers solid support for translating a large number of files at once. Use the point-and-click interface to queue up several files chosen from a directory list (a mouse is reasonably well supported) or run HiJaak from the command line. I found the latter option to be much quicker than the new mousing interface--the command line seemed more flexible. Running HiJaak from the command line allows you to create a text file containing execution options, but, notably, neither the point-and-click method nor the command line method lets you change settings for different files of the same type. In other words, if you have a group of DXF files you want to convert to CGM format and you want some of them to be translated with gray scaling, others to be translated using full colors, and others to black-and-white only, you must run three separate batches. (Inset promises to address this shortcoming, and HiJaak may have these abilities before this review sees print.) Oddly, you can't see any of the files you convert; unlike ImPort by Zenographics, HiJaak offers no way to see either the input or the output file without firing up a graphics program that can accept that file format.

HiJaak has the rare ability to convert from vector files (such as those produced by CAD and draw programs) to raster format, although not the reverse (by nature, raster-to-vector conversions are exceedingly tricky). This means you can effortlessly move, say, an AutoCAD or Lotus 1-2-3 image into a paint program, such as the Paint-brush program that comes with Windows. I experienced no problems with such conversions, although I suppose there are some potentially nasty problems with shaded or 3-D AutoCAD images.

If you're among the growing number of LaserJet users who have a fax card installed in your PC, you'll appreciate the inclusion of fonts designed for just this purpose. You can mimic or replace the basic fonts HP supplies on its LaserJets, and the default font is 300 dpi, the same resolution as that of HP laser printers. LaserJet users will also appreciate its brilliant handling of laserJet soft fonts. You can convert HP soft fonts into a format usable by HiJaak for a perfect rendering of the image. I've never seen this ability in any other conversion program, even though HP's font format is well known. HiJaak is indispensable for the true LaserJet power user.

A simple Windows capture utility lets you snag Windows 3.0 images in HiJaak's own file format, which can then be translated into any of the supported output formats. The utility's interface is a bit confusing, and there's no help file, but the manual explains its use well. To activate the utility, choose its Install item, which puts up a dialog box explaining what keys to press. The icon then courteously disappears until you've pressed the hot keys to capture the screen, at which time the capture utility reappears with a request for a filename. That's all there is to it.

However, the conversion process terms both Windows and OS/2 Presentation Manager BMP files as PM Bitmaps, which isn't very clear. You must choose PM Bitmaps, then select the Windows option to get Windows bitmap files. Another side note is that Microsoft Paintbrush is one of the output options but it doesn't work for the version of Paintbrush that comes with Windows 3.0. Inset plans a fix. It doesn't matter, though, because the Paintbrush in Windows 3.0 imports PCX files directly, and HiJaak performs flawlessly on PCX files.

HiJaak has a mountain of options. The conversion dialogs hide them artfully, and the defautls are usually well chosen, so you may never need them. Nonetheless, every input and output option comes with a screenful (or more) of options whenever they're necessary. For example, vector file formats seldom have consistent handling of fonts and typefaces, and HiJaak allows you to remap (change) your typefaces. CGM files, for example, contain only font numbers. Since one person's font 1 might be a Times Roman while another person's might be a Dingbat, font remapping can prove useful.

Colors are another source of disparity. HiJaak not only maps color schemes to your satisfaction, but it also has automatic conversions to black-and-white or gray scale--useful shortcuts for owners of fax machines or laser printers.

I called Inset's tech support with a number of problems and was dealt with quickly and reasonably--even on Monday morning, a notoriously difficult time to reach support lines. It's a toll-free call, and Inset charges nothing for its support. The manual promises that, should you call while all technicians are busy, at least one attempt will be made to return your call within an hour. At least three attempts to reach you will be made within "a reasonable period." Further, a ten-page booklet of release notes details shortcomings in both HiJaak and the products it supports. This includes work-arounds where the other product is at fault and common pilot errors with CompuServe GIF files. This all amounts to the best support you can get for $199. I'm very impressed. HiJaak is flawed, but nevertheless a major achievement. Its features are comprehensive, its uses myriad, and its support so good that even the worst problems I encountered had a satisfactory workaround. That's the sign of a mature and well-developed product, even if it does have a few minor failings.