Mentalix imaging software gets the picture for Linux users

Mentalix's Pixel!FX Deluxe suite for Linux would require--with beefed-up support, to boot.

Imaging professionals have pretty straightforward technology requirements: A fast CPU, graphics card, and hard drive are essential--coupled with competent and efficient graphics software. Mentalix's Pixel!FX Deluxe suite of graphics handlers for the Linux platform neatly fills the latter requirement for the imaging professional.

Pixel!FX Deluxe is actually a collection of Mentalix's Pixel!FX software products running in X-Windows. The US$4,350 package includes the basics required to scan, edit, and view images as well as the additional software components needed for optical character recognition (OCR), managing an image database, compressing and decompressing image files, and printing. A 30-day trial of the 10MB downloadable file is US$50. A disc and documentation is available for US$100. (The evaluation fee is discounted from the purchase price.

To download and install the software--normally a mundane task--Mentalix requires users to supply quite a bit of information. Before you can start the download, you must supply your name, phone number, e-mail address, your computer's host name, and its unique ID. (There's a link included on the on-screen form that details how to get the machine ID.) Mentalix keys the software to your specific machine, so that the download and password files will not work on a different system.

We were a little hesitant about providing both an e-mail address and phone number, but the former was necessary and the latter turned out to be vital. As an adjunct to the download, Mentalix sends an e-mail with all the passwords required by the various Pixel!FX software components (17 in this case). According to the instructions, these go in a file in the Pixel! FX directory, but Mentalix actually provides the contents as part of the message--all we needed to do was cut and paste the text into a new file and then save it to the correct directory.

As for the phone number, Mentalix called us during the download procedure. We had inadvertently entered an incorrect e-mail address that would have prevented us from receiving the required password file. It took only a moment to backtrack and make the needed change. This kind of proactive customer service is always appreciated.

While Pixel!FX can be run from the command line with specific start-up parameters, you may choose to run the program using the existing user profile or a custom profile you create. The profile lets you specify your preferences for the operational menu and the program's appearance. All options are spelled out (with illustrations) in the hefty yet well-written 500-plus page user manual, which is also available online in PDF format.

The database segment of the package, Pixel!FX Image Album, uses thumbnails to display existing images. It can also manage non-image objects and launch third-party software to handle them if you've previously defined them in the $PIXELFXDIR/apps/objects file. Files can be scanned and OCR converted, edited, printed, and faxed using commands from two drop-down menus. Entire images or defined regions can be manipulated with a wide range of edits, ranging from simple cut-and-paste to highly complex yet subtle tone and color optimizations. For the latter, where trial and error is often the rule, Pixel!FX provides a preview box that displays a thumbnail view of your image with the new rules applied; the image changes dynamically as you modify various parameters. Pixel!FX supports 20 mid- to high-level scanners, including models from Agfa, Epson, Fujitsu, HP, Microtek, Sharp, and Umax. Mentalix will support high-end commercial scanners for an additional fee.

Several other independent Linux-based graphics-handling packages--such as the US$495 ViviData--accomplish many of the same tasks as Pixel!FX for well under Pixel!FX's base price. About a half dozen shareware/freeware packages, including Electric Eyes and The Gimp, are other alternatives. What you won't get with these other packages, however, is the level of integration that Mentalix has built into its software or the utility of having a single support source for both process and problem management. As imaging tools grow more complex, high-quality, proactive support can be as important as impressive software and coherent documentation. Mentalix provides all three with Pixel!FX Deluxe.

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Software requirements and specs

  • Platform(s): Kernel 2.2.12 or greater
  • Processor: Pentium or compatible, fastest available processor recommended.
  • RAM: 32MB, 64MB recommended, more for larger image files or more complex operations.
  • Disk space: 25MB required
  • CD-ROM required: Yes
  • Downloadable full version: Yes

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