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Image to ZX Spec 2.0

Give images and videos a retro look

by Mike Williams

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License: Freeware
Operating Systems: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows 10, Windows 7 (32 bit), Windows 7 (64 bit), Windows 8
Languages: English
Software Cost: Free
Date Updated: 06 January 2017
Watchlist: Add download to my watchlist
Downloads To Date: 161
Developer: Silent Software
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Image to ZX Spec
Give images and videos a retro look

Image to ZX Spec is a Java-based application which makes images or videos look as though they'd been rendered by a ZX Spectrum (the ancient but classic home computer).

This essentially means taking a regular photo, drastically reducing the number of colours (15 or less) and using dithering and other techniques (Bayes, Atkinson, Omega, Lightness, Burkes, Jarvis-Judice-Ninke, Sierra Filter Light, Stucki)  to try and make them look acceptable.

The interface is frustrating. Just a few examples: File > Open doesn't use the standard Explorer dialog and so can't display thumbnails; the preview window showing the results of each filter uses a fixed area of the image which can't be changed; the main program window displays your image at its full export size, even if this is larger than the size of your screen.

And yet, if you can fight your way through (and turn off scaling to get better quality images), the smarter options can sometimes deliver surprising results. We reduced a full-colour photo of a woman to a mere 9 colours with the Lightness filter, and-- it still looked very good. We'd lost a lot of detail, but the image was still very recognisable, appealing, with some of the light and shade preserved, and even a tiny scattering of purple to represent some flowers in the background.

The "Character" effect is another highlight, building your image with ASCII characters. Blocks of detail are represented by characters depending on how many pixels they take, so the lightest areas are blank, the next might be ".", then ":", "-" and so on. Sounds odd if you've not seen it before, but with the right source picture the results can be amazing: a very accurate black and white representation of the original, but if you zoom in you can see the characters that make it up.

Surprise bonus features include the ability to import videos and export animated GIFs, and you get plenty of manual control over the image conversion process.

Changelog for 2.0.0:
Updated for Java 8.
Squashed MacOS directory bug causing files not to be saved (Java bug).
Integrated native video decoding via HumbleVideo.
Massive performance improvement for processing video.
Improved code quality with tests, logging and Java 8 features.
Fixed Gigascreen original scale conversion crash bug.
Fixed original scale conversion converted edge pixels bug.
Fixed black threshold scaling range.
Added warnings for poor options combinations.
Changed text output behaviour for multiple images - many files now instead of one.
Modified About to show free memory.
Fixed small graphics memory leak.
Added turbo mode.


Image to ZX Spec has a painfully annoying interface, but some of its image processing effects can work very well. That's "can", not "often" - reducing images to 16 colours or less usually means a major loss of detail - but we had enough successes to justify the download.

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Spotlight: Free Full Software

WhatsApp Messenger 2.17.61

Free Full Commercial Software

WhatsApp Messenger is the world's most popular instant messaging app for smartphones.

You can use it to send and receive text and voice messages, photos, videos, even call your friends in other countries, and because it uses your phone's internet connection it might not cost you anything at all (depending on whether you'll pay data charges).

It's easy to set up and use. There's no need to create and remember new account names or pins because it works with your phone number, and uses your regular address book to find and connect you with friends who use WhatsApp already.

You can talk one-to-one or in group chats, and because you're always logged in there's no way to miss messages. Even if your phone is turned off, WhatsApp will save your messages and display them as soon as you're back online.

There's plenty more (location sharing, contact exchange, message broadcasting) and the app is free for a year, currently $0.99/ year afterwards.

What's New in Version 2.17.61

- Search messages within a specific chat: Open any chat, tap the chat name at the top to go to Contact Info/Group Info, and then tap Chat Search.
- Design improvements for iOS 11.
- Post text-only updates to your status and they'll be visible for 24 hours. Just tap the pencil icon in the Status tab, type what you'd like to share, and pick a background color or font.