I am testing out a new feature: short summary of each blog post. Below is the summary of the longer post on this page.
Microsoft Designer as a graphics design tool holds promise. I tried the preview edition; below is the short summary.In less than a minute, I was able to get a few awesome images and a short video in under 3 minutes using the search feature. The images generated can be used “As is” in most cases. Image generation using Dall-E2 as the backend gives okay-ish results. Other features such as creating image from scratch, making infographics, charts and other visual content will be the true test of the capabilities of this tool. The site does not work well with firefox, interface is rather clunky.
Microsoft announced a new graphic design tool called Microsoft Designer in October 2022. I had signed up for their preview access, and I was able to give it a try today. Microsoft Designer is an application or a tool for creating and editing a variety of visual assets including images, diagrams, info-graphics, presentations, and short videos. In other words, it offers many functionalities that can be found in Canva and similar SaaS graphic design tools. Since this is a preview version, I am posting my quick take or first impressions instead of a more detailed review.
I got access to Microsoft Designer in the last week of February ’23. Today, I spent some time tinkering around with it. These are early times yet, but based on some sample images generated, the tool looks promising. I accessed the site using via desktop using a web browser. This application is a part of Microsoft Office suite. The user has the ability to create images using the pre-designed templates . They can also create custom designs from scratch.
In the past, I have posted reviews of Pixelied, Crello (now Vistacreate), Stencil and Designcap on this blog. I have also used Pablo by Buffer and Landscape, the now-defunct Voila, and of course Canva. Except for the last, I have written or published detailed reviews which involved creating images from scratch. For this post, I will only explore the option to generate images using their templates or the “image search” option.
I have paid subscriptions for Stencil and Crello and Promo Republic- all of which have graphic design capabilities that serve the purpose well. Therefore, I might not opt for a subscription to Microsoft Designer separately. But I like what I see so far.
The not so bad
I would like to begin with the “The Not so Great” part, because it is short and can be easily fixed in the preview edition.
a. Images that are generated are square – designed for social media sites like Instagram only. (see the screenshot below. In the text description I asked for and image for Twitter banner, got the square image instead).
Update: Using terms like “Portrait” or “Event banner” help the AI image tool to determine the dimensions. I was able to generate a few images that were portrait or landscape shaped.
There is a related issue with the images : Size of the images generated. Depending on the type (custom photos, resolution, etc) -image sizes are all over the place: from 60 Kilobyetes to 2.7 Megabytes.
b. The site does not work well with Firefox.The page had to be refreshed several times before a new image could be generated. (surprise, surprise!) The site worked better with Brave, Vivaldi and other Google Chrome based browsers.
c. The interface could be cleaner, it is a bit clunky-ish in my opinion. In particular, the slider for changing the text size is too responsive. But I loved the design pre sets and the ability to customize the brand kit helps, too.
Someone mentioned in a facebook group I am a part of that the interface looks like an early version of Stencil. More seasoned hands and eyes might have other views to offer.
Not just images
Short Video created using Microsoft Designer
I did minimal editing to this video, except for some adjustments to the font, the video is posted “As-Is”. I added the search string in the “describe the design you would like to create” menu, and a few interesting images came up almost instantly. I had to scroll a bit to arrive upto this video.
As of now, above three are the only downsides I could encounter with Microsoft Designer.
With the bad news out of the way, read on for the good stuff below.
The good stuff
I liked this tool and in the first impression was… impressive !
a. I logged on to the site using my Microsoft / Live.com credentials. Almost immediately, the search menu popped up.
b. The “Search for an image” option is awesome. Responsive, a fresh take on the design and user experience- compared to the other tools I have mentioned earlier. I am not implying that new is cool and the old ones are bad. Each of these graphic design apps has a purpose in life.
c. For the main course, that is, generating images, I tried a few different options.
First image generated looked like a caricature or cartoonish image of a datacenter. Which was not a bad thing to happen.
I have recently published a two part blog series on a web hosting forum on the topic “How to reduce your web hosting costs in times of economic uncertainty”. Since the topic is serious and the current times are challenging, I thought a light hearted image would prove effective. Some of the images generated using this prompt show a Dall-E2 like experience. Try a few and you will understand.
Note: The watermark can be removed by unchecking the “Watermark” box before downloading.
Next, I created a few images with the search words “Content Delivery Networks”. The images are impressive, and how!
Finally, I chose a random sample – something like “A facebook group for marketers and Lifetime SaaS deal buyers”. This was a slam dunk. The images generated were quite impressive. I have posted a couple of them- these are the un-edited version. I simply downloaded them and posted them here. The video required minor correction to the text.
Final thoughts on Microsoft Designer as a Graphic design tool
In less than a minute, I was able to get 2 awesome images and a short video.It has taken me longer to write this post. The typical image size is between 130 and 150 kilobytes, which is fair size for the resolution and the quality. I did get a couple of images that were greater than 2.5 Megabyte in size. In order to post that image in this blog, I had to compress that image. (read: Why you should optimize images for your blog or website)
Overall I am impressed with this graphic design tool. Even though I only tested the image generation and editing features, the tool holds promise. The search function offers the most bang for the buck. The images generated can be used “As is” in most cases. For brands or graphic design teams, there is an option to define brand colours, fonts, etc. to keep the branding and look and feel consistent. The images can be downloaded as a .jpg or a .png. For a novice like me, this tool offers a great way to get some good quality images at great speed.
Other features such as creating image from scratch, making infographics, charts and other visual content will be the true test of the capabilities of this tool. Is this an alternative to Canva? Time will tell. Happy creating, and thanks for reaching till the very end of my blog post.
This post resulted from a quick take that I had posted on Microsoft Designer in a facebook group. This forms a nice precursor to my 2023 Daily blogging challenge.