Small business owners are the proverbial jacks of all trades. It's not uncommon, for example, to be a bookkeeper on Monday and a graphics person on Tuesday. While programs such as QuickBooks bring accounting to non-accountants, most image-editing applications remain a challenge for those who don't spend most of their time doing graphics-related tasks.
Whether it's preparing images for a Web site, marketing campaign, signage or some other reason, the capability to efficiently deal with digital images can save you time and money. In addition to complexity, many graphics applications also carry hefty price tags. For example, even if you shop wisely, you'll still end paying more than $500 for Adobe Photoshop, the standard image-editing application among design professionals.
Paint Shop Pro has long been a favorite among savvy computer users, but now the software may possibly bring greater appeal as its new owner (Corel Corp. acquired Jasc in October 2004) focuses on making the software as easy to use as it is bargain to buy at $129. With today's release of Corel Paint Shop Pro X, the Ottawa-based software company hopes to attract small businesses that are turned off by the cost and complexity of image editing software.
According to Corel, Paint Shop Pro X and Corel Photo Album 6 (also announced today) are based on feedback from customers as well as on more formal usability testing. Among the results is a focus on not only adding new features, but on making those features more accessible the first time you use the software.
|Paint Shop Pro X features a new user interface designed to make advanced editing features easy to access. |
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The most noticeable change in Paint Shop Pro X is a new user interface called the Learning Center, which organizes the program's features by tasks with a step-by-step guide and quick access to the instructions and tools needed to complete the most common photo editing projects. The seven tasks in the Learning Center include the following: Get Photos, Adjust, Retouch and Restore, Collage, Text and Graphics, Effects, Print and Share. While you may eventually grow beyond needing this type of organization, it's a welcome concept to help you grow with the software as you find new ways to use its features.
Also new is the Browser palette, which is integrated into the Paint Shop Pro X workspace to make it easier to access, view, organize and work with images.
Eventually you may find yourself digging into Paint Shop Pro's deep feature sets. However, to help save time as you develop photo-editing prowess, the new Smart Photo Fix feature is designed to analyze a photo and then suggest settings to automatically correct color, brightness, sharpness and saturation in one step. You still, however, have the control to make manual adjustments.
While it may sound like a reality television show, the new makeover tools offer the capability to retouch photos based on intelligence built into the software. For example, the Blemish Fixer, Toothbrush and Suntan Brush are perfect for improving the looks of pale or coffee-stained subjects with bad complexions.
Anyone who has dabbled in photography knows the frustration of having an otherwise great photo ruined by, for example, power lines in the background. The Object Remover is a new feature that's designed to help you eliminate those elements and filling in the resulting gaps with appropriate background detail.
Other features of Corel Paint Shop Pro X include the following:
- Special effects filters to help you convert color images to simulated black and white.
- Support for 16-bit/channel adjustments, International Color Consortium (ICC)-based color management, the capability to import and export CMYK images using ICC profiles, along with enhanced monitor calibration that lets you calibrate LCD screens correctly .
- Support for more than 40 camera RAW file formats (i.e., you can open, enhance, process, and convert images taken in the camera RAW format.
- The Perspective Correction tool: you can fix buildings, landmarks, or objects in your photos that appear to be in the wrong perspective or that were taken from an angle other than directly in front.
- The Straighten tool lets you quickly align crooked photos and automatically crop the edges using any line in the photo.
Dealing With Volume
If you run an e-commerce operation or show your product catalog on your Web site, you may appreciate the batch processing capabilities of Paint Shop Pro X. The Batch Process command lets you use scripts to apply fixes to images or convert them to a different file format. Also, appealing to businesses that deal with a high volume of digital images is the software includes Corel Photo Album 6 (standard addition), which is designed to help you organize, share and backup photos. However, if you deal with a large numbers of photos on a consistent basis, you may want to buy the full version full of Photo Album 6 for $49. With Corel Photo Album 6, Corel promises to reduce to zero the number of mouse clicks required to download, view and organize images. After you set your preferences once, the next time you plug your digital camera or memory card into your computer, Corel Photo Downloader automatically downloads, rotates and saves photos to a destination you specify.
Corel Photo Album 6 Photo Finder will automatically find all the photos on your computer and organize them by the date that they were taken. The new All Photos View lets you browse your entire photo collection at once. And the Recent Downloads list automatically keeps track of the last ten groups of photos downloaded to your computer so that you can quickly and easily locate your most recent snapshots.
While many of the Corel Photo Album 6 features have a consumer/home user appeal, there are still plenty of features that small businesses will find useful. For example, it includes what it calls its "PhotoSafe" technology, which is designed to automatically backup photos. It also includes a PhotoRecovery software, which is designed to recover accidentally erased images, movies and sound files from all types of digital media.
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