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Photo-editing software

Steve Segal

Actual prices for photo-editing program vary, because there are different prices for the boxed version and downloaded version. In addition, there may be special sales, rebates, bundles and coupons. So, don’t be surprised if the actual final price is lower than the boxed-price amount listed below. (Unless otherwise noted, demonstration versions of all listed software are available from the company’s Web site and the products have plug-in support.)

= Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0

$99, www.adobe.com

Plus: Adobe’s Photoshop program set the standard for digital image manipulation, and this home-user version retains most of the power and features, so it’s easy to get support from friends and co-workers with digital photo-editing experience.

Minus: Steep learning curve makes this a poor choice for beginners.

Photo album companion : Adobe Photoshop Album ($50)

  • Microsoft Picture It! Digital Image 9 Suite $129, www.microsoft.com

    Plus: An amazing combination of power and simplicity.

    Minus: No trial version, so there’s no try-before-you-buy, a major marketing blunder.

    Photo album companion : Built in Digital Image Library.

  • Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8 $109, www.jasc.com

    Plus: Sophisticated keystroke-recording software allows for easy automation

    of repetitive tasks.

    Minus: Interface is a bit clunky and not very user-friendly.

    Photo album companion : Jasc Photo Album 4 ($49)

  • Ulead PhotoImpact 8 $90, www.ulead.com

    Plus: Users willing to put in the time can create a highly customized workspace.

    Minus: Confusing interface with an overwhelming number of button choices.

    Photo album companion : Included PhotoExplorer.

  • Roxio Photosuite 5 Platinum $50, www.roxio.com

    Plus: The definite choice for those on a budget or those who want quick results without having to spend a lot of time with manuals.

    Minus: Can be frustrating for those who want a lot of content control and tweaking, and there is no plug-In support.

    Photo album companion : Build-in photo album software included.

    Plug-ins

  • Jasc’s Virtual Painter 3 ($49) allows users of any skill level to create instant artwork from any digital images. With only a few simple settings, users can select one of the 12 filters to create works of art from digital images. The pastel drawing and oil painting filters are most impressive.
  • Alien Skin Software (www.alienskin.com) is one of the most popular plug-in creators. Its three plug-in products target more-advanced and professional users. But the software is designed so that even beginners who are willing to invest some time will be able to create professional-looking results. Xenofex 2 ($129, 14 filters) filters give users the ability to create lightning, cloud and jigsaw puzzle special effects. It’s also the most beginner-friendly of the bunch. Splat! ($99, 6 filters with more available for free from the Web site) and Eye Candy 4000 ($169, 23 filters) are more advanced filters that can create more special effects, including fancy picture frames, shadows and backgrounds.
  • Auto FX software (www.autofx.com) plug-ins are geared toward professionals. Unlike the other plug-ins, the programs also run as stand-alone software. DreamSuite Series One ($199, 18 effects) makes quick work of transforming a photo into chisel, crackle, putty or ripple effects. This is the one program that would most help non-professional users. Some of the other plug-ins are: AutoEye 2.0 ($129), which combines multiple image-editing controls into a simple interface; DreamSuite Series Two, ($149), which includes wrinkle, filmstrip and picture frames effects and Photo/Graphic Edges 5.0, ($199), which includes more than 10,000 edges. The prices are as steep as the learning curve, but the ultimate payoff is in the results. Bottom line: it’s well worth it for those who want the ultimate editing power.

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