Corel Paint Shop Pro (PSP) offers a wealth of features wrapped around an engaging interface. Although it doesn't have all the power of Adobe Photoshop CS2, the $99.99 PSP also doesn't share Photoshop's $650 price. Version 11 of the digital-imaging app will appeal to beginners and pros alike, thanks to the addition of a context-sensitive Learning Center for newbies, alongside high-end photo tools such as Film and Filters.
Most welcome is an integrated Photo Organizer for searching images via file name, type, date, or folder location. You can also assign keywords and ratings, edit EXIF data, and extract single frames from video files. The new Photo Tray lets you collect images for batch-processing e-mail, printing, and file transfer.
Many new editing and creative capabilities were added to this version. An intelligent Color Changer takes illumination into account, producing more-realistic transformations than the usual flat color replacer. The Curves and Levels dialog boxes have been enhanced, allowing pinpoint control over crucial color and tone adjustments. Some of the correction features are astounding. We had several fuzzy pictures that were taken through an airplane window; the versions processed with the Fade Adjustment tool came out perfectly clear. (The filter also does an excellent job on cloudy underwater photos.)
Another playful new toy is Time Machine, a set of effects that makes your photo look like it was taken in another era, with options, such as Daguerreotype and Cyanotype. The Film and Filters tool lets you experiment with a variety of film looks such as Enhanced Reds and Vibrant Foliage, while the Depth of Field effect can obscure a background by applying sharp focus to one area of a photo and then blurring everything else. Also, the Video preview feature is useful for examining, opening, organizing, and extracting single frames from digital movies.
High-end print-oriented users, however, will miss sophisticated CMYK support, such as a Channels palette and out-of-gamut highlighting. Another quibble: the app's text features are mediocre at best. Still, PSP is an excellent value for digital photographers who are put off by Photoshop's complexity and cost