Yenra : Software : Photoshop Elements : Eliminates Photoshop's advanced features and replaces them with user friendliness

Photoshop Elements

By merging Photoshop sophistication with tutorials and newbie helpers--and offering it at a pocketbook-friendly price--Adobe has created a cool tool for digital shutterbugs. Based on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements trims the most advanced features from Photoshop and replaces them with buckets of user-friendliness.

The interface, which will feel immediately comfortable to Mac users, is full of hints and helpers. By default, the workspace contains a dynamic hints window that displays nuggets of data and links to more detailed help for each tool your mouse cursor passes over. Tabs displayed above the workspace function similarly to pull-down menus: clicking on one opens a window which covers functions such as file browsing, displaying image revision history, applying effects and filters, and so on. Some even act like Windows-style wizard tutorials.

The most wizard-like among these is the Recipes window, which walks users through the software's hundred or so image editing options with step-by-step instructions. Recipes included with the program deal with the most pedestrian of tasks like color correction and image rotating, all the way up to daring endeavors like colorizing black-and-white photos and creating animated GIF files. More recipes are available via download.

Behind all of these simplicity-centric goodies is a powerful and feature-rich image editing program, and it's crammed with every bit of functionality we've come to expect from Adobe. Ready to deal with every image file format one would likely encounter, its layer management is topnotch (even compared to Paint Shop Pro 7). Photoshop Elements is also able to pare image file sizes down and prep them for immediate Web posting, and its real-time, text-on-image editing is second to none.

Granted, the application lacks some of Photoshop's functionality, such as the ability to output files in CMYK format, although it is able to read CMYK files. Alternately, some of its unique features will make Photoshop owners jealous--like the incredibly smooth Photomerge, which creates a single panorama out of a series of overlapping photos.

If you're looking for a comprehensive, intuitive, and affordable photo editor, Elements proves it can play with the best of them.

Designed "with the needs of midrange digital-imaging nonprofessionals in mind," Adobe's Photoshop Elements is a professional-quality image-editing package at an extremely attractive price.

Elements is not a limited version of big brother Photoshop--in fact, there are very few Photoshop features that Elements doesn't offer, and it has been redesigned to include plenty of straightforward editing tools suitable for the novice or business user. To aid people who are less familiar with image editing, the new Recipes palette provides step-by-step tutorials to guide you, allowing the user to grow increasingly adept. A "do it for me" button accompanies some of the steps, bringing up the tool in question for each process.

Many features will be familiar to Photoshop users--the floating toolbar with brushes, the background eraser for removing background details while leaving your foreground image intact, and the Save for the Web command, which generates just the right-size GIF, JPG, or PNG image for your Web page. Each of the vertical toolbar tools in Elements is accompanied by a unique set of options below the main menu bar that relate to the selected tool. Select the Clone Stamp, for example, and the toolbar offers choices for changing the clone stamp's size, tolerance, and more.

Adobe has added several appealing tools. One such item, PhotoMerge, lets you stitch multiple shots of an area into a single panorama. You can also straighten and crop photos that are scanned askew, auto adjust for brightness and color saturation, and brush away red eye. These added features make it ideal for users with digital cameras and scanners. There are other additions, too, like the new File Browser tab that shows a thumbnail of all the images in the current folder, in addition to displaying examples of filters and special effects on your selected image. A nice update to the Undo command is the History palette, which tracks each step in your editing process. A slider bar lets you move backwards or forwards incrementally through the history, letting you decide which steps to keep.

You won't find color separations, CMYK, or other acronyms and functions meant only for publishing pros. On the other hand, Elements offers plenty of exporting and printing options for sharing your photos in print or on the Web, such as a Picture Package feature that automatically generates multiple versions of the same image on a sheet of paper, with 20 layouts from which to choose. You can also generate a contact sheet for printing thumbnails of all the images in a folder. You can also send images directly to Shutterfly.com via the program's new Online Services wizard. Shutterfly lets you create glossy prints of your images, e-mail them to your friends, or print them on greeting cards. Because of the ability of Elements to download new services in the future, other Adobe partners may eventually appear in this wizard. All in all, this is an extremely good value package, and one that, unless you need professional-level color separations for printing, should provide all you need for digital-image editing.

As any graphics design pro can tell you, complexity and image editing software go hand in hand. The grand daddy of graphics programs,the $600 WinList choice Adobe Photoshop 6, has so many sophisticated tools and filters that even seasoned pros rarely use them all. Likewise, Jasc's $99 Paint Shop Pro 7 (another WinList app)offers oodles of image editing, drawing and painting features, but takes significant time and effort to master. On the flip side are simple editors such as Adobe's PhotoDeluxe or Microsoft Picture It which woo beginners with ease of use and basic functions, but haven't got enough guts to keep graphics gurus happy.

If you've been searching in vain for a graphics editor that falls somewhere in the middle, your wait is over. In April Adobe will release Photoshop Elements, a scaled down version of Photoshop 6 designed "with the needs of mid-range digital imaging non-professionals in mind" (so the Read Me file says). The beta I tested proves Adobe has hit their target.

According to Adobe, the name Elements doesn't mean limited features, unlike the Photoshop LE (Lite Edition) it replaces. Indeed, Elements offers nearly all the graphics design power you'd expect from Photoshop, plus plenty of straight forward editing tools suitable for the novice or business user.

From its interface, Elements looks a lot like its big brother. Photoshop devotees will recognize the familiar floating tool bar, filled with brushes and tools to help with your work. Most of Photoshop's more advanced features are here too, including the background eraser for removing background details while leaving your foreground image intact and the Save for the Web command which generates just the right sized GIF, JPG, or PNG image for your Web page.

Each of the vertical tool bar tools in Elements is accompanied by a unique set of options below the main menu bar that relate to the selected tool. Select the Clone Stamp, for example, and the tool bar displays choices for changing the clone stamp's size, tolerance, and so on.

Because Elements will likely be bundled with digital cameras and scanners, Adobe has added several tools with gee-whiz consumer appeal. One such item, PhotoMerge, lets you stitch multiple shots of an area into a single panorama. I found watching the merge take place almost as much fun as is the unique final image it created. You can also straighten and crop photos that are scanned askew, auto adjust for brightness and color saturation, and whisk away red eye with a special brush.

Other features will please both neophytes and pros. In addition to the usual layers and color swatches, Elements has dozens of views and palettes. One of my favorites is the new File Browser tab that shows a thumbnail of all the images in the current folder. This thumbnail view also displays examples of filters and special effects you can apply to any picture (the graphics equivalent of seeing different type faces in the font menu in Word). A nice visual twist on the Undo command is the History palette which tracks each step in your edit process. A sliderbar lets you move backwards or forwards incrementally through the history so you can decide which steps to keep.

While context-sensitive menus help with navigation, the new Recipes palette further improves ease of use. Recipes are step-by-step tutorials that walk you through applying common actions to a graphic so you'll be able to do them on your own in the future. Some steps are accompanied by a "do it for me" button that brings up the tool in question for that step.

Perhaps Elements' biggest difference from Photoshop is in output. You won't find color separations, CMYK or other acronyms and functions meant only for publishing pros. On the other hand, Elements offers plenty of exporting and printing options for sharing your photos in print or on the Web.

Printout options include a Picture Package feature that automatically generates multiple versions of the same image on a sheet of paper (think school pictures with the 4x5 and wallet size on the same sheet). There are 20 layouts to choose from, ranging from two 5x7s to twenty 2x2s and all combinations in between. You can also generate a contact sheet for printing thumbnails of all the images in a folder -- very useful if you need a catalog of images while offline.

Images can also be sent directly to Shutterfly.com via the program's new Online Services Wizard. Shutterfly lets you create glossy prints of your image, e-mail them to your friends or print them on greeting cards. Because of Elements' ability to download new services in the future, other Adobe partners may eventually appear in this Wizard.

Another option for sharing is the Web Photo Gallery which auto generates an HTML-based slide show of your favorite images, resizing them on the fly to make thumbnails. This process is fast but, as you would expect, the resulting Web pages aren't exactly fancy.

Unless you're a desktop publisher demanding professional color separations, using Photoshop Elements instead of Photoshop 6 requires very little compromise. For Web designers, business users and digital photography buffs, Elements offers outstanding image editing power and ease of use that won't empty your wallet. It earns its place on our WinList.

Adobe Photoshop Elements offers unique features designed specifically for amateur photographers, hobbyists, and business users who want an easy-to-use, yet powerful digital imaging solution. State-of-the-art image editing tools free you to explore your creativity while mastering the elements of digital imaging. Flexible image capture options let you work with photos taken with digital or traditional cameras. Versatile delivery features enable you to prepare images for print, e-mail, or posting on the Web.

Capture photos from digital or traditional cameras and start working with your images immediately. Quickly straighten and crop your scanned photos, remove red eye, and fix overexposed areas with a few clicks of the mouse. Adjust the tone of a specific area of your photo using the dodge, burn, and sponge tools. Eliminate the guesswork from color correction.

Adobe Photoshop Elements can automatically create several color-adjusted versions of your image for you to choose from. Merge and blend multiple images into a seamless panorama. Combine multiple images, text, and graphics on layers. Easily move or modify the layers at any time. Twist and pull your images for surreal effects or subtle enhancements. Magically erase the background in your photo to help you create realistic compositions. Create Adobe PDF files that you can easily share with colleagues. Upload your photos to shutterfly.com to share photos, make personalized cards, or print 35mm-quality photos that are then mailed directly to family and friends.