Adobe Photoshop is more than most of us need — more features, more power, more financial outlay. Corel thinks its PaintShop Pro X7 is a better fit. Retailing at $100, PaintShop Pro X7's Ultimate edition is bursting at the seams with features, and ships with a standalone portrait editor to boot.
PaintShop Pro X7 wants to take care of all of your photo management and editing needs. That's quite a lot of work, so the interface breaks it down into three tabs, laid out across the top of the window: Manage, Adjust, and Edit.
The Manage tab is where you browse through your photo collection. You can look at image metadata, rate images, and browse through folders. You can also run a face recognition scan that then lets you browse photos by person, much like Google's free Picasa.
Once you find an image you want to work with, you can click through to either the Adjust or Edit tabs. The Adjust tab lets you apply image-wide effects: You can tweak the white balance, brightness, contrast, vibrancy, and more. Along its right side, you'll find the Instant Effects sidebar. This is quite similar to how CameraBag works: A single click applies effects with names like "Retro Surreal" or "Sepia Fully aged." Just like in CameraBag, you can layer effects on top of one another.
If photo-wide effects aren't what you're after, you need the Edit tab. Click it, and you find yourself in a complete and powerful image editor. There's a Magic Wand, layers, a sophisticated color picker, and most important — a Learning Center that takes you through the basics. It's interactive, so you just click whatever you're interested in, and the relevant dialog opens up.
Much like Photoshop, PaintShop Pro has a long and storied history — and it shows in the interface. Many of X7's key dialogs are shiny and new, making good use of the generous amounts of screen real estate most modern computers offer. But as you click your way around the interface, you'll soon come across ancient-looking dialogs, showing through like battle scars. The Effect Browser dialog feels like it came straight out of Windows 2000, folder icons and all.
This makes it easy to spot the new stuff, such as the beautiful and handy Smart Photo Fix dialog.
The Smart Photo Fix dialog offers some subtle ways to improve your photo, and the side-by-side view makes it easy to decide whether or not your changes actually improve anything. You can also click Suggest Settings for a starting point, but the handful of simple sliders offer satisfyingly nuanced ways to adjust your image. It works, and it did make my image look better.
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