PhotoTangler Collage Maker lets you--or your kid--take a number of images and make them into a smoothly flowing collage, for printing or for use as a desktop background image.

To begin using the application, simply drag images from Windows Explorer (or any other file manager) and drop them onto the PhotoTangler window. You can also use PhotoTangler's built-in file browser to navigate to your images.

Once you drop images onto the canvas, you can arrange them by simply clicking each image and dragging it around to create the composition you're after. Scrolling the mouse wheel while hovering over an image makes its edges fade, which gives it a softer appearance and makes the collage flow better. You can rotate images by holding the Shift key while clicking and dragging. You can also resize each image by dragging its border, but there is currently no way to crop images from within PhotoTangler. You can also add text to your image, using any font installed on your computer.

To the right of the canvas, a property grid shows different settings for the image that is currently selected. While PhotoTangler is fun to use with a mouse, you can use this grid to dial in exact width, height, X and Y values for your images, or to rotate them by a set number of degrees. One thing you can do using the property grid only is add a frame around each image. This may be handy for certain types of collages (similar to the "picture pile" which you can create with Google Picasa). Unfortunately, PhotoTangler doesn't currently allow selecting more than one image at a time, so you have to apply the same frame settings to each image individually.

Another surprising shortcoming is the lack of a "send to bottom" option. When creating a collage, images naturally overlap (that's the whole point, really). Therefore, the order by which images are stacked becomes very important. PhotoTangler allows you to select an image and send it to the top of the pile with a single click, but you can't select an image and send it to the bottom. When I wanted to use an image as the background to my collage, I had to individually select every other image and send it to the top. And I had to be careful about the sequence in which I did this, because it could easily confuse the stacking order of all other images, creating unwanted effects. You can always undo your last few operations, which does make it a bit more bearable.

Immediately below the PhotoTangler property grid lies a pane called Scene Elements, showing all images that belong in the current scene. Currently, it is a simple list, letting you click each image to select it for manipulation. It would have been better if it were possible to drag rows to arrange the stacking order; developer Solid Eight Studios is considering this for a future version.

PhotoTangler may not give Photoshop a run for its money, but it is very simple and fun to use, especially for kids.