When we reviewed the previous version of Ashampoo's Photo Optimizer, our tests showed that it was a decent though not stellar product. Its greatest weakness was a lack of image editing tools and special effects. With the new version 4.0, Ashampoo Photo Optimizer's feature set has been expanded, making it more fun and more useful.
The new version of Ashampoo Photo Optimizer ($15, ten-day free trial) has basically the same highly accessible interface. To the right is Windows Explorer-like tree, displaying all the drives and folders connected to your computer and your network. When you click on a folder that has JPEG photos in it, those are displayed as scalable thumbnails at the top of the screen. While Photo Optimizer still imports only JPEGs, it can now save to JPEG, BMP, PNG, TGA or TIFF. Another useful addition are the various split screen options to view before and after images - horizontal, vertical or diagonal. However, the split screen is available only after an effect has been applied, and not while you are making your editing decisions.
Whereas previously Ashampoo Photo Optimizer was very lightweight on editing tools, Version 4 has added several image adjustments and special effects, such as Hue, Saturation, Blur, Sharpen, Outline and Reduce noise. Age image has 11 different appealing presets (plus 9 frames) to add crackling, noise and color fading, emulating the look of antique photos. The tools are applied either by clicking on an effect's name to cycle through presets, or, in some cases, by using sliders to control the levels or amount of the change.
Ashampoo Photo Optimizer has been optimized to take advantage of multi-core processors, and can now load larger images up to 45 megapixels in size. Sharing is enabled, via Windows email, to Facebook, or as a Web album on Picasa. However, a photo we supposedly uploaded to Facebook never appeared on our Facebook page or photo albums, despite repeated attempts. The vendor suggested this may be due to our PC's higher-than-average security settings.
Photo Optimizer is remarkably easy to understand and use. We expect that photo editing novices (the primary market for this program) will be up and running--and having fun with their photos--within moments of first opening the program. However, users with more experience may find the program too simplistic.