Serif Software Digital Photo Suite 2009 offers photographers a set of simple and intuitive, if not particularly powerful, tools for organising and enhancing photos.

Serif Software Digital Photo Suite 2009 comprises Serif's image organiser and editor package, AlbumPlus X3, and PanoramaPlus 3.

At £29, Digital Photo Suite 2009 has some appeal - but only if you have need for its specific set of tools. (You can browse PC Advisor's Downloads library for other image editors; many have specialised capabilities.)

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AlbumPlus X3 has more features than its predecessor, Serif PhotoPlus X2, including more image editing tools as well as the ability to upload photos to social networking sites. AlbumPlus X3 will not be available as a stand-alone program; instead, Serif is offering it as part of the Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009 bundle.

We were pleasantly surprised by how easy and quick it was to pull the almost 2,000 photos from a hard drive into AlbumPlus X3. In just a few clicks, we could see thumbnails of all of our photos stacked by the folder where the images reside on my hard drive, ready for us to assign tags we could later search on. (In addition to photos, you can import video and music files from your hard drive, CD/DVD drive, digital camera, scanner, or external storage drive.)

Serif starts with a small group of tags in a Windows-style folder system that you can add to or customise with your own tags. You can choose an icon for each tag from the list Serif provides or add your own, and you can organise and search for photos many different ways, such as by tag, star rating, date, or file size.

We generally found it intuitive to assign tags. One counterintuitive point about the process: you assign tags to images by dragging and dropping a photo or group of photos to the tag list rather than dragging tags to the photos. Alternatively, you can right-click and assign a tag from a list; we prefer that approach.

The AlbumPlus X3 software is not intended as a full-bore image editor akin to Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0. However, it does have a small, yet fun set of tools that let you make simple changes to your photos.

You can fix blemishes, smooth skin, whiten teeth and the whites of the eyes, and even add a fake tan (albeit one that looks much like many fake tans). You can also choose from a fairly standard set of fixes, such as brightness, sharpness, contrast, and color saturation, and play with a few effects like stained glass and oil painting.

Serif provides excellent on-screen explanations along the way, making this software a good choice for photo-editing neophytes. Each time you click to open a particular tool, a small section of the screen is devoted to giving instructions on how to use it and tips for getting the best results.

Once you've sorted your images, AlbumPlus offers several options for sharing photos, including putting them on a CD; creating printed calendars and albums; sending them via email; and uploading them to social networks, including Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube.

Serif makes this package a suite by bundling in its PanoramaPlus 3, a tool for stitching photos and movie frames into a panorama or a 360-degree movie. The Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009 has a single installer, but each of the programs within it maintains a separate identity, though there is a button in AlbumPlus X3's main menu that will launch PanoramaPlus 3.

Like AlbumPlus, we found PanoramaPlus easy to use and integrated with terrific instructions and tips.

You can find many of the features in AlbumPlus X3 for free from online image editors such as Picnik, Photoshop Express, and scores of other web-based image editors. That makes Digital Photo Suite's £29 price tag feel steep.

PCWorld.com

Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009: Specs

  • Pentium PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse
  • Microsoft Windows XP/Vista
  • 256MB RAM (512MB Recommended)
  • 659MB free hard disk space
  • XGA display (1024x768 resolution, 16-bit colour) or higher
  • Pentium PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse
  • Microsoft Windows XP/Vista
  • 256MB RAM (512MB Recommended)
  • 659MB free hard disk space
  • XGA display (1024x768 resolution, 16-bit colour) or higher

OUR VERDICT

For those who don't want their photos online and are willing to pay for a simple, well-integrated program to help them organise and edit their photos, Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009 provides a good balance of features that are tailor-made for home users.

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