Given the excellence of its batch tools and smart filter layers (amongst other things), Serif PhotoPlus X2 really is great image-editing software.

When we've looked at previous Serif products, we've been very keen to play up the value for money afforded by the likes of PagePlus, DrawPlus and, of course, PhotoPlus. At the same time, though, we've perhaps been guilty of being slightly condescending.

In a strange sense, though, this is part of Serif's success. Take Serif PhotoPlus X2, the brand new version of the best-selling digital image-editing package.

With Serif PhotoPlus X2's uncluttered and intuitive interface and excellent selection of helpful wizards, you can be polishing off your first project within minutes. And yet, this ease of use shouldn't detract from a features set that, in many respects, now rivals that of the high-end Photoshop.

Initially, some of Serif PhotoPlus X2's features sound a little tacky. Makeover Studio, for instance, sounds rather fluffy. In use, though, it works pretty well, letting you remove blemishes, make skin look smoother, or brighten teeth.

You can get previews to see how things will look, and while Serif PhotoPlus X2's results aren't flawless, you do now have a few extra tools for airbushing the odd inperfection.

Of more practical use are Serif PhotoPlus X2's vastly improved smart filter layers. You get full undo and redo facilities, and you can see a before-and-after preview so that you can get an idea of what you'll be unleashing.

Speed is improved, although we would like to see this cranked up once more. New filter effects cover a decent range, from the hand-drawn look cast by Serif PhotoPlus X2's Comic Book filter to the reshaping created by Vignette.

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