Serif PhotoPlus X4 is fast and very powerful, giving you a great deal of creative control over your photos. Updated, 9 June 2011

Powerful image-editing programs such as Serif PhotoPlus X4 pack in so many features that making them immediately comprehensible and accessible to a beginner can be difficult. Thankfully, this application provides a huge amount of help from the off. 

The startup wizard helpfully asks what you want to do and presents a list of options. These aren't as clearly worded as we'd like, but one points you to an online quick-start guide that walks you through Serif's main functions via a series of video tutorials.

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To import your photo collection you’ll first have to make your way to AlbumPlus - a separate application that’s automatically installed during setup and only loosely integrated with the main image editor. A link from the startup wizard will take you there, although it doesn’t exactly leap out as a place to start.

If you have any Photoshop experience, you'll be familiar with the layout of the editing interface and its tabbed controls. Serif adds a large ‘How To’ tab, offering step-by-step guides on how to do just about anything. Options here include 'Show me how' and 'Do this for me', with the latter ideal for obtaining immediate results.

Many powerful editing features are available, including support for layers, non-destructive editing via filter layers, sophisticated masking, HDR and 16bit images. Panoramas can be created using the separate but included Panorama Plus X4 program. 

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The AlbumPlus organiser is neither as pretty nor as easy to use as Photoshop Elements' equivalent. It also lacks some desirable features such as face-recognition. However, you can apply and sort images by tags and ratings, make quick fixes and enhancements, and publish your pictures in a variety of formats.

You can produce Flash slideshows, calendars and greetings cards, and directly upload images to Facebook and Flickr. The Facebook option doesn’t make use of its high-resolution photo format, however.

Next page: Our original review of Serif PhotoPlus X4, by PC World's Sally Wiener Grotta & Daniel Grotta, from October 2010 >>

Serif PhotoPlus X4 is photo editing software designed for photo enthusiasts who seek more creative control and functionality than what novice programs offer, but who aren't ready to graduate to the depth, complexity, and expense of Adobe Photoshop. What follows is our original review of Serif PhotoPlus X4, by PC World's Sally Wiener Grotta & Daniel Grotta, from October 2010

The latest iteration, Serif PhotoPlus X4 offers significant improvements through the addition of nondestructive editing, greater support of 16-bit images, and interface changes that help smooth workflow.

One of the strengths of Serif PhotoPlus X4 is the quality of its help and guidance. From the opening splash screen, you can access useful, online video tutorials. In addition, when you hover your mouse over the list of recent files, a thumbnail preview now pops up. The How To help panel in the main screen still provides intelligent advice, as well as step-by-step instructions, with links to commands rather than just descriptions of them.

The redesigned PhotoPlus Organizer is now integrated with the main program, which makes it easier to organize and use your photos in Serif PhotoPlus X4. But getting a photo into the Organizer is a two-step process, rather than a simple double-click. The Organizer will watch folders for changes; however, it failed to be able to connect to our external or network drives and watched only those hard drives that are installed in the local computer.

On the other hand, it was able to access and work with image files on network and external drives.
Organizer can now use geotag metadata from your camera or phone to place your photos on an integrated Google Map, or you can manually drag and drop a series of photos on to the zoomable world map. The Organizer also now has direct export of photos to Flickr and Facebook.

Unfortunately, the Organizer can be sluggish, especially when tagging or geotagging groups of pictures. For instance, after selecting about 15 photos of our cat Rascal and dragging to tag them with his name, the program became inaccessible, not allowing us to tag an additional dozen photos of our other cat Teddy.

The customizable interface of the Serif PhotoPlus X4 main screen is highly accessible, with the default workspace docking How To on the left and the edit panels to the right.

Some of the most significant changes with Serif PhotoPlus X4 are the changes in those edit panel. For instance, the new adjustments panel (for exposure, colour and similar edits) is more accessible and versatile than the old menu dialog, and the new Filter layers function like Photoshop's Smart Filters, as part of X4's greater commitment to nondestructive editing.

Leveraging existing Serif technologies, Serif PhotoPlus X4 now includes the Cutout Studio (for masking), and the full Panorama Plus X4 program for stitching photos together from the Organizer (or as a standalone).

The one area that hasn't been improved but should be for the photo enthusiast market is the RAW Studio. While Serif PhotoPlus X4 supports a wide range of RAW file formats, it sometimes automatically adjust the colour temperature of the image (often related to the export colour model chosen), and doesn't provide colour tools before the RAW conversion for controlling the image colours.

Under the hood, Serif PhotoPlus X4 now supports multi-thread processing, such as with the new dual, quad- and six-core systems. It also finally retains and exports all EXIF image metadata, rather than throwing it away. More obvious is its much better support of 16-bit images, with a larger number of its tools and filters now enabled for 16-bit editing. In addition, screen rendering of your images is improved, using a new pixel sampling.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Serif PhotoPlus X4: Specs

  • Windows-based PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse
  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2 (32 bit), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 operating system
  • 512MB RAM
  • 480MB free hard disk space
  • 1024x600 monitor resolution
  • Windows-based PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse
  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2 (32 bit), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 operating system
  • 512MB RAM
  • 480MB free hard disk space
  • 1024x600 monitor resolution


Serif PhotoPlus X4 is fast and very powerful, giving you a great deal of creative control. For editing tasks it goes well beyond the basics – and if that’s what you want to achieve, you'll find plenty of guidance to help you along the way.

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