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 >>