As with comparable packages, such as Adobe's Photoshop Elements and Corel's Paint Shop Pro, PhotoImpact has been revised to take into account the continuing popularity of digital cameras, their multi-megapixel resolutions and the need to be able to manage our burgeoning digital image collections.

An improved interface makes it easier to find the tools you need and specify their complexity, depending on the level of interest in photography or the amount of adjustment you need. To this end, Ulead provides a My Workspace system with five preset tool layouts for different tasks.

Attach a camera to your PC, or insert a media card, and PhotoImpact jumps in to import and organise your snaps, while the bundled Photo Explorer 8.6 provides a calendar view to help you jump to groups of photos. Once catalogued, it's possible to add effects and filters via the Browse Manager without having to open the main editing palette.

The fastest way of improving photos is to invoke the ExpressFix feature. This brings up thumbnail previews of how your photo will look if you adjust colour balance, focus, saturation and skintones. We found this approach offered a welcome degree of control that reminded us of Photoshop's visual-adjustment tools.

Features such as red-eye removal, batch conversion and cropping are fairly standard these days, as is support for RAW image files - where you save a high-resolution photo to a capacious media storage card without applying compression. This program is merely keeping pace with its peers.

But PhotoImpact also gives you tools to sort out artefacts such as fringing found on cameraphone snaps, plus a High Dynamic Range feature with which you can combine two or more images, using the best elements of each. It takes a similar approach when creating panoramas, stitching together several photos automatically. PhotoImpact's SmartRemove function gets rid of extraneous people or objects in a scene, using photos to fill in detail - assuming you've fired off several similar shots.

Layer support plus quick mask tools make it easier than in previous iterations to grab individual elements, roughly draw around them and blur out the background or copy them to another file - something Paint Shop Pro has offered for years.

Ulead PhotoImpact 11.0: Specs

  • 500MHz Pentium III processor
  • Windows 2000/XP
  • 128MB RAM
  • 600MB disk space
  • 500MHz Pentium III processor
  • Windows 2000/XP
  • 128MB RAM
  • 600MB disk space

OUR VERDICT

PhotoImpact is right up there with the likes of Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro. And with an easier to use, customisable interface, better support for mid-range cameras and more advanced tools such as histograms and SmartCurves, it should definitely appeal to a broad range of photographers.

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