The free version of the Smilebox slideshow creator is very limited, although it is easy to use. See all Office software reviews.

As fun and friendly as its name suggests, Smilebox offers an easy way to create animated slideshows. It also includes templates for creating electronic greeting cards, photo albums, and scrapbooks, too. Although Smilebox calls attention to its free offering, many features - including the most popular templates - require the $40/year subscription. Smilebox offers separate installers for Windows and Mac. See all: PC Advisor software downloads.

All you need to do in order to use Smilebox is sign up for a free account with your email address. But Smilebox's free offering is very limited, allowing you to do little more than create and share very simple slideshows. If you'd like to do anything more - and "more" includes accessing many of the most popular slideshow templates, such as the only plain one I could find - you need to pay $40 a year to join Club Smilebox. Doing so gets you access to all of its templates, as well as the ability to share ad-free slideshows in full screen, add music to your slideshows, and store your creations.

Smilebox displays your uploaded photos in a column on the left of the screen. It arranges the photos to look like they've been scattered on a table, which is cool, but not as useful as if they were laid out in neat order. And when you add a photo to a slide, it's not removed from the pile, which can be confusing if you're working with a lot of photos.

Smilebox offers plenty of slideshow templates to choose from, and while the number of available templates can seem daunting, they are neatly arranged into categories (such as "Seasonal" and "Special Days") that make them easier to browse. Unfortunately, though, not all of the templates offer the same options. Some, for example, allow you to adjust the speed of your photo display, while others don't. Smilebox says this is because it retains some of its older designs that are popular with users, and these lack the more robust controls that the newer designs offer. I also wish that changing a template were easier: Once you create a slideshow in one template, you can't simply switch over to another template to compare. Instead, you have to start over from scratch.

Saving and sharing your slideshows is easy, though, as Smilebox lets you decide whether to send it via email, post it to Facebook, a blog, or another Web site, print it, or save it to a DVD or a file. And the end results are polished enough for sharing with groups large and small.

While Smilebox lacks some of the fine-tuned controls that professionals and perfectionists will want, it still offers a quick and easy way to create polished slideshows for sharing.

Smilebox: Specs

  • Macintosh OS X 10.5 (Leopard)/Macintosh OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)/Macintosh OS X 10.7 (Lion)/Macintosh OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)/Microsoft Windows 7/Microsoft Windows 8/Microsoft Windows Vista/Microsoft Windows XP
  • Macintosh OS X 10.5 (Leopard)/Macintosh OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)/Macintosh OS X 10.7 (Lion)/Macintosh OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)/Microsoft Windows 7/Microsoft Windows 8/Microsoft Windows Vista/Microsoft Windows XP

OUR VERDICT

Smilebox is as fun and easy to use and the name suggests. The free version of this slideshow creator is very limited, though; if you want to do much with it, you'll need to spring for the $40/year subscription.

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