improves stellar amateur graphics program
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #701 April 1-7, 2003; High Tech Office column
this column looked at several free and simple programs that give users
the power to view and transform images and to quickly produce Web
pages filled with thumbnails of photos.
Beyond free and
simple software are the often expensive and complex tools used by
graphics and design professionals, programs like Adobe Photoshop
and Macromedia Freehand. They can cost $1,000 each and be the
subject of college-level courses. They are powerful but beyond the
needs, inclination or budget of most of us. (Consider the free The
Gimp from www.gimp.org if
you need the power and have the time but not the budget.)
In 2001, Adobe
released Photoshop Elements ($149), offering 85 per cent of the
power of its pro-version for 15 per cent of the cost. Calling it
"software for the rest of us," I listed it in my best-of-2001 column.
Now, the company has released version 2.0 of Elements (with versions
for Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X), improving what was already a
Aimed at the
non-professional, hints appear for each brush selected, making it
easier to pick the right tool for any job. The useful but sometimes
confusing "recipes" of version 1.0 have been replaced with more
logically organized "tutorials" for common tasks. A search field in
the toolbar makes it easier to get help when needed.
There's a new
Fix" feature, offering the most common adjustments - brightness,
colour correction, focus and rotation - in a single dialogue box with
handy before and after displays.
A new Selection
tool simplifies selecting parts of a picture that need modification.
As the name
just paint a selection-area, then apply a change to it.
Like the full
of Photoshop, natural media paint brushes let the artistically
inclined paint with watercolour, oil paint or calligraphy effects.
Sadly, the very
useful Healing Brush has not been included. It is used to fix wrinkles
and scratches in photos and was introduced in the latest full-version
of Photoshop. It would probably be even more helpful in this
amateur-oriented product than in the pro-version.
not included in the pro version, however. My favourite, carried over
from version 1, is the Photomerge wizard, which automates combining
multiple graphics into a single scene. It's good for panoramic
landscape shots, but also useful for making a single image from scans
of an over-sized original. Flash photos benefit from the simplified
redeye removal. E-mail a photo and it can be automatically scaled-down
for quicker transmission and reception.
offers thumbnail-views of graphic files in an interface reminiscent of
Windows Explorer, making it easier to find your target photo among
hundreds of similarly named files produced by digital cameras. And new
batch-processing options make it easy to rename, resize or convert a
folder full of files at once.
tutorials, Photoshop Elements still resembles its pro-level,
full-featured parent. Users may benefit by spending some time with a
book such as Create! The No Nonsense Guide to Photoshop Elements 2
by Greg Simsic and Katy Bodenmiller ($26, McGraw-Hill/Osborne).
It helps new users without making them feel like dummies or idiots.
put in some time learning to work with it, Photoshop Elements combines
most of the power of pro-level Photoshop and additional help for a
small fraction of the price. The missing features are generally the
ones that would take the most time to explain. There's a trial version
Photoshop Elements is bundled with some digital cameras and scanners.
Photoshop Elements from Amazon.com
'Create! The No Nonsense Guide' from Amazon.con