Not so many years ago Paint Shop Pro was considered a 'meaty' alternative to Microsoft's Windows Paint graphics tool. As time - and Version numbers - have moved on Paint Shop Pro has developed into a fully-fledged and fully specified image editor. And, unlike those earlier versions (which were made available as web downloads) it now comes complete with box and compendious manuals, much in the ilk of Photoshop.
Infact, Paint Shop Pro 7 stands very good comparison with Photoshop 6. It mirrors much of that product's functionality and - lest you should consider it a copy of Photoshop, pre-empted Photoshop 6's vector based tools.
Unsurprisingly, then, the Paint Shop Pro interface is much like that of Photoshop, presenting all the tools and menu options you'd expect but in a somewhat clinical and workmanlike way. It's one of those interfaces that the experienced image-editors relish but that newcomers can find a little daunting.
On the down side both the Tool and Options palettes are somewhat more cumbersome than those of Photoshop are. Both, by default, open when the program is started and neither are particularly discrete - they tend to consume a disproportionate amount of screen space. They do, however, roll up when not in use.
Other tools too tend to be less efficient in operation than the Photoshop equivalent but often this is a case of splitting hairs - and Photoshop's are excellent.
Though not totally unique, there are some features that make this package particularly useful. For example, an intelligent manual colour correction routine brings expert and precise colour correction within the grasp of the novice. And an artefact removal tool helps clear compressed JPEG images of inevitable artefacts due to over-compression.
One of the unsung features is the screen capture utility that, when configured, requires only a single keystroke to capture the current screen (in fact, all the Windows screen grabs for this feature come courtesy of it!).
The Photoshop Pro 7 package doesn't provide the disc consuming rafts of extras (clip art, images and fonts) but does feature examples to support tutorials. Bundled with, but not integrated with, the package is Animation Shop Pro, a program whose usefulness depends on the importance you attach to web animation graphics. If creating these isn't your bag, you can ignore it; if you do, it's a worthwhile bonus.
Does just about everything with competence but without the panache of Photoshop.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
These figures are based on our experience of the respective programs and do not necessarily agree with the manufacturers' recommendations.
Pentium 266, 32MB RAM, 110 MB hard disc space Windows 95/NT4.0 or later