It isn't long since we reviewed Ulead PhotoImpact 7, so when Ulead PhotoImpact 8 arrived on my desk, I was curious about what was new and whether there were any major changes. The main competition to PhotoImpact 8 is the excellent Adobe Photoshop Elements package.
For information on version 8 of PhotoImpact, I'd suggest you check out the Ulead Website for a detailed list of what's new. There's also a comparison between PhotoImpact 8, Photoshop Elements and PaintShop Pro there too.
Anyone who enjoyed working in PhotoImpact 7 will be glad to know not much has changed in the user interface. Very little has been added to the main toolbars and although they do take some getting used too for beginners, they're comprehensive and user-friendly enough.
The above screenshot shows the default layout for PhotoImpact. Optionally toolbars can be moved around or removed.
In a similar way to Photoshop, different toolbars are combined into one small window, allowing you to switch between them and save desktop space. This works very well, with the file browser and document manager being particularly useful when working with lots of files.
Although PhotoImpact has many features that Photoshop Elements can't compete with, many people will only use a limited selection of these tools. So to try and help you decide which software package you buy or download a trial of, we'll comment on the differences between some of the most commonly used functions.
Unsharp mask & Performance
With some digital cameras not offering control over the sharpening performed, many images come out looking softer than they should. The unsharp mask (PhotoImpact's shown right) is a valuable tool for fine tuning this aspect of your images.
PhotoImpact 8 offers a number of viewing options and similar unsharp options to Adobe Elements. You can for example, change the part of the image displayed in the preview windows.
However, Elements manages to leap ahead in terms of speed. In PhotoImpact you have to press a preview button to see the effect on the final image, which took around 15 seconds. In Elements this was perfomed almost instantly when the preview option is selected.
A common problem that occurs is people wanting to print more than one photo on a sheet of paper. It's possible to do this by creating a large document, then copying each image onto it, arranging it so they don't exceed the paper margins. PhotoImpact 8 provides an easy way to print any number of images on one sheet.
You can choose from a large selection of pre-defined formats, such as two or four images to a sheet, or even formats such as CDs.
In the example shown to the right, it was easy to select which photo was in each pane. They can be different images or just duplicates of the same.
This is a very useful feature to include in PhotoImpact and although it could do with a few minor improvements is still very flexible.
Besides the main PhotoImpact 8 program, there are two other programs for organising your photos and creating animations.
The first of these, the Album, has a suprising amount of functions. There is a search tool, which provides a good amount of search criteria, though you can only search one album at a time.
You can choose to have an album 'packaged' up and sent via e-mail or made into a website. The screenshot below gives you an idea of the functionality of the software.
Also included is the GIF Animator, illustrated below. This is also a suprisingly powerful piece of software. We won't cover it in detail here as we assume the majority of photographers will be interested only in the photo manipulation part of the package. One notable quirk of this animation package, is the following error message displayed when closing an image. Hopefully Ulead will be issuing a software update patch to resolve this issue soon.
PhotoImpact 8 is definetly worth a look. If you're on broadband it'll only take a few minutes to download the trial and check it out for yourself.
If you're on modem and don't want to wait that long, you need to consider if this is the right program for you. If you're only interested in photo-editing on a budget, we'd recommend Photoshop Elements 2 over PhotoImpact 8. However, if you also want to manage your photos, create some web-graphics and would like to use preset special effects PhotoImpact 8 competes very well against Elements.
The best way of judging the ease of use of a program like this is to try it. Although it will take a while to download on a modem, Ulead provide a time-limited trial which will allow you to test it for yourself before deciding whether to buy it. You can download the PhotoImpact 8 trial here.
If you've downloaded the trial and are at a loss at what to do, Ulead have provided a selection of techniques on their website.
In summary the main positive points of Ulead PhotoImpact 8 are:
Photo Album and Animation tools are useful extras
Good web tools
Offers a wide range of image-editing functions
Configurable user interface
Comprehensive user manual
Ability to create slideshows on CD
Negative points are:
A minor number of bugs
Processing speeds are often longer than average
Although good, the user interface isn't at the same level as Elements