Between Photoshop and PhotoDeluxe, Adobe have the consumer and professional image editing angles pretty well covered. The photo enthusiast though has been somewhat less well catered for. Photoshop LE, the trimmed Photoshop version has held its own there to a degree but its does suffer from a rather too obvious cut-down-from-a-major-package look.
Hence Adobe are phasing out LE in favour of an entirely new package, Photoshop Elements. Aimed squarely at amateur photographers, hobbyists and business users Elements takes the best from the Adobe stable and puts them in one coherent package.
The look of Elements indicates its origins in the Photoshop fold but immediately appears more user-friendly. To the conventional arsenal of palettes two newcomers are a both welcome and worthy. Hints gives context sensitive advice on using the currently selected tool; Recipes give palette-based step by step help in performing certain actions. Unlike PhotoDeluxe where these are very proscribed, Recipes give help and advice - none of this is mandatory.
Filter effects - as extensive as that offered in Photoshop 6 - are offered in a more graphic way. Rather than menu and sub-menu lists effects are shown as thumbnails. Effects can also be dragged and dropped onto an image. If parameters need to be set for the effect a dialogue box will open, otherwise the effect is immediately applied.
A feature premiering with Elements is Photomerge, Adobe's panorama-producing software. Photomerge offers a useful blend of manual and automatic tools to enable shots to be stitched into very effective panoramas. You'll also find quick-fix tools included for red-eye removal, cropping and straightening images. Fill Flash fixes problems with under and over exposure on the same image. And the File Browser helps find your digital images by displaying the graphics files in any directory as thumbnails. It's not really a cataloguing or retrieval systems but it's useful in hunting down specific or elusive images.
Missing Elements are the advanced text handling features of Photoshop 6 (though the tools provided are more than enough for most needs) nor the extensive vector image manipulations that debuted in the latest version.
This is Photoshop with a human face. If you're a photo enthusiast this harnesses all the power of its bigger brother while losing little in the way of essential (or desirable) features. The directed help makes getting to grips with the tools and features easy.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10
These figures are based on our experience of the respective programs and do not necessarily agree with the manufacturers' recommendations.
Power PC Processor, 64MB RAM
130MB hard disc space
OS 8.6 or higher; OS X (Classic environment)
Pentium II, 64MB RAM
130MB hard disc space
Windows 98 or higher, NT4.0 (SP4) or higher.