MGI have received plaudits for the design of PhotoSuite since its rebirth as Photoshop II (2!) a couple of years ago. Prior to this PhotoSuite had been a somewhat conventional image editor that also offered compendious amounts of royalty free images and clip art. As such it had proved very popular and was, for a time, the biggest selling image editor.
Version II and subsequent releases, including the current Version 4, took a different approach. First, it was browser based, following a similar technology to that of Internet Explorer. Indeed, the latter was closely integrated into the suite. It also became a project-led program. Rather than being 'just' an image editor it was structured to lead users through the various stages of image manipulation and graphics production, step by step. Users could even go on to produce panoramas, calendars and framed prints under the expert guidance of the program.
There were two principal down sides to this approach. First, the novel interface precluded this program to anyone other than those with the most potent and well-specified computers. If you had a slower machine or one with a lowly amount of memory the program was extremely pedestrian
Second, this stepwise approach, although excellent for the beginner (in that it behaved as a live tutorial) was somewhat cumbersome and in many instances more experienced users found it a hindrance.
Version 4 has addressed some of this. The computer requirements, partly by tighter programming, and partly because the computer world has 'caught up', are no longer so onerous (although we have found the recommended Pentium 266 should be regarded as a minimum).
The sequential operation however, remains. This must be viewed with regard to your needs and abilities. The experienced user will very quickly become frustrated by this imposed logic. He or she will want access to tool on an ad hoc basis. The newcomer or those with moderate experience will probably appreciate the rigour with which the program assists in the execution of projects.
The interface is strongly geared towards project-led work. Beneath the menu bar is a button strip providing direct access to certain features, such as image acquisition ('Get'), manipulation ('Prepare') and so on. The left-hand side of the screen is a context sensitive panel that displays information or additional options, depending on the current selection.
The image 'work area' comprises the greater part of the screen with, where appropriate, tools ranged along the left and top borders. A strip to the right displays all the currently loaded images.
It sounds complicated - and indeed it is - but in practice it works very well. Add in the ability to create albums, web albums, web pages and more, and it adds up to a very well specified program. You can even create Photo Tapestries - montages of images comprising countless thumbnails. Slightly cliched, but fun!
PhotoSuite 4 is a serious but friendly program that sometimes obscures its potency behind the interface.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10
These figures are based on our experience of the respective programs and do not necessarily agree with the manufacturers' recommendations.
Pentium 166, 32MB RAM (Pentium 266, 64MB RAM recommended)
240MB hard disc space
Windows 95 or higher, NT4.0 (SP4) or higher.