Serif have developed quite a following with PagePlus, a very competent and effective word processing and desktop publishing offering. Its image editor has, somewhat unfairly, languished in the shade of its sibling.
This is a little sad as PhotoPlus is a good, solid image editor. It's built the way most image editors used to be before the tumbling price of memory and disc storage meant that more bloated applications could come to the fore. The up side of this is that it will run on relatively modest machines: Serif suggest it will run (and run effectively) on any Pentium and with as little as 24Mb of installed RAM. Few alternatives can make this boast.
Starting up the program reveals a 'start' screen that makes image selection, or image import simple. This screen can also direct you, if your PC is so equipped, to a host of online resources at the Serif website.
Choose Open Saved Work (or Create New Picture) and you'll arrive at the main interface. It's surprisingly, given the price, well specified and features a layout that, thanks to Paint Shop Pro and even Photoshop, is rather conventional. There are not as many tools as we find with other products but those that there are tend to be the most used. We were pleased to find the magnetic lasso selection tool that makes selecting difficult shapes so easy! Filters are a little sparse and some of the adjustment features (such as Brightness/Contrast) are simple but effective.
Despite the slightly dated appearance, this is not an 'old' program that's been resurrected for sale at a bargain basement price. You'll find a host of tools for creating web-savvy images, including an Export Optimiser for gauging the appearance of an image at different output settings. A set of web animation tools help you import and export GIF files. You can even let PhotoPlus do all the hard work and create the animations for you.
Image slicing tools are another web feature that you just wouldn't expect on a package at this price. With these you can sub-divide an image into invisible segments, each of which can then be given a hyperlink and popup window. Alternatively, you can add hotspots to your web page.
Another unexpected extra - that will be on some users' essentials list - is the option to work in CMYK mode to create CMYK separations or view the image in its printer-ready form.
This is a cheap package that's not only cheerful but also powerful. Though the layout is somewhat dated and the range of editing tools is not extensive or cutting edge, it's capable of great results. Despite the lack of tutorial support this is (mainly by virtue of its simple layout) an easy program to pick up and work with, even with little or no previous experience. So you miss out on image organising abilities but gain on all the essentials.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10
These figures are based on our experience of the respective programs and do not necessarily agree with the manufacturers' recommendations.
Pentium 166, 24M RAM (64 for Windows 2000)
25Mb hard disc space
Windows 95 or later