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Software Review of:
Paint Shop Pro Version 8


Paint Shop Pro 8 Box

John Woody is a telecommunications consultant specializing in small business communications, networks, training, and Internet activities.

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Paint Shop Pro, Version 8 (PSP8), is the latest revision of this graphics application and provides probably the best low cost graphics application software that is available on the market today. This program has been a low cost leader from day one. Each revision has moved the application closer to the high cost graphic professional applications.

The first thing that I noticed was the new look at the startup page. There are new icons, palettes, and menu displays. The palettes have been reorganized and made easier to use. One palette, the Color palette, has been renamed Materials palette for control of colors, patterns, gradients, and textures. The Materials controls are claimed to be easier to use. I had a bit of a problem learning them. It is probably to fact that I am not really an experienced graphics user. The new Tools palette is fully dockable and is grouped in related categories. The Layer palette now provides the ability to group layers together so that settings can be applied to all the layers in a group and have mask adjustment layers affect only layers within the group rather than all the layers underneath.

Two "Get Started" pull-down menus, Learning Center and Product Tour, are available to get you started quickly. They can be recalled at any time from the pull-down menu. The Learning Center consists of help instructions that guide you about the PNP application. The Product Guide takes the new user through 50 topics to show how the application can handle photo and graphic projects.

Version 8 Tools
PSP8 has added new tools to help create more professional photo and graphic results in the work to be done. These new tools include a new Background Eraser Brush to assist in making colored background areas transparent. A Straighten Tool to align crooked or misaligned photos is available and works by drawing a straight line either horizontally or vertically specifying the direction to align the image. New handles have been added for easier use to the Deform Tool to scale, shear, distort, rotate, or apply perspective to images. The Painting Engine has been enhanced for more precision and smoother blending of photo retouching. Each of the retouch brushes are now a separate brush and not part of the Retouch Tool in previous versions. The Crop Tool now has preset sizes such as 4x6 or 8x10 in addition to aspect ratio control to achieve good picture crops. A new Edge Seeker Mode assists the Freehand Selection Tool to automatically seek an edge between mouse click points along an object. This mode also provides wider choice to modify selections such as removing holes, or adding inside feather. This version has included expanded Pen Tablet capability that can vary the color, density, opacity, rotation, size, and thickness of brush strokes based on pressure, tilt, altitude, and more. The Layer Palette has the ability to place layers in groups so that settings apply to the group. Adjustments and mask layers affect only the layers within the group. Mask Layers are separate layers rather than attributes of other layers and can mask all image data below them at the same level in this version.

Filters and Special Effects
A Black and White Points feature can set the overall tonal range of photographs and bring out image detail without losing information. Lens Distortion Correction is able to correct images that have pincushion, barrel, or fisheye distortions. The Balls and Bubbles feature provides realistic transparent bubbles with full control over the reflection. The Halftone feature develops dot representation of a photograph. The Soft Focus feature creates glamorous shots from photographs. The Magnifying Lens feature allows one to focus on an area of an image and enlarge it, as well as having full control over lighting, reflections, optical distortions, and magnification strength. The Lens Distortion feature simulates camera lens distortion effects such as fisheye, barrel, and pincushion. The Offset feature provide the ability to define where an image wraps when creating seamless patterns. A Seamless Tiling feature provides high-quality seamless patterns and tiled images.

Image Sharing
This version of PSP increases its ability to share images and photographs with others by adding formats to its already long list of formats. JPEG 2000, Wireless Bitmap (WBMP), and PDF formats are included. It also provides the ability to provide preset printing templates that meet the common page layouts and commercial paper, such as 3x5 and 4x6 print stocks. It also has templates for business cards. Custom templates can be saved and shared with others. PSP8 has included the digital camera EXIF format for photo information that can be obtained from the camera, such as date, time, resolution, f-stop, and ISO speed. This feature can be really handy when you are attempting to reproduce the images. The image information is preserved in the Paint Shop Pro (.pspimage), JPEG, and TIFF file formats.

PSP8 supports the Windows Image Architecture (WIA) that is part of the Windows ME and XP operating systems. This allows one to import images directly from digital cameras and scanners using the WIA interface. It worked without a hitch when I downloaded digital photos from my Sony MVC-CD500. It worked as good as the Sony camera-supplied down-load application. I was testing on a XP Pro operating system. I tried it as a USB down-load from the camera and from the 3 inch CD in the DVD/CD player in the Toshiba. The WIA interface with PSP worked well in both cases.

Jasc includes a temporary version of their latest Photo Album application. It also works within the WIA architecture without problems. I got lost attempting to follow the image file storage location. Paint Shop Photo Album 4 is another good product to consider.

Preset and Automated PSP Desktop
Once one really gets to know the program, the preset and custom preset features for filters and effects can be used to create new and personalized looks in the images. One feature that lends its setting to the preset capability is the Brush presets. With the Brush presets, one can establish effects such as crayon, charcoal, pencil, and oil paint that provides realistic painting effects to images. All of these preset and custom presets can be shared with other PSP users.

The features and capabilities of the application can be automated by the use of Scripts. There are preset scripts that hold the commonly used features. You can also develop custom scripts to make your own repeated images possible. The scripts are made and modified using a text editor such as notepad or WordPad.

This version has Batch Processing included to save time and maximize processing power. This feature provides the ability to rename and apply a script to a series of images in a folder for example. The whole workspace or desktop can be customized to fit your personal needs. The Drag and Drop capability provides the ability to move any feature required to any location in the workspace as it is needed. Menu and tool bars can be placed in floating and docked locations for ease of access during the project. Keyboard shortcuts can be created. A personalized workspace or series of work spaces can be created and saved for your or multiple users.

The native PSP formats have be made easier to recognize. Images are .pspimage files; gradients are .pspgradients files; and, masks are .pspmask files. Version 8 also reads the native file formats of previous versions.

System Requirements
PSP8 will work in Windows 98 / NT4 SP6a / 2000 / ME / XP. I had no trouble loading it in my Toshiba A15 (my lightning strike replacement) using XP Pro. XP Pro was a little argumentative when attempted to make my first download of digital pictures, but I tamed it to use the PSP8. After all, XP is the Microsoft graphics operating system. It works with Pentium or AMD processors, preferably high speed. My test computer, the replacement Toshiba Satellite A15 uses a Celeron 2.2 Ghz CPU with 512 MB RAM. The program requires 128 MB RAM. The program uses 200 MB of disk space. The minimum video display adapter is at 800 x 600 resolution. It uses MS Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher.

The installation went without a hitch. I simply installed the program CD-ROM in the Toshiba DVD player and loaded it.

The retail cost of Paint Shop Pro range from $40.00 with discounts to $70.00 plus. I suggest that you take advantage of the User Group offer for the upgrade, or if you are a user of other versions, take advantage of the upgrade prices that Jasc offers.

The Paint Shop Photo Album 4 program is bundled with the latest PSP8 upgrade offer. I took advantage of it.

This version looks easy enough for me to get serious about using a graphics program. The cost is right. Their training guides are well done. JASC continues to provide a good manual that shows the uses and features of the program. The manual has 400 plus pages to guide the user.

This program coupled with my digital camera offers me the ability to really get into this art stuff.

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