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Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo - Or Why I Stopped Worrying and Started Preferring Other Products

written by: D. A. Karp•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 2/24/2009

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is a venerable tool that has been given a facelift, new gadgets, and a new lease on life. Consequently, why don't I like Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 as much as other products that do less?

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    I first discovered Corel Paint Shop Pro in the 1990s when it was known merely as "Paint Shop."  It was nothing more than a simple image file converter, but it did its job well.  It was the go-to tool every time I wanted to convert a BMP file to JPG, adjust the palette in a GIF file for a website, or capture a screenshot that displayed the mouse cursor. Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 still does these things well, if not better than any other program I know of.

    The problem is, Corel's developers got ambitious. They added a bunch of features in an effort to turn Paint Shop Pro into something it isn't good at: an all-in-one editor-and-organizer tool akin to Adobe Photoshop Elements. The result is that Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is a bloated software that doesn't work well enough to be worth the hassle. In short, it's no longer my "go-to" tool.

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    Installation & Setup

    Rating AverageSetup of Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is straightforward enough, but Corel loses points for trying to stuff the Yahoo! toolbar in with the installation. (The Yahoo software is essentially adware that offers no applicable features or value, yet compromises security and performance.) Furthermore, installing Paint Shop Pro required a cumbersome extra "activation" step and provided no way to opt-out of registration.

    Worse yet, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 changes your file types each and every time it starts. For instance, take the Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Image entry out of Windows Explorer's New menu, and it'll pop right back in next time you start the software. This may seem like a small gripe, but there are a half-dozen annoyances like this.
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    Rating AverageOn a positive note, the image processing and conversion features in Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 are fast and lean (if you don't take into account how long it sometimes takes to start the program). It'll open a JPG much faster than a software like Adobe Photoshop and save it quickly too (and it'll consume fewer kilobytes, to boot).
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    User Interface

    Rating AverageThe interface in Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (that's version 12, if you're not familiar with the hip X designation in wide use these days) is vastly improved over earlier versions. It's nice to look at and omits those awful "rollup" toolbars that first appeared in version 8 of Paint Shop Pro.

    Unfortunately, the interface still remains cluttered and some amount of tinkering is required to transform it into a leaner, easier-to-use tool. [See Images 1 and 2] Take, for example, the silly Learning Center pane that's supposed to guide you through complex tasks but instead only needlessly complicates things. I mean does To tint or colorize a photo, choose Color (Legacy) from the Blend mode list box on the Tool Options palette sound the least bit helpful?
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    Price to Value

    Rating AverageFor the same amount of money, you can get Adobe Photoshop Elements (read about this product in my other review for Bright Hub:, which offers a vastly superior organizer and a photo editor that easily outclasses Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. For the features in Paint Shop Pro that are most worthwhile, I'd expect to pay no more than $30-$35.
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    Product Features

    Rating AverageThe image conversion, screenshot, and color depth controls are first-rate, but not worth $90.

    The toolbox is straight out of MS Paint, and is not any more usable. How applicable is a "Flood Fill" tool (the tilting paint bucket) in an application positioned as a tool for photos?

    The layers feature still feels like an afterthought, even though it has survived four application revisions. And rather than offering a  useful adjustment like Exposure, Paint Shop Pro still clings to the notion that Brightness/Contrast is a good way to brighten or darken a photo.
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    All I wanted was a simple image converter, but instead I got all this.A simplified interface improves the software's usability substantially.
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    There are other products that do most of what Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 can do, and do it better. If you want an inexpensive photo editor, Adobe Photoshop Elements ( is the obvious choice. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ( and Photoshop Elements both are better photo organizers. And both Lightroom and DxO Optics Pro Elite ( offer better workflow capabilities. That just leaves the old classic features like image conversion and GIF palette control. If Paint Shop Pro's developers had chosen to focus on these product's strengths, I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. As it is, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 just doesn't do anything well enough to be worth the purchase price.
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    Related Products

    Adobe Photoshop Elements