Pro Photo-Editing for a Reasonable Amount of Money with Serif PhotoPlus 11: Review
PhotoPlus 11 is a powerful software package with editing tools that are all too often found only in larger, more expensive software. In one package you’ll get such editing features as layers and a histogram. The program’s feature set alone, for the price you’ll pay, is astounding.
As I was assigned to review this package, as well as a few other imaging packages, I needed a standard way of testing the software. What I came up with was a list of problems that normal users may find in their images. With that in mind, I set out to take some pictures that had problems. After uploading the problem images to my computer, I proceeded to try and fix the images. I used this same process (with the same images) for this, and all of my imaging software reviews.
One last thing: this review will not be a tutorial. I’m not going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to fix these problems or how to organize your images. Fixing up images (as well as how you organize them) is more of a personal thing, so I’ll leave that to you. Instead, I’ll just tell you if I was able to fix my problem images and how hard or time-consuming the process was. I’ve limited myself to spending no more that 15 to 20 minutes on solving a problem. I’m sure, given enough time, that each of the imaging packages could be used to solve these image problems, but I’m too lazy to spend that kind of time, and I don’t think most users will spend any more time than 20 minutes on image problems either. As for organizing images, I’ll tell you my likes and dislikes with regard to PhotoPlus, and I’ll also note if there were any problems with organizing the images.
Help & Support (5 out of 5)
I did not try to call tech support, as I really had no need to call them. The help files were very informative and worked well. The Serif website has “how to” articles, tutorials, and user forums. I took a look at these resources, but I didn’t post in the forums.
There is also a context-sensitive help area on the lower right corner of the interface that was very helpful.
There’s not much to complain about. The tutorials didn’t work, as PhotoPlus could not locate the .PDF files. This wasn’t much of an issue, though, as there are online tutorials.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
PhotoPlus 11 is a great buy for its $79 price tag. For the price, I don’t think you can beat this software if you are looking for a way to enhance your images.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
Installation was pretty straightforward, as have been the rest of the installs that I’ve done. It was a simple download of the software from the website and the installation was a piece of cake–just double-click on the executable file. There was nothing difficult about the process.
PhotoPlus was a large download file, of 144 MB. However, this is kind of a common method of distributing software these days, so it isn’t a big minus.
Performance (5 out of 5)
I saw no issues with PhotoPlus 11’s performance. I’m running it under Microsoft Vista on a box that has 3 GB of memory. Speed was no issue at all. The program loaded quickly and the entire image-editing process was fast and smooth. Regardless of whatever I was trying to do to the image, the software performed the operation quickly and smoothly with no problems. I was very impressed with how well PhotoPlus 11 performed.
No issues encountered. Unlike another package I reviewed, I didn’t encounter any Vista problems.
User Interface (5 out of 5)
Now let’s take a look at the interface. When PhotoPlus is first opened, you are presented with a large workspace in the center of the application that is surrounded by the tools and the rest of the interface. At the top of the screen are the usual menu items, along with icon for various editing and other tasks.
In a narrow toolbar along the left of the work area are the icons for all of the different editing tools. You will find tools for cropping, moving, meshing, and warping the images. You will also find selection tools for selecting areas of your image, as well as the different brushes, cloning tools, and color fill tools. Most of these tool icons have little drop-down arrows that will open up fly-out menus that allow you to select or fine-tune how the tool works. There is a context-sensitive series of buttons at the top of the working area that change based on the tool that you have selected.
There is another stacked and tabbed set of tools to the right of the work area. At the top is a series of tabs for color selection and adjustment, swatches, brushes, and instant effects. Below that, in the middle, is a set of tabs for text input, histogram, history, and navigation. At the bottom is another set of tabs for “how to.” I was really impressed with the history tab as it shows a list of all the changes you’ve made to an image and allows you to go back to previous versions of your changes. The histogram was also very impressive, showing statistics as well as allowing you the option to display the RGB channel, the separate color channels, or the luminance histogram. About the only thing I found missing was a curves option that would allow me to drag them to adjust the image.
To edit an image, you open the Image Browser from the File menu. The Image Browser looks a lot like Windows Explorer, with a directory tree on the left and a thumbnail view of your images on the right. You can open an image in the main edit window by simply double-clicking the image or by right-clicking and choosing Open. Right-clicking also gives you a menu option to view the image’s information. Here, I would like to see the EXIF information for the image, but unfortunately that isn’t an option that I could find anywhere. I was also a little disappointed that the Image Browser always wants to stay on top of the main editing window. You have to close it, minimize it, or move it to another monitor (if you are
running dual monitors, as I am). I should note that you can still edit the underlying image while the Image Browser is open, so it is no real big deal, but I still wish it behaved better.
You can open multiple images for editing using the Image Browser. When you do this, you get multiple image windows in the editing window and PhotoPlus 11 adds them to a document bar at the bottom of the screen.
The QuickFix studio opens the image in a separate window that allows you to do all of the common stuff such as fix red eye, straighten, crop, and adjust brightness or contrast. It even allows you to adjust highlights and shadow areas separately. All of this is done by simply dragging markers along a horizontal line. It also allows you to view the before and after images so that you can see the effects of your changes. It even allows you to select how the before and after images appear–stacked or side by side–and it allows you to zoom in on the images to check your changes. When I made changes the results were shown almost immediately. No delays or sluggishness were encountered. As for running my standard series of test images, I didn’t have any problems as it handle all of the tasks that I tried without any problems or resorting to use of the help files. It handled all of my test images with
I would like to see the Image Browser section enhanced some. For example, I would like the ability to resize the thumbnails in the image view. I would also like to see some way of cataloging my images.
I can’t say enough about how much PhotoPlus impressed me. For the low price I didn’t expect much, but boy, was I wrong. I can’t remember seeing this many features in any program that costs this little. It really can stand up and compete with the big boys. The dollar-to-performance value is excellent, as is the feature set. I would not hesitate to recommend this software to anyone and it has become an integral part of my image processing.
My only disappointment is that I would like facilities for cataloging my images. I couldn’t find any way of cataloging my files or assigning tags to them.