capsule review

Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009

At a Glance
  • Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009

Serif Software Digital Photo Suite 2009 consists of Serif's latest image organizer and editor package, AlbumPlus X3, bundled with its PanoramaPlus 3 to offer photographers a set of simple and intuitive, if not particularly powerful, tools for organizing and enhancing their photos. At $50, Digital Photo Suite 2009 has some appeal--but only if you have need for its specific set of tools. (You can browse PC World's Downloads library for other image editors; many have specialized capabilities.)

AlbumPlus X3 has more features than its predecessor, X2, including more image editing tools as well as the ability to upload photos to social networking sites. AlbumPlus X3 will not be available as a stand-alone program; instead, Serif is offering it as part of the Digital Photo Suite bundle.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and quick it was to pull the almost 2000 photos from my hard drive into AlbumPlus X3. In just a few clicks, I could see thumbnails of all of my photos stacked by the folder where the images reside on my hard drive, ready for me to assign tags I could later search on. (In addition to photos, you can import video and music files from your hard drive, CD/DVD drive, digital camera, scanner, or external storage drive.)

Serif starts with a small group of tags in a Windows-style folder system that you can add to or customize with your own tags. You can choose an icon for each tag from the list Serif provides or add your own, and you can organize and search for photos many different ways, such as by tag, star rating, date, or file size. I generally found it intuitive to assign tags. One counterintuitive point about the process: You assign tags to images by dragging and dropping a photo or group of photos to the tag list rather than dragging tags to the photos. Alternatively, you can right-click and assign a tag from a list; I found myself preferring that approach.

The AlbumPlus X3 software is not intended as a full-bore image editor akin to Adobe Photoshop Elements 7.0. However, it does have a small, yet fun set of tools that let you make simple changes to your photos. You can fix blemishes, smooth skin, whiten teeth and the whites of the eyes, and even add a fake tan (albeit one that looks much like many fake tans). You can also choose from a fairly standard set of fixes, such as brightness, sharpness, contrast, and color saturation, and play with a few effects like stained glass and oil painting. Serif provides excellent on-screen explanations along the way, making this software a good choice for photo-editing neophytes. Each time you click to open a particular tool, a small section of the screen is devoted to giving instructions on how to use it and tips for getting the best results.

Once you've sorted your images, AlbumPlus offers several options for sharing photos, including putting them on a CD; creating printed calendars and albums; sending them via e-mail; and uploading them to social networks, including Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube.

Serif makes this package a suite by bundling in its PanoramaPlus 3, a tool for stitching photos and movie frames into a panorama or a 360-degree movie. The Digital Photo Suite has a single installer, but each of the programs within it maintains a separate identity, though there is a button in AlbumPlus X3's main menu that will launch PanoramaPlus 3. Like AlbumPlus, I found PanoramaPlus easy to use and integrated with terrific instructions and tips. But the addition of PanoramaPlus 3 boosts the price of the Digital Photo Suite to $50. That's a big extra cost, given that many casual photographers don't often take panoramas. (The AlbumPlus X2 was available as a stand-alone program for $25.)

For that matter, you can find many of the features in AlbumPlus X3 for free from online image editors such as Picnik, Photoshop Express, and scores of other Web-based image editors (check out our review of free Web-based image editors). That makes Digital Photo Suite's $50 price tag steep.

But for those who don't want their photos online and are willing to pay for a simple, well-integrated program to help them organize and edit their photos, Serif Digital Photo Suite 2009 provides a good balance of features that are tailor-made for home users.

--Lisa Cekan

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At a Glance
  • Easy-to-use imaging software holds appeal for home hobbyists and novice users who want to organize their stash of photos and do some light editing.

    Pros

    • Convenient basic image editing tools
    • Integrates image organization

    Cons

    • Expensive given the range of free tools available
  
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