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Ashampoo Photo Optimizer ($15, 10-day free trial; trial can be extended to 30 days with registration) is a simple, inexpensive photo editing program that does a decent, but not stellar, job correcting and enhancing pictures. Although its results will satisfy some home users, its tools are quite limited.
The interface is highly accessible; most people will get right to work on their pictures without bothering to glance at the Help menu. On the left side of the screen is a Windows Explorer-like tree, displaying all the drives and folders connected to your computer and your network. When you click on a folder that has photos in it, those are displayed as thumbnails at the top of the screen. However, the only file format it supports is JPEG. In fact, when we clicked a folder that contained only TIFFs, the program froze, and we had to use Windows Task Manager to close it. Once you have JPEG thumbnails displayed, click on one to open that picture in the active editing window.
Tools are limited to Optimize, Color Correction, Effects and Red Eye Correction. The Optimize is an auto tool that analyzes your photo and applies whatever corrections the software feels it needs. It can also be applied to a group of photos at once. In most cases, Optimize did an okay job of brightening dull, low-contrast images, but it failed with some hue shifts. The Color Correction tool is misnamed, because its sliders are only for Brightness, Contrast and Gamma--not a single traditional color correction tool in sight. The Effects are limited to Sepia, Invert Colors, and Greyscale. The Redeye tool is simple enough to use; select the area where the red eye is, and the program will do the rest. You can also rotate your picture in 90 degree increments, left or right. That's it. There isn't even a crop tool. On the plus side, Photo Optimizer saves your original photo, before applying edits. So, you can Undo any changes to your picture even months later.
If your primary interest is in cleaning up dull pictures, quickly--and with little or no intervention on your part--then check out the trial download of Ashampoo Photo Optimizer. However, it isn't the right program for people who want to do color correction, more special effects, to open or save files other than JPEGs or have more control options.
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