ArcSoft’s PhotoImpression 6.5 Gold is a nicely featured program
for organizing and editing photographs. The tools are easy to use,
though not very flexible, giving casual photographers what they
need to manage and edit their photos.
The first time you use PhotoImpression 6.5 Gold, it searches the
media files on the system and pulls them in. It took only a few
minutes to gather together the few hundred photos on my
few-years-old system running Windows XP Home. From there, it offers
standard tools to group and organize photos, such as tagging and
rating. It includes batching so that you can resize, rename, or
change the file type of many photographs at once.
One tool I found helpful was “Stacking,” which allows you to
stack pictures one on top of the other as you would a deck of
cards. This lets you group together the thumbnails of the same of
similar pictures so that you don’t have to scroll through as many
pictures in a folder, making it easier to organize them. Choosing
“Stack” pulls all of the selected thumbnails into the stack, which
you can click on to open a separate screen that contains all of the
stacked photos. You can organize and manage your videos in the same
way as your photos, with tags and ratings, and the software
includes a simple media player. But much of the software’s
functionality is geared toward still photos.
ArcSoft includes a photo editor that lets you fix the color,
contrast, lighting, and red-eye, and it offers a few extra tools,
such as a paint brush and a tool that lets you blur around a chosen
area to bring out focal point in a photograph. Each task usually
requires just a few clicks to accomplish with PhotoImpression 6.5,
but keep in mind that this makes the tools less flexible–you can
change the brightness or contrast only within a fixed range, for
instance. This is not a good choice if you want unlimited control
over your photos.
You can link from PhotoImpression to ArcSoft’s Web site, where
you can buy its robust image editing program, PhotoStudio
Darkroom, for $100. If that’s more than you need or more than
you want to spend, you can upgrade to PhotoStudio 6
(which is different from PhotoStudio Darkroom). You can also
upgrade to MediaImpression 2,
which is similar to PhotoImpression but is more powerful.
If you’re looking for more fun from PhotoImpression 6.5, you can
add clipart, text captions, and frames to your images, and you can
produce albums and slideshows with music. As with the rest of the
tools, they are limited, offering about 60 clipart images and fewer
than 100 frames to choose from.
PhotoImpression stumbles when it comes to sharing features,
however. There’s no link to Facebook or other social networking
sites, and its Easy Email feature, which the software claims will
automatically start an e-mail program and attach a photo or photo
album, didn’t work with either Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, although both
were listed as supported applications. ArcSoft has indicated that
they plan to relaunch their PhotoImpression line in the future,
though timing is not set. If you don’t need MediaImpression’s
additional features, it’s probably worth holding off for the next
incarnation, when we hope they can work out some of the kinks.
You can probably find equivalents for most of PhotoImpression
6.5 Gold’s individual image editing and photo management tools
online for free, but it’s helpful to have them in one place. If
you’re looking for software that has almost no learning curve and
provides the basic care and feeding of digital photographs and
you’re not looking for extra sharing features, it’s not a bad
choice. But you might want to hold off until ArcSoft relaunches its
line and fixes some technical issues.