The painting engine itself has been rewritten to give smoother control over your brushstrokes and it's now quite possible to do delicate work with the mouse, where before a graphics tablet might have been necessary.
Several new tools have been introduced and others have been enhanced, so they're equally useful to the casual photo retoucher and the professional digital artist. A couple of examples are the red-eye removal and erase-to-background tools. Red-eye removal calls up a two-pane dialogue, for editing on the left and preview on the right. After highlighting each eye in turn and selecting the colour and hue of your choice, the result can be a very natural looking pair of irises.
Erase-to-background enables you to paint away any part of a photo and leave just the unpainted parts as a foreground image. It's more intelligent than a simple eraser and detects line edges so works particularly well on high-contrast subjects. Other new tools include warp and mesh warp brushes.
A major new productivity feature is the scripting recorder, with which you can teach the program a task and get it to repeatedly run that sequence of operations. This is ideal if you want to convert a batch of files from one format to another or resize a series of images. --Simon Williams
Other nice touches include Macromedia style walkthrough animations of the main program options within help, and new Warp and Background Eraser brushes, amongst others. Down sides are very hard to find with this product, but if I was being picky I would say that the text editing window is less intuitive than previous releases. It took me a minute or two to find out how to change text colours after I’d typed my text in (Tip: The background colour is the fill text colour!).
In summary then, as with all PSP releases, it is very good for the beginner to intermediate/advanced user, and this version in particular is excellent for web designers. The main competition for PSP is Adobe Photoshop, and whilst Photoshop would still seem to have the edge in terms of high-end professional features, PSP is not far behind, it is more user-friendly, and is certainly far better value for money. If, however, you are just looking to crop, enhance and reduce red-eye in your digital photos, then you might be better off looking at something like Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 or Jasc Paint Shop Photo Album 4.
The software interface has improved with a much more polished, professional layout. There's plenty to help the beginner, as well as all the 'manual' options for those more familiar with the technical details. Version 7.04 was good, this is even better.
For those who like photographing buildings, the perspective correction tool is excellent. The automatic correction tools for adjusting colour balance, contrast, focus etc are also highly efficient and deliver great results.
The layer features are now more sophisticated too - add the ability to record scripts and what you end up with is a product that will meet the needs of home users and professionals alike.
Version 8 now supports digital cameras more fully, it now displays the Exif data from digital cameras and also supports WIA with the latest Windows operating systems.
If you want a useful program that will provide hours of fun, look no further. Place your order now!
DISASTER! For the first time that I can remember, Jasc had clearly either been pressured into rushing out the release, or the product was just downright poor. I was gutted to say the least. On my "typical" Windows 2000 PC at work, the package was crashing left right and centre - something which I have NEVER had problems with before on PSP.
Some respite came with the release of a "free" downloadable patch up to version 8.01, but even this was still littered with bugs and crashing problems (and it wasn't just my PC at fault - a quick look on the Jasc PSP on-line forum and I found dozens of other people from around the world who were having even more problems!)
So how come I have still given the product 4 stars? Well, fortunately, Jasc have now finally got their act back together with the release of another "free" downloadable patch - this time up to version "8.1".
Since I have installed this essential upgrade, I am delighted to announe that normal service has been resumed! No crashes and improved performace all round. I can now finally start to play with all of the new features and improvements present that were not in version 7.x.
So yes, overall 4 stars here rather than my usual 5 for PaintShop Pro. The software is still an superb bargain, but Jasc need to be punished here for the disaster that was (in my opinion) version 8.0. I am assuming that the boxed product is now shipping with 8.1 on the CDrom, but do check when you install as you might still need to download the 8.1 update.
I hope that this information is helpful. Do stick with PSP - it's still "The Daddy", but 8.0 needs to be patched up immediately!
John Mounsey, December 2003
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