Customer Review

112 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best PSP ever - and contender for best in breed graphics package!, 24 Oct 2011
This review is from: PaintShop Pro X4 Ultimate (PC) (CD-ROM)
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PaintShop Pro - must surely now be the best in class.

First thing I noticed about the latest version of PaintShop Pro is that it is called just that - the 'Photo' that was introduced at version X1 has been dropped! Common sense prevails!

When I upgraded to Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 (PC DVD) (from Paint Shop Pro 8) I was concerned that the package may have become merely a photo editing package rather than the full graphics package it was before. Via the Amazon reviews and comments system I learned that X3 retained all of the graphics creation and editing tools, including the fantastic vector and layers functionality that makes these type of packages so powerful. The addition of the word 'photo' to the name appears to have been to only to highlight that the package is also good for editing photos - an unnecessary cluttering of an established name in my opinion.

Well, to be honest, that PSP was good for photo editing was debateable at the time. While PaintShop Pro _can_ edit your digital photos, I wouldn't have said it was the best. I have also reviewed Serif PhotoPlus X4 (PC) which I would consider a better photo editing package than PaintShop Photo Pro X3 - BUT that all changes with Paint Shop Pro X4.

As I have said in previous reviews of this software, I have never been a fan of Adobe Photoshop and have always considered PaintShop Pro to be far superior. The interface has always been better, it's easier to use, and is just as powerful, not mention being far cheaper. It even supports the same plug-ins as Photoshop. I've always had a niggling feeling that PaintShop Pro is a bit sniggered at by PhotoShop users though. Probably because PSP started out as a free package by a company called JASC and grew from these hobbyist roots into what it is today. PhotoShop, on the other hand, had always been a professional package.

So why do I now consider PSP has come of age with the X4 version?

The interface:

PSP has had a major overhaul for this version. X3 was nice, and the interface has always been easy to use, however the new version is leaps forward. It now takes the approach that many video editing packages do by splitting the interface into three workflow screens - Manage, Adjust and Edit.

I should point out that I have never liked photo / media managers much. But the 'Manage' function within PSP X4 is actually very useful. In the past PSP included a 'Browse' function that, though limited, was quite useful. This function disappeared at some point, but the 'Manage' tab more than makes up for that as it is essentially a really nice, very powerful image browser.

The 'Adjust' tab is where you effectively do your photo tweaking - remove red-eye, ajdust brightness and colour temperature etc. The kind of things you would find in a photo editing package basically. Most functions are presented in a handy side-bar here.

The Edit tab is effectively the PaintShop Pro of old. Here you still have access to most, if not all, of the photo editing functions but via the more typical menu bar structure. But here you also have the very powerful graphics creation and editing tools. You can work with bitmap or vector images of just about every conceivable format. You can mix vector layers with bitmap layers, as you would expect. There are adjustments and blending layers to create some clever layering effects. To be honest I could go on and on and on - basically if a graphics tool is available in another graphics package, the chances are it's also present here. This package is just so powerful.

The whole interface is now a dark theme as well - which I would consider much better for photo editing and graphics work as it is less distracting than light themes. That's probably a personal preference though - I like all my screen themes to be dark!

What's new:

It's not so much new features (other than the interface) as improvements to old features - some of these improvements being almost complete overhauls.Everything just seems to work a bit better and a bit quicker. (I didn't actually have any stability issues with X3 under Windows 7, but I know others have.)

The HDR function has been massively expanded and is now equal, if not superior, to dedicated commercial HDR plug-ins for other software. And there is a photo-merge function which allows you to take the best bits of a series of photos - for example those family get together photos where there is always someone gurning on each photo you take; you can now combine the photos so everyone has the perfect smile.

There are other new features though, and it would be wrong not to mention a few of them.Selective focus and the new Vignette effect are nice for creating special effects and the package also supports dual monitors now - another nod to video editing which will allow you to organise your workspace more effectively.

Ultimate edition:

Is the ultimate edition worth the extra tenner? Not for the picture tubes and Fotolia images, but defintely for the NIk effects.

The inclusion of 200 Picture Tubes is a bit of a waste of time in my opinion. They can be fun but you're unlilkely to use them for anything other than a childrens party invitation! Royalty Free Fotolia images - this seems like more of an advert for Fotolia than really being any great addition to the PSP package.

That leaves the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 package. Rubbish name, brilliant set up plug-in filters. The package is actually at version 4 from Nik Software, but version 3 is included with PSP. Beautiful black and white conversion, bi-colour filters, film grain, glamour glow, fog, high key... and many more. This package is brilliant. The v4 'select' package costs the best part of 100 (72.41+vat), so if you want this functionality then a tenner is not a lot at all to pay for a slightly out of date version.

Zip it:

As another reviewer has mentioned. This package comes with a license code for a download of WinZip Pro. That's another 50 of software right there!

To upgrade or not to upgrade?

This is most defintely a worthy upgrade - even from X3 just for the interface and HDR improvements. If you using an earlier version then I would say it is definitely time to upgrade - this is by far the best PaintShop Pro version yet, and quite possibly the best photo and graphics package for the PC at the moment. There will be those who will stick with PhotoShop, but now they are simply throwing their money away.

What's more, you are getting over a hundred quids worth of extra software with this package (Winzip and Nik Efex) for much less than a hundred quid. If you look at it that way they are almost paying you to upgrade to the best PSP yet!
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Dec 2011 11:47:28 GMT
A. Castelow says:
Great review, really told me what I wanted to know, thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Dec 2011 19:30:30 GMT
D. Morgan says:
Many thanks for such a first class review really appreciated

Posted on 14 Jan 2012 22:45:48 GMT
Alternacja says:
This review sold it to me! :-) I upgraded from X2 (never bothered with X3) and it was worth it. Corel should pay you for this review ;-)

Posted on 18 Mar 2012 08:45:47 GMT
K. Everest says:
Well you spent a long time doing the review an as some one else said you you be paid for it. Very easy to under stand will order my copy after if finish this. Big thanks for the effort.

Posted on 21 May 2012 16:30:29 BDT
Pixelcrazy says:
Hi great review, a question for you,
Does the NIk effects come with a serial number?
The reason I want to know is I want to upgrade to version 4
if possible.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 May 2012 13:08:09 BDT
The Fat Monk says:
I've had a look in the packaging and there are reg codes for WinZip and the royaly free image downloads but I couldn't find anything for the Nik effects.
I'm pretty sure I was offered an upgrade to the latest version at some point though... If I find a reg code actually within the Nik effects software I'll post back here to let you know - it may possibly be built into the installer.

Posted on 28 Jul 2012 11:43:56 BDT
This was an excellent, professional quality review. Very useful indeed. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Aug 2012 21:48:39 BDT
One thing you will get if you take then time to register the product... The KPT collection worth 50... The link did not work at first so I contacted Corel who were VERY helpful and the email included a working link.. and hey presto.. KPT for fREE... can't be bad..
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