Digital photography software: Digital Image Suite 9.0

Digital Image Suite 9.0 is Microsoft’s answer to the digital photo-graphy revolution. It combines two products, Digital Image Pro and Image Library, which are supposed to cater for all your digital photography requirements.

To help novices make the most of Image Suite 9.0, there’s a complete set of tours, tutorials and help files. The tour walks you through all the application’s main features with links to thorough help documentation (see here for a screenshot).

Digital Image Pro’s user interface is simple, which in most instances is well suited to the functions at hand. With an image open, you select the action you want to perform from the Common Tasks pane. More often than not this brings up a separate pane where you can fine-tune the adjustment or effect you’re applying.

The tasks are logically arranged into sections such as Touchup for adjusting the brightness and contrast, fixing red-eye, sharpening and so on; Format for cropping, rotating and straightening; Effects and Edges for applying frames and borders; and a section called Add Something, which allows you to add text, lines and shapes to the image.

Particularly useful was Batch Edit in Mini Lab, which allowed Touchup functions to be applied to a group of photos simul-taneously.

A wealth of tools is available including the standard Marquee tool, an Edge Finder and a Magic Wand that gives you a great deal of control over which effects are applied to which portions of the image.

The Freehand Painting tool allows you to add brush strokes to the image in a selection of styles (see here for a screenshot). You can even change the effect to mimic different canvas textures. We were particularly inspired by the Smart Erase tool. This makes it easy to remove unwanted elements from a picture, although it works best against a solid background.

Overall, we found it easy to create some fun and silly effects in very little time. This was only slightly marred by the inconsistencies in the interface which meant that, at times, we weren’t sure exactly how to control a certain function.

Thanks to the software’s huge selection of brush styles, templates, shapes, clip art and so on, you can create impressive compositions from scratch.

Create a Project allows you to use templates to create photo albums, calendars, postcards and so forth. The large library can take up a huge amount of hard disk space or be accessed from the CD instead.

The Suite also includes Digital Image Library that, as its name suggests, is a tool for managing your collection of pictures. It can be used to import photos from your camera or scanner and store them in an easy-to-view format, with the option of sorting them into different folders and arranging them by keyword.

You can create simple slideshows or use a more advanced tool called Create Photo Story. By recording a voiceover, it’s easy to turn your photo album into a documentary-style movie.

The fundamentals of Digital Image Library are clearly borrowed from similar packages, most notably Apple’s iPhoto which is only available on the Mac. But the application does the job very well and has some additional advanced features, such as a batch file format conversion tool that will come in useful.

Our only criticism is that the integration between Digital Image Library and Digital Image Pro is not seamless enough. Ideally we’d have liked them to be two sections of the same application, rather than having to switch between the two to benefit from their different functions. In particular, we didn’t like the way Digital Image Pro has its own image gallery that’s separate from Digital Image Library. This makes managing your photos a confusing and longwinded process.

In brief: Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9.0
Digital Image Pro is a highly flexible application that will meet the digital imaging requirements of the entire family. While many digital imaging packages promise user-friendliness and ease of use, Digital Image Suite actually delivers.
Price: $269.95
Vendor: Microsoft
Phone: 13 2058

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Mike Hirschkorn

PC World
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