Photoshop Elements: Photoshop for the rest of us

Fortunately, there's a new Photoshop in town, called Photoshop Elements. A replacement for Adobe Systems' original affordable image editor, Photoshop LE, Elements isn't just a stripped-down version of Photoshop, a charge critics often leveled against LE. Rather, the $229 Elements takes commonly used Photoshop tools and puts them into an affordable package specifically designed for midrange users: amateur photographers, image hobbyists, and even business users. Nonethless, Photoshop Elements faces a large field of established midrange image editors, such as Jasc PaintShop Pro 6, Microsoft PhotoDraw 2000, Ulead PhotoImpact 5, and Corel Custom Photo.

Many of these competitors rated higher than Photoshop LE in a PC World roundup. It remains to be seen how Elements will fare in comparison to these competitors.

As expected, the product is limited compared with the full version of Photoshop in several key areas. For example, it does not support CMYK, the common format for professional printing; it lacks the full image-slicing capabilities of Image Ready; and it offers limited support for layer styles.

Adobe expects Elements to be available locally from mid-March. Expect numerous scanner, printer, and camera vendors to bundle the software with their products, as they did with its predecessor, LE.

Digital Design

Adobe designed Photoshop Elements for the growing number of digital camera users, says Mark Dahm, an Adobe product manager. "Photoshop Elements [along with its range of editing features] reflects the increasing sophistication of digital imaging," he adds.

Elements offers tools to capture, edit, and print images, as well as the ability to post them on the Web and in e-mail messages. Along the way the program offers plenty of help in the form of tips, shortcuts, and templates.

Adobe also reworked Photoshop's pull-down menu to make it more logical and familiar to users of Microsoft Office applications, Dahm says.

When you launch Photoshop Elements, you're immediately greeted with what Adobe calls its quick-start screen. Here you have a list of common commands with rollover explanations, as well as a quick link to tutorials.

Place your cursor over the acquire button, for example, and you see the explanation: "Acquire digital images from camera, scanner, or other devices."

Elements can acquire images using either TWAIN or the Windows Image Acquisition (WIA) interface.

Helpful Hints Along the Way

Photoshop Elements even extends the rollover explanations to its tool palette. So, for example, you don't have to remember which symbol is the sponge and which is the smudge tool.

"We also added a hints palette that offers content-sensitive help for tools and palettes," Dahm says. Once you see the name of the tool, you can find out what you can do with it in the hints palette.

You hit the "more help" button in the hints palette to launch further content-sensitive HTML help from Adobe online, Dahm adds.

Elements also adds several new commands that address common requirements for midrange users with simpler steps than what Photoshop requires, he says.

For instance, the "straighten and crop image" command helps correct the common problem of getting your image lined up straight to scan, he says.

New Tools for Old Tricks

Photoshop Elements adds pull-down palettes to display and explain things such as filters and effects; in the pull-down menu are thumbnail previews of what each filter or effect does to an image. A recipes palette offers template commands for complex Photoshop instructions.

"Recipes are like a wizard that provides quick buttons for certain complex Photoshop actions," Dahm says. "It tells you the step-by-step commands in Photoshop and gives you a one-click button to perform the action."

Elements will ship with 30 to 40 recipes, but you'll be able to download more from the Adobe Web site, Dahm adds.

One handy feature Photoshop Elements has that Photoshop does not is Photomerge, a stitching software that creates panoramas from multiple images. Elements also includes features new to Photoshop 6.0, such as on-canvas text editing. This capability already exists in many competiting tools, including Jasc Paint Shop Pro.

Elements ships with a library of preconfigured shapes as well as a collection of layer styles. But its support for layer styles is limited compared with Photoshop, Dahm admits.

Missing Elements

Because it's a lower-priced product, Photoshop Elements does lack some significant components that make Photoshop a professional print and Web image tool. While you can view CMYK images, you can't edit and output in CMYK, the format used for color separation in the professional print process.

And Photoshop's Web image companion, Image Ready, is also missing from Elements. That means you can't do image slicing, useful for decreasing the download time of a Web image. Still, some Web image support is included.

"Within the 'save for Web' command in Elements are pieces of Image Ready," Dahm says. "You can save GIF and JPEG with preset settings for Web image compression; you can even animate a GIF."

Overall, Photoshop Elements offers a much more solid and nurturing intermediate version of Photoshop than its predecessor LE did. Still, many similarly priced image editors offer more-flexible tools.

In the end, serious image folks working in print or on the Web may still need to invest more than $US600 for the full Photoshop package.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Cameron Crouch

PC World
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?