By: Dustin Sklavos
Adobe markets their Elements software as stripped down versions of their professional-grade applications, which has its pros and cons. Is Photoshop Elements 8 the best of Photoshop proper, or just a crippled imitation of the real deal? We break it down in this review.
When you open Photoshop Elements 8, you're greeted with a just two real options: Going to the Organizer, and opening Photoshop Elements 8 proper.
I mentioned the Organizer feature in my Premiere Elements 8 review, but I'll handle it a little more thoroughly here.
The Organizer is essentially a big ol' project bin with shortcuts for handling quick jobs without opening the individual programs themselves. Note that I said programs, plural, as the Organizer bridges both Photoshop and Premiere Elements 8. I prefer separate applications staying separate, and while I can understand tying everything together in a nice creative suite it somehow doesn't work for me.
Part of it is my general loathing and hatred for creating "albums." Windows already has a means of organizing photos, videos and music but those folders always wind up feeling like wasted space because applications never take proper advantage of them. The smarter play would be to have Photoshop use one of those Windows folders, make it user-configurable for more advanced users, and then implement Photoshop's tagging feature (which lets you tag your media with keywords to make it easier to search).
Mercifully, the Editor has remained largely unchanged from Photoshop Elements 7. That means it includes a healthy amount of the features found in its more robust and expensive cousin.
Those users who want a bit more handholding will find themselves pretty well taken care of, though. By clicking the down arrow next to Edit, they're greeted with Edit Quick and Edit Guided. These features were available in the previous version, though the access was slightly different. The first option provides the kinds of basic controls one would expect, though curiously an automatic red eye remover isn't present here.
The Edit Guided is something I'm really happy to see. Though it presents you with what is at first a fairly intimidating list of options, it actually works quite well by telling and showing you exactly what to do to get the result you want. Picture too blurry? It pops up with the blur-correction tool itself, instructions, and even an Auto button to see if the software can figure it out by itself.
The fact that the Editor is largely just a slightly more user-friendly Photoshop proper is enough to put my wholehearted recommendation behind Photoshop Elements 8. None of the competition can really claim that kind of value.
The output features of Photoshop Elements 8 are handled largely by the Share function you find in both the Organizer and the software proper. In fact, choosing any options here just pops open the Organizer, and this is where I start having a real problem with this level of integration.
When editing photos, video options oftentimes just don't apply, and vice versa. The Share option dumping me back into the questionable Photoshop-slash-Premiere Organizer just made me feel confused. Yes, there are boatloads of options available here to publish your work, including automated means of making albums that are integrated with Kodak PhotoShare, but it really isn't organized very intelligently to me. What if I just wanted to upload the image online?
Well, you can click Online Album and experience a world of disappointment when your only real option is Photoshop.com, and this is where I get a little angry and take back some of the nice things I said about Adobe in my Premiere Elements 8 review.
You see, Flickr is hiding out under More Options. If YouTube can get front-row billing in Premiere Elements 8, why is Flickr being swept under the rug for Photoshop.com? Flickr is extremely popular, it should be one of the most immediate options.
At the end of all this I'm forced to contend with the reality that apart from the shiny new Organizer, Photoshop Elements 8 is largely a rehash of Photoshop Elements 7 with very little in the way of changes made to the editing software proper. The Organizer itself isn't even wholly different than what came before, just the level of integration, which I personally don't care for.
When I was discussing the software with a friend before writing this review, I remarked that software that was good despite a few flaws can still earn a largely positive review. However, if the next-generation version of that quirky software hasn't improved on those flaws at all, shouldn't it potentially get a worse review? So it is with Adobe's Elements 8 software.
Users who already have Photoshop Elements 7 should pass up the opportunity to "upgrade," since the move is going to feel more lateral than anything else. But that said, if you're in the market for photo editing software, Photoshop Elements 8 has a lot to recommend it, specifically the stripped-down implementation of Photoshop proper.
Of course, if you can find 7 for a lot cheaper, you sure wouldn't be missing much.
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