Photo fun

Get useful and playful image-editing tools with this easy-to-use program.

The publisher's description of PhoXo says that it can be "treated as a mini Photoshop." This made us laugh, because the last time we checked, Photoshop didn't include an assortment of emoticons and other clip art. But we gave PhoXo a chance and found that we actually liked it quite a bit. It contains the basic image-editing tools that the non-professional user would expect, with a few fun (and goofy) extras that make it appropriate for younger users, too.

The program's interface is well organized and intuitive, with menus across the top and a toolbar down the left side. There are controls for brightness, contrast, and saturation, options to blur and sharpen, and a red-eye-reduction tool. A clone tool and an eraser let users perform basic image correction. Users can also add text, stamps, and clip art to images, and they can draw on images freehand using a pen or paintbrush tool. An effects menu includes options to distort images, add light-related effects, or transform the image into another artistic style. We liked it that PhoXo supports the use of layers; this makes it easy for users to experiment with the program's various features without making irreversible changes to their images. A surprisingly thorough online Help file provides detailed instructions for all of PhoXo's features and includes plenty of screenshots. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by PhoXo; it's easy to use and has plenty of features, both useful and silly. It's a good choice for anyone who's just getting started with image editing or for more experienced users who don't require the advanced features of programs like Photoshop.

PhoXo installs a desktop icon without asking but uninstalls cleanly. We recommend this program to all users.

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