PaintShop Pro X4 simplifies the complex

PaintShop Pro X4 is the latest release in Corel's popular line of photo management and editing software. This newest version brings with it a more polished interface, GPU optimizations, and a significant boost in terms of professional editing power.

PaintShop Pro X4 is the latest release in Corel's popular line of photo management and editing software. This newest version brings with it a more polished interface, GPU optimizations, and a significant boost in terms of professional editing power.

The interface is fairly simple to navigate, with all of the program's functionality falling under three main tabs at the top of the screen: Manage, Adjust, and Edit.

The Manage tab is, of course, the hub for organizing all of your photos. In addition to all of the expected browsing and preview utilities, it includes a nifty Info palette along the right side of the screen, which lists all of the metadata contained in your photo file. With this metadata, you can always see what settings were used to take the picture in the field, which provides a huge learning opportunity for budding photographers and a great reference for experienced ones. We also like that the Organizer palette along the bottom of the screen lets you further organize photos into Trays, making it easier to work with several projects simultaneously. And, of course, there's a rich system for tagging, adding captions to, and rating your photos, which helps when sifting through an unwieldy number of files. Finally, there's built-in sharing on Facebook and Flickr, which is nice, but a bit thin considering how many other sites we would love to share photos on.

The Adjust tab is for speedy editing functions. Think of it as a shortcut panel with all of the most common editing tools like Cropping, Straightening, and Red Eye Removal, as well as basic Brightness, Contrast, and Color adjustments. This is really the bread and butter of the program.

Finally, the Edit tab is where you find the more powerful photo-manipulation tools such as layers, selections, and effects. While it can't get into the nitty-gritty details like an Adobe Photoshop, it does have most of the tools one would need when working with photographic images. And of course, PaintShop Pro can handle raw files from all major camera brands and includes free updates when it adds support for more brands.

Shutterbugs should also appreciate that PaintShop Pro X4 has simplified some of the more complex photo manipulations. For instance, it can now handle HDR processing with ease, and can even Batch Merge so you can process several HDR photos at once. Photo Blend, Selective Focus, and Vignette Effect are also relatively simple yet powerful functions. Also, PaintShop Pro X4 makes it much easier to manipulate fill light and clarity while preserving the rest of the image.

If you're looking to get really granular with your graphics editing, a powerhouse like Adobe Photoshop might be a better choice, albeit a more expensive one. Otherwise, we think Corel PaintShop Pro X4 is a solid end-to-end option for all the simplest photography-related operations and many of the more complicated ones. It's great for managing, adjusting, and editing photos, and even has built-in sharing on Facebook and Flickr. Overall, we give this photo-editing workhorse our stamp of approval.

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