Adobe Photoshop Elements 10

Adobe's consumer image-editing application adds some new capabilities, though nothing really groundbreaking to celebrate its decade anniversary.

Now in its 10th year, Adobe Photoshop Elements 10, which also comes as a bundle with its video-oriented sibling, Adobe Premiere Elements 10, offers photo enthusiasts and beginners a lot of imaging power for a lot less than its big brother. This version brings parity to the Mac for Organizer search, expands social tagging capabilities, some basic video support and path text, as well as enhancements to a few existing tools. It's a basic update that doesn't radically change the usability or capabilities of the program unless you shoot raw--and that's because it updates to the latest engine of Adobe Camera Raw. (However, if you do a lot of raw shooting, I recommend you try Adobe Lightroom instead.)

First, Adobe has beefed up the Organizer a bit to improve its video support, since it's serving Premiere as well. It allows for hierarchical tagging, as well as Smart Tags, which can automatically classify your media as high, medium, or low quality, as well as tag what it thinks is in focus, low contrast, blurred, and so on. This can be hit or miss; for instance, it classified a host of photos with shallow depth of field as out of focus. The new object search works reasonably well on rectangular objects--for instance, I used it to try to isolate the photos of cage cards--but not so well on others. It can search based on shape or color, and you can control how the two are weighted. There's a new Duplicate search based off the visual similarity engine, but it performs too inconsistently to rely on it. Plus, if you shoot raw+JPEG, it counts every pair as a duplicate. In general, PSE doesn't handle raw+JPEG well at all.

That said, if you're using the search tools to find images with a certain feel or color scheme to use in projects, the visual similarity search will suit.

From the Organizer you can do quick fixes, launch project creation, or share to a variety of popular sites. The Facebook integration comes in the People recognition view; there, you can download your Facebook friends' list to tag, so they upload pretagged; you can upload full or reduced resolution. New is YouTube uploading--it can directly upload unedited videos.

One of the new effects, the Picture Stack Guided Edit.

(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Photoshop Elements has the same task-oriented interface it's had for years, split into Edit, Create, and Share. In edit, you have a range of choices for how sophisticated you want the interface to be--Full, the traditional Photoshop-like experience; Quick, which provides a Lightroom-like panel with a handful of options; or Guided, which walks you through more complex adjustments and effects. There are a few new Guided adjustments. One's a gritty-glowy-diffuse-saturated transformation called the Orton Effect (here's how to do it in Photoshop.) Another is Picture Stack, which takes a single image and divides it up into a mosaic-like array. Of course, the images can be edited within the full editor after you've applied the effects. I have to say, I like the way Adobe intelligently handled the Picture Stack so that it really is possible to edit it (as opposed to panoramas). Finally, Adobe added a basic depth-of-field effect.

The new Orton Effect Guided Edit.

(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Another big addition for this version is text on a path. You can choose from a variety of preset shapes, which include heart and butterfly, as well as attach it to a shape or a selection. While it's easy to use and nice to have, you can't really fine-tune the appearance. There's no way to change the letterspacing to fix awkward breaks and as far as I can tell you can't edit the curve once you've clicked Done.

This version of the program supports Adobe's new Touch API, which means you can probably expect third-parties to create tablet apps to drive tutorials in PE as well.

On my Mac, at least--a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM running OS X 10.7.1--found the software slower than I'd like. And my least favorite words of the day are "Loading the Adobe Photoshop Elements Workspace..." Photoshop loads faster on my Windows XP system. Plus, there are various "Click here to learn..." links at the bottom of the screen (such as "Click to learn to use the Organizer") that want you to sign in to Adobe which is just irritating.

That said, while there's nothing terribly whizzy in this version of Photoshop Elements, the product itself remains the same solid, full-featured piece of imaging software it's been for the past years. While existing users may not find this a must-have upgrade, first timers should find everything they need here.

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