Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0

Adobe's Photoshop has a deservedly strong reputation as an image manipulation tool, but is priced well out of reach for home digital photography enthusiasts and can be tricky for beginners. Photoshop Album 2.0 borrows the branding for a much simpler tool aimed at the home market (and priced accordingly). Unlike its sibling, this is a Windows-only release.

Album is designed to manage all your digital images, so the first task after installation is to add all your existing shots to its catalog. This is a straightforward process, and the package can automatically track new additions as you import fresh pictures from your camera. It also handles video. To manage that potentially unwieldy sea of data, Album uses a tagging system to allow you to brand shots. There are automatic master categories for people, places and events, and you can add your own as needed.

As with any organising tool, the effectiveness of such a system is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put into the initial tagging process. If you're too lazy to bother, Album's calendar view is ideal, presently you with an annual, monthly or daily view of all your pictures sorted by date, based on either your camera's EXIF information (if available) or PC file creation dates. This is a great way to locate pictures, and much more useful than the program's generic Photo Well view.

Image editing options are, as you would expect, comprehensive, including fixes for lighting, sharpness, and red eye, as well as cropping and filters for black and white or sepia images. The ability to adjust from Adobe's pre-defined parameters is minimal, but in most cases these are more than adequate. Once your images are edited, you can organise them into a wide variety of pre-defined printing and slideshow layouts, burn them to CD or DVD, or even print them via an online service (though you have to first tell the software to look these up).

Of course, many of these tasks could be achieved by using the software bundled with your camera, along with built-in features in the Windows environment. However, Album does provide the convenience of full photo management in a single package, and the calendar view is a top-notch way of sorting through a large directory of images. A stripped back 'starter edition' is also available for free download on Adobe's site.

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