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Aimed at the home user, Jasc's Paint Shop Photo Album 5.0 offers useful features for tracking and archiving a personal photo library. The program emphasizes organizing, enhancing, and sharing your photos, and its interface is designed accordingly. The main work space is divided into a browsing panel on the left and a thumbnail display area on the right, with a tabbed overhead toolbar that houses the application's Organize, Enhance, Create, and Share functions. The toolbar buttons are context-sensitive and change depending on which tab is active. Overall, we found Paint Shop Pro Album 5.0's interface to be cleanly designed and easy to navigate; it takes only a few minutes to find your way around.
In the Organize tab, you can add images to your photo library from your hard drive, tag them with specialized keywords, move them to an archive for easier storage and sharing, create a panorama from multiple photos, and sort your images based on a variety of criteria. Rather than using an album-based organization system, Photo Album categorizes your images by folder only--there's no way to create specific collections--so you'll have to name your folders sensibly to see what you actually have on disk.
The editing mode holds no major surprises, though the included toolbox will likely be adequate for the average home user. You can manually adjust your photo or trust the program's automatic filters, as well as fix red-eye, add text captions, or convert your photo to black-and-white or sepia. We like the Adjust Wizard, which shows two copies of your original image and allows you to preview the effects of the program's various filters and options. Just select the version you like best, working your way through color, exposure, vividness, and sharpness controls. Photo Album's Adjust wizard is a terrific visual way to step through the image-editing process without getting bogged down by jargon.
Although its slide shows don't impress us, Photo Album has various ways for you to share your shots with others. The Web Page Gallery has more than 30 preset templates that produce lovely results. Other projects include calendars, CD labels, e-cards, greeting cards, and scrapbook albums. In addition, you can create an actual book, upload it to MyPublisher, and get a hardbound volume back in the mail.
If you have tons of photos stored on CD-Rs or a portable hard drive, Photo Album's Photo Catalog feature tracks the location of your images, whether they're on local drives or removable media. The Archive command, which walks you through the process of backing up your collection, is also handy, telling you in advance how many discs you'll need to complete the process.
One exceptional extra is a utility for recovering photos that have been deleted from memory cards. Like all undelete utilities, this one can retrieve images only when the space hasn't been written over with new information. But it's nice to know you can recover images you accidentally deleted, though you'll have to remember to use this utility before taking more photos.
Paint Shop Photo Album's attention to archiving and photo recovery sets it apart from other programs in its class. If you are looking for an image-organizing package with special emphasis on tracking an extensive image collection, this is a solid choice.