In the brand-new Corel Digital Studio 2010, Corel has turned out a consumer-friendly suite of photo and video editing software; think Apple's iMovie and iPhoto, but for the PC. With it, you can edit photos and videos, burn your media to a variety of disks, create movies and fun photo projects, and share your clips and creations online. There's no shortage of competing multimedia suites for Windows, like Roxio Creator 2010, Nero, and, to some extent, standalone freeware like Windows Live Movie Maker and Google's Picasa photo editor. Corel Digital Studio 2010 falls somewhere in the middle of the pack of consumer suites in terms of features, and is on the higher end in terms of usability and design. Part of this is intended: with the studio's slimmed-down features and an easy-to-use design, Corel is reaching out to new users of the point-and-shoot crowd, and to those who want to upgrade older software.
The suite is an amalgam of four applications: Corel VideoStudio Express 2010 (the video editor), Corel PaintShop Photo Express 2010 (the photo editor), Corel DVD Factory 2010 (the media burner), and Corel WinDVD 2010 (the movie player). It also includes Corel Instant Viewer for displaying images on your computer without editing them. The applications within Corel's suite represent new configurations of previous Corel software, bundled and unified within a single suite. Corel VideoStudio Express 2010, for instance, builds off the technology found in Corel VideoStudio Pro; likewise with Corel PaintShop Photo Express 2010 and a previous Pro version.
Corel Digital Studio 2010 nicely balances clean, accessible design with features powerful enough to create meaningful multimedia projects. The suite is easy to use, tackling the conventional tasks of tidying photos and video clips with aplomb, while also providing canned templates to make creating photo books, movies, and disks easy. It also quickly uploads your media to Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook, and can copy your media files to devices like the iPhone and PSP. But while Corel Digital Studio is packed with everyday tools, oversights are impossible to avoid in a package intended to keep things simple. It lacks some of the sophisticated photo- and video-editing tools one would expect from a premium suite, though it does nail many commonly used features.
At just larger than a gigabyte, Corel Digital Studio 2010 is not a program to install lightly. Although it will run indiscriminately on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 machines, Corel recommends a 2GHz processor or higher, 4GB of free hard-drive space, plus 2GB of RAM, and 256MB of VGA VRAM (the video card). You can get by with half of both RAM counts, according to Corel's specifications, but the dual-core processor is key. The suite will still install on lesser machines, but you may not be able to access all the video tools as a result. Installation took between 10 minutes and 15 minutes on each computer--we tested on a Vista desktop and on a high-powered Vista laptop with a 32-bit, 2.33GHz Intel Centrino Duo processor and 3GB of RAM. In addition to the four main applications, Corel comes with a desktop gadget that includes quick-link icons to easily switch among the apps.
If you're running Corel Digital Studio 2010 on Windows 7, you'll notice that the suite takes advantage of Windows 7 optimizations, like jump lists, and libraries that group together related content across the system. The suite is compatible with Windows Touch computers.
Interface and features
The first time you fire up one of the apps, Corel scans your computer for any media already stored on your hard drive. You can also import media from various sources, including a camera, a video camera, or a memory card; a mobile phone or a thumb drive (known in the app as Other Devices); and a Webcam or a scanner. Note that if the media on your flash drive is stored in folders, you'll have to manually browse for files within Corel's import screen. We wish the app would automatically load them instead.
Corel has given its four applications a dark, polished look that's consistent from app to app. With the exception of the WinDVD video player, each one opens with a media gallery; that is, a collection of thumbnail images of your photos and videos. These thumbnails are bordered by menus and buttons that are easy to identify and access. We especially like the large icons that pop out of the navigation bar when you hover over an item, like Import, Create, or Share.
There are other nice touches, too, including a small "play" arrow that appears over video in the media gallery. Previewing the video here helps you quickly find the right video without having to individually open each one. Another favorite feature in the editing apps lets you erase changes with the click of a button, returning to your original, untampered-with photo or video.
Corel PaintShop Photo Express 2010
For its photo-editing tool, Corel is reaching for a mix of editing features that aren't too advanced or too simplistic, but somewhere in between. There are commonly used tools to straighten, crop, and remove red eye. They do the job adequately. A Quick Fix button applies algorithmic changes predicted to improve your picture (much like Picasa's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button). The Quick Fix almost never does as well as you can on your own using the application's adjustment tools, which you can find in a pinnable slide-out sidebar. Slider controls determine the degree of fill flash, brightness, and sharpening. The zoom slider bar in the top right corner makes applying cosmetic details like whitening teeth and blotting out blemishes more accurate.
Our complaints: We'd like to type in numeric values in addition to using the slider, and we'd prefer to see an instant preview thumbnail before applying changes. The processing between image modifications could also be speedier; the 1- or 2-second pause adds up when you're editing by trial and error. The four effects that can turn your photos black and white, sepia, "antiqued," or softly focused are far skimpier than competitors'.
While the editing tools are more than passable, the program's real value lies in postproduction. You can upload photos and projects directly from Corel to Flickr and Facebook, e-mail them to a friend, or burn them to a disk. Uploading is a common feature of multimedia suites like Roxio Creator 2010 and Apple's iPhoto and iMovie. On both our test computers, the Flickr log-in screen hung up and we were not able to upload; Corel has told us this bug is highly unusual. YouTube and Facebook uploads ran smoothly.
As with competitors, Corel Digital Studio 2010 provides templates for helping you make slideshows, greeting cards, collages, and photo books that you order through Corel (see pricing below). As with the editing process, creating photo projects is intuitive. Turning pages in the photo book creator adds a layer of rich interaction, while dragging and dropping images around the pages and to and from the media tray keeps production practical. It's too bad that the program doesn't quote a price before you upload a batch of photos or a book to the Shopping Cart. It's the least Corel could do for channeling users to purchase projects through its online store.