Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8.0 review: Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8.0

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The Good Powerful new editing tools; redesigned interface; built-in tutorials; improved graphics engine; highly competitive price.

The Bad Can’t type text directly onto an image.

The Bottom Line With its advanced tools and streamlined interface, budget-priced Paint Shop Pro 8.0 can nearly go head-to-head with Photoshop 7.0.

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8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8


What happens when an upstart challenges an industry giant by offering comparable features for a fraction of the price? Take the case of Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8.0 vs. Adobe Photoshop 7.0. While you can argue about which program has the broader selection of features, it's hard to deny that Jasc has continued to close the gap. Paint Shop Pro scores extra points for being easier to use, while Photoshop earns kudos for its high-quality underlying algorithms--and for looking better on a resume. If you're a graphics professional, stick with Adobe. But if your pursuits are more casual, go with Jasc and save hundreds of dollars. Installation is quick and easy. You can leave out the Jasc Animation Shop (39MB) and the Virtual Painter filters (6.9MB)--a handy option if you own, say, a notebook with limited drive space. You can also choose whether to associate the program with specific file types. In a pop-up window, you scroll through a list of 58 types of graphics files, selecting and deselecting at will. Paint Shop Pro is the industry champ when it comes to supporting unusual formats. The download version requests an unlocking code for product registration, but even without the code, youÂ'll have 30 days of free access to all the features, including technical support.

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Built-in tutorials provide step-by-step instructions for seven advanced photo projects.

The previous Paint Shop Pro's drab and clunky interface was due for a makeover. Gone are the generic icons that betrayed the program's shareware origins. The new icons are subtly shaded, and Jasc has redesigned the palettes, toolbars, and windows for easier access. You can now customize the Tool Options palette and save different settings for specific projects. For example, you might save one configuration for retouching old photographs and another for optimizing images for Web sites.

Not sure where to start? Jasc built 30 tutorials into the interface. The lesson topics range from basic tasks (such as creating a new image) to full-blown projects (such as converting a photo into a greeting card). Menu-accessible product tours provide animated introductions to the tools, the palettes, and more. Photoshop 7.0 introduced two features that wowed the graphics community: the Enhanced Liquify tool increased the precision with which you can distort an image, and the Healing Brush brought the ability to remove scratches and blemishes while maintaining original shading and texture. Paint Shop Pro 8.0 brings its own set of useful advanced tools, most of them clearly aimed at photo enthusiasts. Perspective Correction repositions off-center objects. For example, if you photograph a building from an odd angle, you can pull it into place by clicking its four corners and manipulating virtual handles. The Warp Brush lets you creatively distort portions of an image. You can stretch, shrink, push, and twist to generate unexpected shapes. Both Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro can remove pixels based on their color. The Background Eraser, as it's called in the Jasc app, is ideal for retaining fine details, such as in hair and fur, that you want to isolate from the background.

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One Step Photo Fix can automatically adjust a picture's color balance, saturation, contrast, sharpness, and more.

Photoshop handles some features more elegantly. For instance, you can add and edit text directly within an image in Photoshop; Paint Shop Pro makes you type it in a separate window. On the other hand, Paint Shop Pro has the edge with the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data that many cameras store with each photo. One advantage is that you can select the types of EXIF data the program will display. Paint Shop Pro 7.0 slowed to a crawl when you added a few layers to an image. Fortunately, version 8.0's graphics engine is greatly improved. Using a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 system with 768MB of RAM, we were able to apply eight layers without significantly decreasing rendering speed.

Most tasks take a second or two to complete. One of the program's more processor-intensive functions, One Step Photo Fix, intelligently adjusts color balance, saturation, contrast, sharpness, and other key settings through a chain of automated effects. Despite the complexity, our test system finished the work on a 2,048x1,536-pixel shot in just 13 seconds. In addition to the built-in tutorials and product tours, Jasc offers toll-free tech support Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT. The company's Web site has even more tutorials, as well as a searchable knowledge base. With this level of support, you could learn a wide range of image-editing techniques.