Ulead PhotoImpact 10.0 is your basic terrific image editor. With version 10.0, Ulead adds a broad range of handy new features. For starters, there are photo frames, 17 new effects filters (Pen and Ink, Cartoon, and Engraving, to name just a few), and a new touch-up tool for subtly removing image defects. And three new selection tools make it easier to work with specific area of an image: Smart Lasso, which draws a selection border around complex objects; Extract Object, to isolate an image element from a background; and Match Background Color, for seamlessly merging an extracted element back into the image.
Ulead has fluffed up version 10.0's interface with dockable toolbars and panels, while retaining the unusual (and clever) visual thumbnails for applying effects. The UI is totally configurable; customizing is just a matter of dragging buttons and toolbars around the screen, docking, or letting them float, depending on how you work.
When you load the program, you'll see what seems like a bazillion buttons and bars on the display. Fortunately, they are logically arranged. A standard toolbar on the left holds buttons for manipulating and adjusting images. Arrayed along the top of the display are bars for changing tool settings and managing files.
On the right side of the display is the hub of the interface: a set of panels for managing layers and documents, applying effects, and accessing Quick Commands. This last panel is especially useful for repetitive work, as it holds common tasks and a history of all editing changes you've applied to an image. You can save any command sequence in a macro to use again.
The EasyPalette panel displays a neat tree structure of available items. When you select an entry, it shows the available choices as thumbnails to the right of the tree. For example, if you choose Special Effects, it shows Engraving and Finger Paint among the options. To apply an effect or add an object, just double-click or drag the thumbnail onto the image. All effects may be easily fine-tuned by right-clicking it and adjusting the settings. We think this visual thumbnail approach is clever and especially appropriate for casual users and those who love to experiment.
There are two main views in EasyPalette: Galleries and Libraries. The Galleries view lets you add a brain-bending number of special effects, including photo frames, fills, lighting, animation, text, deformations, and touch-up. If you switch to the Library by clicking a button at the top of the palette, you can drop in shapes, outlines, paths, masks, and images. Finally, EasyPalette also holds a nice selection of templates for instantly creating Web pages, slide shows, business cards, posters, and CD covers.
Of course, if you dislike the panels or want to maximize screen space, you can always close them and use the plain-vanilla menus and toolbars to adjust every aspect of your photo. PhotoImpact is equally at home with bitmap, vector, and text objects, and it has a full range of tools for assembling surprisingly complex documents.
Version 10.0 beefs up digital camera support with a wizard for downloading images from your digicam. The Browse manager displays EXIF information (camera and photo metadata), and there are several new filters specifically for digital photos, including improved Remove Red Eye, Touch Up, and Reduce Noise. PhotoImpact updates its High Dynamic Range feature, which combines multiple exposures into a single image to brighten dark areas and darken lights in high-contrast photos; it now compensates for movement between the bracketed original shots. This feature can also mask out specific areas of component images and includes histogram clipping to adjust the displayed tonal range.
Even if there were nothing else in the box, PhotoImpact would be a steal. But Ulead bundles extra goodies with the image editor. Most useful are PhotoImpact Album, a decent image manager that's beginning to show its age; and PhotoExplorer, a visual file manager for executing batch commands, quickly sending images via e-mail, and browsing and acquiring images from memory cards, scanners, and cameras.
For Web animations, Ulead provides a program called GIF Animator. Cool 360 is a wizard-driven app that creates panoramas from a set of photos and lets you output directly to e-mail, screensavers, printers, and the Internet. And there are light versions of Alien Skin's Splat and Eye Candy filters, plus Hemera Graphic Desk for exploring and purchasing online clip art. Also included in the package are 10 excellent video tutorials to get you started.
This is one wonderful bundle, and we recommend it highly for quick and easy image editing.