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Culture

Make a photo book fast with MyPublisher

Though the interface isn't perfect, this small application takes you from photos to finished book with minimal effort and backed by excellent tech support.

Since I've amassed digital photos over the years, I've found it more pleasing to turn them into photo books instead of individual prints (plus, they make great gifts when you're running low on time). I've used Kodak Gallery, HP's Snapfish, and Apple's iPhoto to build and publish them with good results. Most recently, though, I've been using MyPublisher.

Click for more photos Joshua Goldman/CNET

MyPublisher 4 is a stable, standalone application that is only 11MB, making it fast to download, and it takes no effort to install. Start it up and you're presented with your project options. Books are the main attraction, but you can also create calendars, cards, and book jackets. Compared with other services, the overall design and size options are fewer, but it makes for a streamlined process of building and buying a book instead of getting bogged down in too many selections.

The interface looks nice and is reasonably clean, but it could use some tweaking. For example, the main screen for assembling a book has two toolbars that sit below the project window: one with tools and editing options and one for moving you back and forth through the creation process. Having them on top of one another makes for a busy-looking and possibly confusing interface. Simply moving one above the project window would improve things.

Also, there are option menus that pop open when you click on them, but once you select something, they don't automatically collapse again and instead stay open on top of your project. Lastly, while adding the photos you want to use is easy, it relies on you knowing where your photos are stored; there is no organizer element to the software. This last one is only an issue if you don't know where the photos are that you want to use.

The software isn't feature-packed, but it has everything you'll likely need, including basic editing tools that can be used both before and after you've placed an image in the book layout. All of the fonts on your computer are available for use when adding text. However, some fonts might not work well in the final product, in which case the software will switch your selection to Arial.

One of the best parts of using MyPublisher is the support behind the product. The company's site has a lot of easy-to-find information, but there is a toll-free phone number as well as an e-mail address for support. Even better, though, is the live chat that's available 24/7--it's one click away through a button in the interface. Another nice touch is the Price Check button for quickly finding out what your current project will cost.

The final results are very good, but a lot of that depends on the size and quality of the photos you used in the first place. Again, pay close attention to what the company says is best to use and you should be satisfied with the results.