Microsoft Picture It Digital Image Pro 7.0 review:

Microsoft Picture It Digital Image Pro 7.0

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MSRP: $109.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Offers solid mix of basic and advanced features; well-balanced interface.

The Bad Intrusive installation.

The Bottom Line Picture It Digital Image Pro is the perfect outlet for digital photography fans who want to clean up their images without facing Photoshop Elements' steep learning curve.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

With its substantive toolset and cascading menus, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 can be a little intimidating sometimes. Microsoft Picture It Digital Pro, on the other hand, offers dedicated amateur photographers the advanced features they'll find in Photoshop but in a much more friendly interface. Novices who just want an easy way to remove red-eye from their photos or create a simple photo album should grab the less expensive Picture It Photo ($34.95) or Photo Premium ($54.95). But if you're an enthusiast who wants to do some high-quality image retouching, Pro is the way to go. With its substantive toolset and cascading menus, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 can be a little intimidating sometimes. Microsoft Picture It Digital Pro, on the other hand, offers dedicated amateur photographers the advanced features they'll find in Photoshop but in a much more friendly interface. Novices who just want an easy way to remove red-eye from their photos or create a simple photo album should grab the less expensive Picture It Photo ($34.95) or Photo Premium ($54.95). But if you're an enthusiast who wants to do some high-quality image retouching, Pro is the way to go.

Intrusive installation
Installing Picture It is as easy as pie, but true to Microsoft form, its wizard forces you to upgrade to Internet Explorer 6 and add the latest version of Outlook Express. In fact, the program automatically installs both and doesn't let you choose to opt out.

Once it's installed, the program treats you to a well-designed, well-organized digital-editing environment. Microsoft has improved both the look and the usefulness of Picture It's interface. For example, the left-hand tool panel still offers a clickable list of common tasks, such as Touchup, Add Something, and Create A Project, but now you can minimize the list to show only the icons, giving you more space to work. As before, Picture It displays your images as thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and shows the various layers of your current project on the right-hand side of the main interface.

A treasure chest of tools
Got a batch of pics full of red-eyed friends? Want to crop out your ex from that photo you took in Hawaii? With Picture It, you can easily correct red-eye, crop, rotate, clean up scratches and dust, or add text and special effects. The program also offers a variety of templates for displaying your photos, including digital albums, flyers, calendars, frames, and so on. You can send e-cards of your pics through MSN, and for a fee, you can even plaster your images on cups, T-shirts, or other gift items.

Still not enough to justify Pro's $100 price tag? Picture It Digital Image Pro's editing tools are worth every dime. For instance, the Adjust Levels tool lets you fiddle with the exposure of your photo, either by hitting an autofix button or using sliding controls to tweak the shadows, midtones, and highlights of the image. Another new tool, Adjust Lighting, increases the overall brightness of your photo (in case your flash didn't go off) and lets you darken overexposed shots.

Note that many of the more sophisticated tools are accessible from only the top menu, rather than in the left-hand tool panel. Also, if you used an older version, keep in mind that Microsoft has renamed several features. For example, the Illusions tool for adding painting and drawing effects is now called Filters, and instead of focusing a blurry image, you now sharpen it.

Plenty of help
Like its simpler sibling, Picture It Photo, Digital Image Pro offers clear and very useful help tools, including several video tutorials with accompanying step-by-step written instructions. Its online resources, including e-mail support, aren't too shabby, either. You can also place toll calls to tech support on weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT.

Picture It Digital Image Pro provides a top-quality solution for those who enjoy fine-tuning, editing, and showing off their favorite digital images. If you're the type who spends hours getting the lighting just right for that photo of your pet dog, this is definitely the product for you.

Picture It Digital Image Pro 7.0 includes sophisticated image enhancers. Adjust Levels, for example, lets you fix the brightness levels of your photo either automatically or manually.

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