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Corel PaintShop Pro X4 review

Verdict

PaintShop Pro X4 boasts a digital workflow that is the very model of streamlined efficiency – sadly the program as a whole doesn’t quite live up to it

Review Date: 21 Sep 2011

Reviewed By: Tom Arah

Price when reviewed: £55 (£66 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
4 stars out of 6

The second, Photo Blend, lets you mark out the areas that you want to use or lose from multiple shots of the same image, handy for removing passing objects or taking the best face from all members in a group portrait. Both features are welcome additions, but inferior to the similar capabilities in Photoshop Elements.

Corel has also streamlined the Manage workspace’s Fullscreen Review mode to concentrate on rotating, rating and viewing. To be able to enhance your images as you go, you need to switch to PaintShop Pro X4’s new Adjust workspace (previously known as Express Lab). Here, you can load each of your photos in turn to apply the most common global adjustments such as Smart Photo Fix, Brightness/Contrast and Colour Balance.

With various performance improvements, including GPU optimisations, even complex effects such as Noise Removal and Local Tone Mapping update in real time. As does the new Fill Light/Clarity filter, which lets you bring out subtle details, especially in shadow areas – a great addition.

With easy access to tools for cropping, straightening, red eye removal, makeover effects and cloning, along with the option to automatically save edits and preserve copies, the streamlined Adjust workspace is undoubtedly the highlight of this release, and will provide all the editing power you need in the vast majority of cases.

Corel PaintShop Pro X4

For occasions when you need more, the Edit workspace gives you full access to everything else PaintShop Pro X4 has to offer: selection-based handling, artistic brushes, picture tubes, text handling, advanced layer-based composition and so on. This is also where the software provides a wide range of useful, and not so useful, filter effects, including two significant additions.

The first, Vignette, lets you apply a soft outer border around the area you want to highlight. The second, Selective Focus, lets you blur out unwanted details, as well as create tilt-shift effects where real world scenes are made to look like surreal toy-like models.

With Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 essentially treading water (see opposite), PaintShop Pro X4 is certainly gaining ground and may well prove the better, not only cheaper, option for many users. This is particularly the case when it’s used for fast photo enhancement and in-depth editing, with the free Google Picasa taking care of high-end organisational duties and web sharing.

Ultimately, however, we can’t quite bring ourselves to recommend PaintShop Pro X4. While its streamlined interface and workflow certainly look the part, in practice there are still too many shortcomings and rough edges – on our 64-bit test system we experienced a handful of bugs and crashes while reviewing the product. So Photoshop Elements’ more complete and polished solution retains its edge – but only just.

Author: Tom Arah

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User comments

The last time I used PaintShop Pro was in the old days when you were in day 250 of your 30 day trial.

By james016 on 21 Sep 2011

(-: It's changed quite a bit since then as you'll see from the screenshots. And while you can still get a trial version, I'm afraid it is now strictly 30 days.

By TomArah on 21 Sep 2011

Still buggy?

I abandoned PSP years ago. I liked it and the support was good, when it was with JASC, but I realised I was geting help for problems which just shouldn't be happening. Then it was sold twice in quick succession with new editions put out to milk it just before / after sale. I walked. The inhibitor is all of the metadata you have invested in the cataloguing system, though maybe this is not quite so much an issue since Vista expanded the file metadata. I had to recaption and categorise quite a lot of photos but fortunately I'd not been digital for too long at that time. It would be impossible now. I'm trapped in PSE. Several editions back I might add and stayig there until they add something worth having. Or produce a stripped down "photographer's edition" that goes like the wind and doesn't have all the brainless "project / effects / guided help" stuff, much of which hardly works anyway.

By JohnHo1 on 21 Sep 2011

PSE Lock In

I know exactly what you mean about PSE's lock-in - my dad was in exactly the same position having invested so much time and effort.
I eventually got him to switch to Picasa which makes light work of all the advanced organisational duties including live search and offers face tagging and location tagging that just work unlike Adobe's. The problem with Picasa is the enhancement and editing, but there's nothing to stop you using it alongside PSP or PSE- after all, it is free.
Alternatively I think Lightroom is a pretty good match for your "photographer's edition" requirement but it's a lot more expensive.

By TomArah on 21 Sep 2011

Buggy Corel

I started using Corel 2, what 20 years, and for many years was a fan of its product. For reasons I won't bore you with they should rebrand themselves as "The Corel Buggy". At least that would bring a little humour to their disatisfied customers.

By Neil_S on 21 Sep 2011

Still does the job

I'm using Paintshop Pro X, and have used PSP since version 1. I won't upgrade to anything later as I've heard they upload usage data to Corel; it's no business of their what I do with their program. I'm the same about every program that demands Internet access when that's not part of its' core functionality. That said the Adobe programs are the same - try denying them Internet access and see what happens. In my view a program should verify itself *once* online and no more.

The other reason for me choosing PSP was of course price. With the full Photoshop CS5 being £604 (Amazon) and PSP being around the £60 mark it's a no-brainer. Elements is far closer in price admittedly, but the phrase about old dogs springs to mind :)

By CeltiKaos on 22 Sep 2011

What about paint.net?

An excellent free image editor - www.getpaint.net

By jbarnett on 26 Sep 2011

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By linaadd on 3 Oct 2011

Faststone image viewer is excellent

Although it is listed as a viewer, Fastone (which is free and regularly updated) is brilliant at first line editing. All the most comonly used functionality is available and they use the four sides of the screen to pop up various menus.
Top lets you see about ten thumnails and quickly scroll to the picture you want,
Bottom pulls up the very common functions like rotate and slideshow and crop and a few other, but I do not use this much.
Left is the main workhorse, giving File and slideshow, Rotate/resize/text.Colours, and effects.
They really have chosed these subsets well.
On the right of the screen you bring up the exif info and can change pictures whilst continually looking at the exif changing with the pics.
There are plenty of settabe options too. I use it 90% of the time.
Try it. its a small download and loads in a flash. (no pun intended!)

By DavidReddington on 11 Oct 2011

No!

Does it still feature the fantastic 'Protexis DRM' that likes to add a whole load of rubbish to your computer?

If you search you'll find ways to remove it. (I'm on PSP X3 at this moment)

By rhythm on 22 Oct 2011

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