Ulead’s PhotoImpact has always been more than just a photo editor, offering graphics and Web design tools as well. The result: a handy program marred by a dramatically overstuffed interface. PhotoImpact 11 addresses this problem by providing specific workspaces for different tasks. It’s a good idea and a big step forward, but in the end this $90 application remains a bit rougher around the edges than I’d like.
In this edition, PhotoImpact finally supports RAW images and 48-bit color depth for advanced editing. Though the package does include a few single-click tools for automatically optimizing photos, you will get better results overall by using PhotoImpact’s interactive, optometrist-inspired “which preset looks better?” fixes for exposure, color cast, saturation, and sharpening.
Ulead includes several innovative tools that make Adobe’s Photoshop Elements look positively old school in comparison. Thanks to the program’s updated object extraction wizard, you may never go back to lasso tools again. Just highlight an object, and PhotoImpact will remove it from the background with a level of precision previously unattainable outside professional-level editing software.
Have you ever tried taking a picture only to find your subject repeatedly blocked by a passerby? SmartRemove lets you collect a series of photos of the same scene, mark elements for removal, and then deftly combine them to create a final image that reveals obscured objects. Depending on the quality of your source material, evidence of the erasure varies from almost invisible to awkwardly noticeable.
The High Dynamic Range feature returns in this version with a simpler interface and better performance. With it you can combine several photos of a scene that has tricky lighting to create a properly exposed shot free of regions of over- and underexposure.
On the graphics side, PhotoImpact is chock-full of Web-friendly design features, including image maps and rollover effects. You also get Web page templates and a slew of clip art, stamps, and effects such as object deformation and warping (useful for a broad range of special effects, logo design, and other graphical applications).
Despite improvements to the interface, though, the shipping edition of PhotoImpact 11 that I tested still exhibited a number of annoying rough spots. For one thing, it lacks a logical layout; some relatively common tasks, like one-touch correction and image straightening, are buried in menus.
I also experienced a recurring glitch when using the app’s Enhance Lighting tool (it’s a known bug that Ulead is working to correct) and a frustrating incompatibility with my Minolta-QMS MagiColor 2300 printer (Ulead confirms that a known problem exists between PhotoImpact and a handful of printers).
Ulead supplies two separate photo-organizing apps in the box: Photo Explorer 8.6 and PhotoImpact Album 11. Unfortunately, both badly need updating. Each has a clumsy, dated feel, and the two offer overlapping organizing and viewing features.
If Ulead can make all of PhotoImpact’s tools feel as fresh and exciting as the handful of new flagship features, it will have a true winner.
Ulead Systems PhotoImpact 11
This software’s powerful creative features can’t quite compensate for its annoying interface.
Price when reviewed: $90
Current prices (if available)