Microsoft Digital Image Suite 9

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Microsoft knows what the average consumer wants to do with their digital camera and enables them to do it.

As you'd expect with Microsoft, the emphasis in its Digital Image Suite is on usability so, as with PhotoSuite, all functionality is primarily accessed through the drill-down Common Tasks panel. This offers access to dozens of commands divided into major categories - Format, Touchup and so on - and, when you select one, the panel provides plenty of help as to how to use it.

In terms of global colour correction the range of adjustments is limited but with a one-click AutoFix, an Adjust Lighting option to add in the effect of flash or to reduce the effect of backlighting, and a Levels command to manage shadows, highlights and midtones there's most of the power most users will need. There's also a Restore Old Picture command to bring out the focus and contrast of faded scans. Using the Mini Lab you can also apply Levels, Contrast and Tint autofixes to multiple images at a time.

When it comes to retouching, the main Digital Image Pro application provides simple-to-use tools for removing red eye, blemishes, dust, scratches and wrinkles. There's also a cloning tool so that you can interactively paint over unwanted objects and a blending brush which works like an intelligent cloner. There are also dodge and burn options for lightening and darkening areas of your photo though no options for locally changing saturation or sharpness. Most impressive is the Smart Erase command which uses the surrounding areas to intelligently remove unwanted objects and usually works like magic.

In terms of creative options, there are hundreds of easy-to-apply filters on offer along with some more surprising features such as Art Strokes and Photo Strokes which drag out eye-catching bitmaps along the length of the line that you draw. There's also a basic stack-based approach to creating photomontages which includes the ability to paint on transparency. And, as you'd expect from Microsoft, there is no shortage of clip art and templates to help create projects such as cards and posters.

Also included in the Suite is the separate Digital Image Library which is used for photo management. This lets you view your photos as thumbnails either on a folder basis or en masse. To take further control, you can add keywords with the keyword painter but this is surprisingly awkward and the associated search capabilities are limited. Printing of multiple images is excellent and you can also easily email photos and archive them to disk. You can also use the bundled Plus Photo Story Lite to create a slideshow presentation complete with narration and panning. It's a useful little utility but its functionality is limited as are its output options (to Microsoft's own WMV video format) especially compared to PhotoSuite's advanced multimedia capabilities and VCD output.

That's typical. The Digital Image Suite is a useful all-rounder for the non-expert user but PhotoSuite currently offers more all-round power for less money.

Ease of Use
5
Features
4
Value for Money
5
Overall
5

Tom Arah

August 2004

Digital Image
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System Requirements: Pentium 700MHz, 256Mb of RAM, 400Mb of disk space, 800 x 600, Windows 98, Me, 2000 or XP, CD-ROM


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