The image software I pick and why the others don’t fit the bill

So a month ago I decided to test out every image editor I had ever heard of and then Craig gave me a couple more that I hadn’t. The aim was simple, I knew photoshop was brilliant but I wanted to see if I could get the features I needed without the £600 price tag. My intention was to run a series of tests across all the software devices and then report back. Unfortunately I ran out of time so my analysis is not as in depth as I would have liked but I can rank the software by my preference with my reasons.

This analysis is not meant as a general means for everyone, I mainly use image editors to prepare images for websites so a little minor touching up, a bit of text addition and a lot of resizing and optimisation. I do not get the most out of these pieces of software that are built for so much more.

First off though two suites that Craig recommended that I could not work out what need I had for. I am sure that for some they are very useful but for me, not so much.

So last:
Xara Xtreme and Xara Xtreme Pro – as I said I just could not find a use for these products that really justified the price.

Now to those that I found could do most if not all of the things I wanted.

6. Paint.net
Paint.net is largely a wonderful tool, it is intuitive and has almost all of the image editing features you could need and being free only sweetens the deal. It is easy to resize and optimise images for the web and will do simple design… BUT it is last of the editors that had the features I needed because of its really bad text tool. The Paint.net help pages explain it best:

“While typing, you may press the Esc key to finish the text and render it to the layer. Once you have finished with text, it may not be modified except by undoing it and retyping the text. To be precise, after the text is rendered it no longer exists in the image as text, but only as pixels and that is why this limitation exists.”

Well sorry but sometimes I make mistakes in my text and want to edit it. I do not want to have to retype the text every time I want to change a word or make a small change. This is retarded and ruins an otherwise excellent free program.

5. Gimp 2
Gimp has been around for ages but I’ve never really seen eye to eye with it, while it did everything I wanted it to it sometimes took more steps than I thought it should and it is not always an intuitive program to use. Being designed primarily for linux means the interface looks dated. That said it could do everything I wanted to do, it just took me a while.

4. GimPhoto – BEST FREEWARE
It turns out that people have been releasing their own updates to the Gimp freeware, this version aims to make the software more like Photoshop and it largely succeeds. Everything feels a little bit newer and a bit sleeker. It is definitely an improvement over the original design and represents my top rated piece of freeware.

3. Corel Paintshop Pro – £59 on amazon
My Father introduced me to Paint Shop Pro years ago with out Windows 98 machine. Back then we had our first digital camera and the software was pretty dang basic. Now though the software is a lot better with many of the features of Photoshop. It just seems to nag a little too much, be a little slow in places and lack a bit of the sheen of the premier product. If you are looking to manage and touch up a photo collection then this would be a good choice.

2. Photoshop CS4 – £580
The big daddy of image editing is about to get a new release. This program offers pretty well any tool I could ever need and does everything in an intuitive way. It is very easy to resize images, manipulate images in any way and has a save for web option. Adobe Bridge is also a pretty good way of managing your images and overall this software is just a joy to use. The downside is the price, oh to be a student and be able to get this program for £200. £580 is just too much for a piece of software for the majority and it leads many to find other means of getting Adobe’s masterwork. If adobe halved the price I would snap this up in a second but when I can buy Photoshop or a new PC, TV or a heck of a lot of games and some grand prix tickets or 20 times Karting it is just no deal. No matter how good it is I just cannot justify the cost for what I would use it for. If my livelihood were image editing and design then I would have to swallow the bill but its not, I just need some light editing and touching up for websites.

Therefore…

1. Photoshop Elements 8 – £50 – OVERALL WINNER
With all the features that I need to do everything at the moment and a pretty good image manager built into it as well Photoshop Elements is a clear winner. At a tenth of the price of its big daddy you would expect something a lot more cut down than what you receive here. Sure you might be missing bigger modern features but what I am doing is things that could have been done years ago and so have happily filtered down into the Elements program. Its fast, its optimisation is identical to CS4 and it maintains the same straightforward interface in most places. I see no reason to spend the extra £550 on the bigger software.

What do you think though? I will certainly be trying out CS5 next month. Content Aware Fill looks incredible and I can’t wait to try that out. What image editors do you use and what was I meant to use Xara for?