Ulead PhotoImpact 8 review

designer, web graphic artist - or all three - Ulead PhotoImpact is the only software you’ll need to produce professional result with your digital photos” you get the impression that this software package aims to be the first and last port of call for editing your digital images.

On the surface the software comes across looking like something from the Adobe or Macromedia stable and those who have used any of these products will see the similarities straight away. Tools are selected from a slim panel on the left, while further information such as colours, layers and document information can be found in panel boxes on the right.

The tool box (that’s the one found on the left) hosts more options than most and offers everything from your standard cropping and text tools to brightness, contrast and colour correction buttons. The later buttons are on the surface seem useful, but with no measurement scales soon become something that is used rarely if you want to monitor how much change you have made.

For the fun loving graphic enhancer's out there, PhotoImpact 8 offers plenty of filters to make your picture complete unrecognisable - here you can change and manipulate everything from adding film grain for that old photo look to removing red eye to even making your image look like it is a page in a book.

While the software does offer the user a fairly moderate photo editing package, it also supports web creation and a design side to things. The design element comes in the form of 3D text, logos and objects, applying animated effects to your files and adding lighting textures.

The web element is slightly more in-depth. Files can be saved, previewed and exported as HTML files as well as having splices and hot spots added if you want to make your graphics interactive, although at not point can you edit your html code through PhotoImpact 8 - a strange obmission.

To those who have used PhotoImpact 7 the majority of the new features added here are mostly auto processing commands and colour adjustment controls. Filters such as the film grain, spot filter and diffuse glow have been added but it’s nothing huge to write home about. The interface has remained the same (very welcomed) and apart from all the above you can now share your images and creations by creating a slide show CD that can be played back on a TV or DVD player. Yes there are other new elements but nothing will turn your life around.

With such competition in the digital photo imaging software arena this package doesn’t really know what it wants to give. On the one hand it’s a fully functional photo editing package for all your editing needs, on the other it expects you to want to add slices and hot spots and other such web delights without giving you any real control over tweaking the end process. While both serve the user well, you can’t help feel that that same user would only get confused by the multiple panel boxes, additional tool bars and the rather heavy icon laden main tool box.

This product isn’t aimed at the professional market, merely the enthusiast, but even when you look at the professional market you have companies such as Macromedia insisting that the three things in this box should be separated into three different packages.

That is not to suggest that Ulead should charge us three times as much, far from it, but perhaps separating rather than trying hard to integrate might make things a little easier on the mind, the eye and the running of the application.

Verdict

PhotoImpact 8 is like three shoes rolled into one, you've got your smart work shoes, your casual boat shoes and your running trainers. Creating a hybrid of the three will give you a shoe suitable for all three situations but to some will lack the finer points suited to each task. Translating that to the software - to some, the integration of the three applications - the image editor, the design studio and the web elements will make perfect sense to others however something will always be missing.