This is Microsoft’s attempt to win back some of the digital camera revenue floating around out there, and with this package you can basically organise, acquire and edit, create and share, and archive - as it says on the box.
There is a tendency to knock everything that comes from the Microsoft world - it is all too easy to grab for the name - like Adobe. So as I sceptically eyed the box, I thought about what evil I could send the way of Mr Gates. I’ll be the first to admit, I was wrong in my assumptions about DI Suite 10.
But surprisingly it is fun and easy to use. It also ships with Digital Image Library, which will grab all your images into one place and let you add more detail to them, which is only mildly useful. If that wasn't enough, it also comes with Plus! Photo Story 2, which allows you to very quickly put images into a show, with narration, titles, background music and so on. In less than 5 minutes I had a show of 25 wedding images, animated and to music - a great little quirk for showing off the holiday snaps. You can then burn these onto a VCD and loop it on your TV at the next dinner party.
So what about the big whammy? Digital Image itself is actually very impressive. If you want to perform basic editing tasks on images they are easily done - the red eye correction, of course, is there. There are the autofix buttons for contract and colour balance and so on. Some things work better than others - for example - you can click on an area that is supposed to be black and it will supposedly balance all the colours. It didn’t work. You can also do the same with white - I tried selecting the white dress on the bride, and the whole picture was thrown out of contrast. That aside, things worked well. However, when I wanted to smooth out the skin tones on the bride to make her look like a model on a magazine cover, I lacked the tools to do that easily.
There is a smart erase function, which is useful, allowing you completely remove distracting things from a picture, like graffiti on a wall in the background, or something on the horizon that you didn’t want in the picture. There are all the normal filter options, which, whilst fun, seem strictly limited in their use. The main aim here is enhancing photos, not to make them freaky. With a bit of work I managed to remove the head from the groom and place it in his hand, but it takes a lot of messing around, and this isn’t an advanced image manipulation suite, its for the home digital camera user.
As with all these things there is a second disc of templates, project, fun things to do with pictures. I thought it was a bit of a gimmick, but again there is some smart stuff in there - a collage feature to throw lots of pictures into a collage and print it out - easy Christmas present for granny with all the baby photos in.
Overall, you get a lot for £45, perhaps almost as much as you get from PS Elements at £70. Previously I’ve slated photo album software, and I stand by that, but the features in DI Suite 10 actually have some application - if you want to create and share pictures, rather than just leave them on your home computer. But there is more. Yes, a manual, printed on paper, that is actually useful, 278 pages useful - 30 of which are dedicated to taking a good picture. And therein lies a lot of truth - no matter how good your software, the original image is always your starting point - take a good photo, and you won’t need to do much except post it in an online gallery. I think the real buying choice will come down to which offers a good deal - Microsoft has a functional, simple and competitive product in Digital Image Suite 10 and the price is relatively competitive with Jasc’s Paint Shop Pro to boot.