With even the most humble mobile phone now sporting a 2MP digital camera, and let's not forget the growing number of 5MP camera phones, it seems the age of digital is truly here. Which is why there are now a wide number of digital image suites on the market. To make matters even more complicated there are a variety of free tools, such as Picasa2 from Google and PhotoShop Album Starter from Abobe, so why would you want to pay for a tool?
A few weeks ago we looked at Serif's main DTP package, PagePlus X2, and AlbumPlus follows the same numbering system. However, in this instance, it isn't the twelfth version of the software, the X2 simple refers to it being compatible with Vista.
In keeping with the Vista compatibility, the interface has a neat new look that is very much in line with Windows Aero. To this end, it's a clean interface with a large central window for viewing thumbnails of the images on your system. Across the top of the screen are the most common functions you need to perform. There is an improved back and forward button, similar to those found on your web browser, so you never really get lost. You can add a host of tags to your images, which make them easier to catalogue and find later.
The first time you load up the program it will scan you PC for image files and present them in album formats. There is a wider degree of support for other packages, such as Serif's own MediaPlus but also Adobe PhotoShop.
As with any such package you can edit your images, from the simple things such as cropping and removing red-eye, to altering the contrast and brightness. This all sounds rather basic but for most people it is sufficient. It's what you can then do with your images that make it more interesting, as there is not only support for collecting and sharing but for also creating projects. There are a wide variety of templates to choose from, the most obvious being postcards and calendars that you can add your images into. These are a little basic and can be awkward to change but they work well.
When it comes to sharing images, you can easily send them as email attachments or you can automatically resize images to send them to a mobile phone. You can also create a slideshow, which can be burnt to disc. Alternatively you can simply make a PhotoDisc for sharing with family and friends.
Serif AlbumPlus X2 has to compete with an increasing number of free downloads and on the surface, the £40 (inc. VAT) asking price is a little expensive and if your needs are basic you won't really get the full value out of it.
However, if you want to do more with your images than simply store them, there may well be just enough here to recommend it.