The explosion in digital photography has meant there are hundreds of photos on our computers at any one time that need editing if there to be viewed at their best advantage. This has resulted in software manufacturers having to design ever more complex tools that run easier and quicker.

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is a large step forward from the previous version and comes with a host of new features. While none of them are particularly new, they are all intended to speed up the processing routine.

Most new photo and video applications have taken a leaf out of Microsoft’s book and opted for a look similar to Vista, Photo X2 has been given a new interface that comes with a graphite grey colouring, which looks at little odd at first. The styling isn’t consistent though, as soon as you open the New or Open folders, for instance, they open in the familiar Windows blue style.

The Makeover tool is designed for those with a little more experience who want to start modifying their images. The Thinify tool lets you slim people a lot easier than in previous versions and there are also tools for adding a suntan and getting rid of bloodshot eyes and blemishes. While none of these may sound essential, your subjects may well appreciate the effort put into using them.

The new feature we found ourselves using the most was Express Lab, which allows you to batch edit entire folders worth of images, which load as thumbnails along the bottom of the page. As you would expect, this feature comes with a smart fix editor that allows you to change the brightness, shadows, highlights and even colour saturation. You can change the settings manually but the quickest way is to use the Suggested button, which we found worked just as well.

For the more experienced user, there is even a histogram to check overall exposure levels are acceptable. To be fair, we found the controls a little confusing at first, the icons aren’t really in the right order, but once you get used to their placement this is a quick and effortless tool to use.

For more experimental images, HDR Photo Merge allows you to take two images with quite different exposures and merge them. This can be fiddly and we found it a little harder to manage than Corel promised but if you have the patience, then it’s worth attempting. If you make mistakes it can often be infuriating, so the Crop as New Image tool automatically makes a backup of your changes, saving your original. This may not seem like a great step forward but it’s a neat time saver.

There are plenty of other features, including new layer styles, picture tubes and frames, auto-preserve originals, dynamic language switching, black and white film conversion and even visible watermarks, which all add up to a comprehensive list of tools to get the grip of.

Price when reviewed:

In use, we found Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 a relatively simple program to get to grips with. If you simply want to edit photos and leave it at that, the basic feature set allows you to do just that.

However, there is enough here to allow the experienced, or simply the curious, to grow with their interest.