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Reviewed: Corel Digital Studio 2010


Corel Digital Studio 2010 starts out looking a lot like Adobe's Bridge; which is a good start.

You may remember my article of a few weeks ago about Corel's newest software package, Digital Studio 2010. Well, the fine folks at Corel gave me a copy to try out, and told me to try and break it. I did. I couldn't.

We'll start from just after installation since everyone should be able to accomplish that much without my help. There is a little gadget that you can launch that will sit off in the corner of your screen; this is great for those of you that want a clean desktop uncluttered by various shortcuts. If you are someone that doesn't mind heading into the start menu, that is perfectly acceptable as well. On the gadget you get four options: Photo, Video, Burn and Play, each taking you to, what else, the photo editor, the video editor, the disc burning screen, and the playback screen. Easy enough.

The first thing to know about this software is that, once you learn one (photo or video), the other program will be the same. The same types of features are present in the same spots. This is way helpful because there are too many different programs - sometimes even from the same companies - with controls in different areas. Having the same layout no matter which part of the program you are using is very helpful.

Starting with the photo end of the spectrum, PaintShop Photo 2010 opens into a display similar to Adobe Bridge, as shown in the screen shot at the top of the page. This is a good thing, as it is a clean, easy to use interface. You can size the folders to get more on the page, or to see a few thumbnails. Organizing can be done by date, name, or rating - which you can apply to each of the photos in the editing section.

The "Express Edit" screen is minimal and smartly laid out.

As you double click first on the folder, and then the picture to bring it into the editor, you are greeted by a clean, minimalistic screen to show all the options you will need. You have often used editing features across the top of the screen and along the sides of the frame. All the way to the right of the screen, you get a handy "More Tools" pop out dock that allows more fine-tuning of your image.

Probably the coolest features along the top of your image are the red eye fix and the straightening tool. The red eye is handy for those people you know that seem to be extra prone to red eye; although I wouldn't recommend it (I am a little bit more paranoid about some of this stuff, and wouldn't want to end up with black where you don't want it), you can basically just get a giant red eye circle near the offending eye, click, and move on. It's that easy.

The other great feature that's now easy to use for everyone is the straighten tool. When you click on this icon, it brings up a grid that you can use to make sure your horizon line is straight (or your building, person, or whatever), then you grab a slider and start rotating until you get the picture where you want it. The program does all the cropping for you! Easy.

The "More Tools" pop out menu gives you some other great options. For the scrapbookers in the crowd, there is a "Picture Tubes" menu that allows you to add stamps to your image. Need a certain something to set off your image? Grab for the "Edges" or "Frames" tools. The "Special Effects" menu allows for black and white conversion, sepia toning, applying an antique finish, or giving your portraits a soft-focus effect. These effects work well for the most part. The biggest thing I would like to have seen added is a slider to adjust the soft focus filter. I think the setting is a bit too strong, however I'm not much for this effect as it is.

Then you can get into some more specialized editing features. There is a fine tuning section that offers more control over things like your shadows, highlights, saturation and sharpness. There is a handy "Suggest" button at the bottom, which does fairly well at suggesting the right amount of tweaking to the images. You have to watch, though, and remember that it is only a suggestion; because, as I've said before, you are smarter than the computer. See the suggestion and use it for a jumping off point.

The final part of the editing that is fun is the "Makeover" tab. This provides such things as a blemish fixer, teeth whitening, and, the one that makes me smile every time, the suntan button. The suntan button is great for those mid-winter pictures when your girlfriend hasn't had time to get to the tanning salon; I know mine is going to love it! It is basically a warming filter that gets applied only to skin-tones. Grab the brush, select an intensity (I have found it best to move it down a bit from the default setting). The teeth whitening is a button that allows some great tricks if you just imagine a little. You can obviously fix teeth by taking them from yellow to white with the click of a mouse; it works quite well. But you can also apply this to eyes. Eyes normally gain a bit of a color cast when the ambient light reflects in them. Using the teeth whitening tool, you can click on the whites of the eyes to take them back to white as well. This is almost a necessity when whitening teeth, as you want the eyes and teeth to be about the same level of whiteness to look natural.

Perhaps the best part to the image editing side of the program is that you can always revert to the original version of the picture. Always. Just hit the save button, but decided it's not what you want? Just hit the "Revert to Original" button at the top of the screen. Edit your photo six months ago and are now wondering what you were thinking when you made the changes? Hit the "Revert to Original" button.

Create photo projects with ease.

What image program today would be caught without a project creation aspect? Not this one, that's for sure. Included in this package is a creator for Photo Books, Calendars, Cards, Slideshows, and Collages. These work fairly well, and will fill in all the empty picture spaces until it runs out of either spaces or photos. Or, you can fill in on your own. There are a few cool things to note.

First, the program makes it easy to pan the photo around in the area it is going to occupy, allowing you to decide how it will appear even if you let the computer auto-fill. The other great thing is that you don't have to totally worry about having every image edited before you put it into a project. Once you are into the arranging and editing of your project, you can quickly - straight from the project window - open the image in the familiar Express Edit window to either edit for the first time, or tweak your edit for the specific project. The biggest downside to the photo projects I could find was that it seems you are not able to insert photos into specific days. This seems small, but is one feature that I've found elsewhere that I like a lot.

Going into the video side of things - briefly, since we're all about photos! - there is a lot to like. To someone that doesn't like the thought of video editing, Corel's VideoStudio 2010 is a great piece of software. The controls, as stated above, are laid out exactly the same. You can do things like brighten the video, reduce the noise and shake, and change the color balance. And that's just the start.

Ever try to cut your video and end up deleting the wrong part? Never fear. Everything is laid out for you clearly, and in clear terms. In the photo above, you get the option to keep the selected part (in between the orange flags), or delete the selected part. It tells you in those terms. No more confusion!

Editing together various clips has become easier, too. Just click the "Create" tab at the top, drag in your selected clips, and go to it. Again, you can open the videos in the Express Edit window to quickly change the clip on the fly. There is even an option to add background music, and an easy to use slider to fade back and forth for when you want to hear someone talk on the video. Even better, the rendering seems to get done on the fly, which means that you won't have to wait for the clip to totally conform to your edits before you can start watching.

This program is not for those of you that need serious editing software, rather it's for those of you that are a bit put off of editing programs because they may be too complex. There is a serious ease of use to the whole program that makes it not only easy but fun to edit your pictures - how often do you get to give yourself an instant suntan that doesn't look orange?

The downsides are few: the auto editing goes a bit overboard at times, giving too contrasty and bright results; there are a few times where you can't add pictures where you might like (the days of the calendar, for exmaple); sometimes you want a bit more control over the automatic filters (the afforementioned soft-focus filter, for instance).

So the bottom line is that this is a good editing program to give the average user some easy to use options. This is especially true on the video editing side of the equation. As the people at Corel will remind, there are far too many of you that are leaving your pictures dormant on your computer for fear of doing anything with them. This program gives you the power to get to editing, and get you printing, whether it is in the form of actual photographic prints, a photo book, or some other fun project.

If you are looking for an easy to use image editing software (or something easy you can teach your technology-challenged mother!), I definitely recommend this.


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