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The Complete Image-Editing Suite

Jasc Software's Paint Shop Pro 8.0 ($99 direct) improves and expands on what was already the best value in image-editing software. Paint Shop Pro offers a complete suite of image-editing and special-effects tools at a fraction of the price of the competing Adobe Photoshop 7.0. Version 8.0 sports a revamped and simplified user interface and adds several new features that make the product more competitive with Adobe Photoshop 7.0, including a script editor, support for JPEG 2000, and improved multilayer image tools. This version also includes some unique features, such as a one-click Photo Fix button, an easy-to-use red-eye removal tool, and an excellent template-based printing feature, that simplify common tasks for users new to photo editing.

Paint Shop Pro really shines in its ability to correct distorted images. The compact zoom lenses used in point-and-shoot digital cameras often produce noticeable barrel, pincushion, and fisheye distortion, especially around the edges of images. Paint Shop Pro 8.0 includes several filters that correct this with a few mouse clicks. A similar tool fixes perspective distortion caused by photographing a building with a wide-angle lens. The background eraser, another unique new feature, lets you erase large areas of a single color, such as a sky, or a solid-color background.

Full-featured photo-editing programs can be difficult¡Xif not downright intimidating¡Xto learn. Thankfully, this is not the case with Paint Shop Pro. The software's Learning Center feature uses predefined scripts to guide you through complex tasks with a few clicks of the mouse. For example, the Straighten a Crooked Photo script helps you correct for camera tilt or for a crooked scan by letting you set a straight rule on which to line up a horizontal or vertical line in the image. Other scripts show you how to remove red-eye, resize an image, and add text and borders.

Jasc Software sells Paint Shop Pro via an online download for $99. For an additional $10, you can get a boxed version that includes coupons for free paper samples, free prints from Shutterfly, and a coupon for a book on using Paint Shop Pro.

Paint Shop Pro began life as a simple image viewer and file format converter. Over the years, it has evolved into a full-featured image editor, while maintaining its bargain-basement price. Paint Shop Pro 8.0 offers an appealing combination of features, ease of use, and price. It's worth having either as an addition to your image-editing toolkit or as your complete toolkit.

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