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Photo software review Microsoft digital photographers

Historically, Microsoft has steered away from producing any photo editing software.

The “Paint” program that was bundled with Windows was about as far as they went.

That all changed when digital photography took off.

Microsoft saw the growing potential of image editing software and realised that "Paint" couldn’t compete with the likes of Adobe’s Photoshop. So they produced Digital Image.

To be honest, they still can’t compete with Photoshop.

Digital Image is a reasonably competent piece of photo editing software, but it’s not going to worry Adobe just yet.

Digital Image photo software review – importing photos
When you first install Digital Image it will ask you where your photos are stored on your hard drive. Once you have selected the folders you click on the “Import” button and it searches those folders for you.

The range of files Digital Image can find is less than Photoshop’s. It will find most common file formats (jpeg, gif . . .), but not RAW files. If you take RAW photos, then Digital Image is not for you. If you don’t know what a RAW file is, then you don’t need to worry! (click to find out about RAWs here)

Once it has found your photos it will display small thumbnails of them so that you can easily see what you have got.

Digital Image doesn’t do much else at this stage, which is a shame. Photoshop does clever stuff like automatically fix red eye as it goes. Nothing special about Digital Image though.

I’ve highlighted the two key areas of the album part of Digital Image.

There isn’t much else of note in the album part. There’s no timeline, no calendar view – in fact nothing much to make finding photos easier. Photoshop has all these features, and they are incredibly useful. This is definitely one area where Microsoft need to up their game a little.

Digital Image photo software review – editing photos
Selecting a photo and then clicking on “Edit” will take you to the editing part of the software.

The editing options are acceptable, but this is no Photoshop. Have a look at the screenshot below:

Box 1 gives you access to the basic editing tools.

Box 2 shows the “common tasks”. This is where you’ll find the real meat of the software. The editing options allow you to make slightly more sophisticated adjustments to your digital images.

The “effects” section contains many of the standard effects, and are all many users will want. I’ve expanded the section in the screenshot above.

Box 3 is the editing pane. This is the work area where you make your changes.

One downside to the software lies in the use of layers. In Digital Image the layers form what Microsoft call the “stack”. It doesn’t work very well though.

For example, it’s not possible to make an adjustment layer, as you can do in Photoshop. You have to work on a copy of your existing layer. This means any adjustments (to the brightness, or saturation, say) cannot be adjusted once set. You’re stuck with them.

Another annoyance is with the undo function. This works by clicking on the undo button repeatedly to undo your changes. You have to go back through them one by one.

Compare this with the “history” function in Photoshop. With “history” you are shown every change you have made to your photo, and you can jump to places in your edit.

There are other options in the edit part of the software, but too many to go through in detail here. You won't find anything special, but all the basics are there.

The features available in Digital Image fall somewhere in between a basic editing program (such as Picasa), and full editing software (such as Photoshop).

Digital Image photo software review – a summary
Digital Image photo software review - the positive:

    * The album is fairly easy to use, and allows for multiple tags.
    * The set up of menus will be familiar to Windows users.
    * The editing features are adequate for most editing tasks.
    * It’s keenly priced – cheaper than Photoshop, but there again, Picasa is free.

Digital Image photo software review - the negative:

    * The use of tags, while ok, is not up to the standard of Photoshop.
    * Few automated functions (for example, Picasa automatically adds photos to your albums)
    * Editing tasks are a little limited.

If I were writing Microsoft’s school report I’d have to say “could try harder”. Digital Image is ok, but it’s not great.Digital Image photo software review – tagging photos
Tagging a photo in Digital Image is a little like using the standard Windows file tree. In that respect it is at least a familiar process.

You can certainly see the Microsoft heritage behind Digital Image, as this “painting” process is a lot like the “format painter” found in Microsoft Word. If you’ve used that, this will be familiar. If not, it won’t be!

This process works better that Google’s Picasa, but is nowhere near as easy to use as Photoshop’s drag-and-drop tags.Once you’ve labelled your photos, you can find them again by clicking on the file tree. Photoshop allows multiple tags, and fortunately, so does Digital Image.

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