In Organizing Photos for Non-Dummies, Part 1, I began my look at the most recent photo-management and photo-editing software packages. That discussion concentrated on two products: Adobe Systems' Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Microsoft Picture It! Digital Image Suite 9.0. This week, I'll conclude my examination of the Microsoft entry and look at a third product, Jasc Software's Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0.

Although Digital Image Library 9.0 is the newcomer to the more comprehensive Digital Image Suite, its Digital Image Pro 9.0 image editor is the most recent version of a product that's been around a while. Digital Image Pro is a full-featured image editor that lets you touch up photos, apply special effects, and edit multiple pictures simultaneously. I have little doubt that most digital-photo enthusiasts would be quite happy with the product. The application uses a Windows XP-like, task-based UI. A strip of tasks--Quick Links, Touchup, Format, Effects, Edges, and Add Something--dominates the left side of the application window, and two image wells, dubbed Stack and Files, fill up the right side. The Stack well contains image layers that appear to be analogous to those that you use in applications such as Adobe Photoshop, and the concept of a stack reminds me of a similar feature in Microsoft's earlier Office drawing package, PhotoDraw. Basically, a stack is an individual object in an image file, and it's a construct that the typical consumer won't find terribly relevant. The Files well contains all the photos with which you're working.

Microsoft has taken the task-based approach to an extreme in Digital Image Pro, and the product is wonderfully successful at stepping users through common tasks. In short, you load a photo and select a task--such as "Brightness and Contrast" or "Fix Red Eye"--complete the task, and move on. While you're completing a task, the software typically presents you with a series of steps. For example, "Fix Red Eye" instructs you to "Zoom in on the eyes, click the red part of the eyes," then click "Red-eye autofix" or "reset" to continue. To close the task, you click Done or Cancel. The software is extremely easy to use, and if you're familiar with the task at hand, you can skip the explanatory text and get to work.

The problem with this package is that you must spend more than $100 for the full Digital Image Suite, which includes both products; you can't buy Digital Image Library separately. Frankly, I think Digital Image Pro is a more successful product than Microsoft's library application anyway, so you might be better off buying just Digital Image Pro and skipping the full suite product.

You've probably heard of Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, which is a popular and powerful bargain-priced digital-image editor. Paint Shop Pro has done so well that its parent company has launched a suite of products under the Jasc name. The latest product is Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0, which helps you easily capture, organize, share, print, and find your digital photos. In most respects, Paint Shop Photo Album is superior to both Adobe Photoshop Album and Digital Image Library because it offers simpler access to advanced features such as panorama creation and batch image editing. Sadly, however, Paint Shop Photo Album uses a hierarchical, Windows Explorer-like organizational structure--like the Microsoft product--which gives the product a less natural feel than Adobe's excellent product.

The interface is the first and most obvious way that these products differentiate themselves. Adobe's entry grudgingly lets you view photos hierarchically (by folder structure) but defaults to a simpler, tags-based view that is as graphical by nature as the photos you're trying to find. The product also features a similarly well-designed photo well and calendar views. So, if you want an elegant interface, Adobe is the way to go.

However, after you get past its utilitarian interface, Paint Shop Photo Album exposes more functionality than the competition. In fact, Jasc's entry might let you forgo a dedicated image-editing application, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 or Digital Image Pro 9.0. For example, Paint Shop Photo Album's batch-resizing and photo-renaming features are more full-featured, if less wizardlike, than similar features in the Adobe and Microsoft products--a boon for people like me who upload lots of pictures to custom Web sites. With Adobe's product, I'm forced to return to Adobe Photoshop Elements, itself a $100 product, to easily batch resize and rename photos.

So which is the best image-management package? Typical consumers will want the elegance and simplicity of Adobe Photoshop Album. Consumers who have more technical needs should consider Jasc's interesting Paint Shop Photo Album. And be sure to download the trial version of Paint Shop Pro 8.0 while you're at it; this package includes some features that even Adobe Photoshop CS can't match, including a cool Background Eraser tool I'm now examining for a future review.

Because you can't buy Microsoft's image-management application without buying the entire suite, that product should fairly be compared with similar suites from Adobe and Jasc, neither of which are as integrated as Microsoft's offering. Today, for roughly the same price, you can buy Jasc's Paint Shop Power Suite - Photo Edition, which includes both Paint Shop Pro 8.0 and Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0; Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 with Adobe Photo Album 2.0 (really a bundle and not an integrated suite); or Digital Image Suite 9.0. Microsoft's suite is probably the simplest offering, and Adobe Photoshop Elements is a bit too complicated, I think, for average users. However, I use Adobe Photoshop Elements regularly; if you take the time to master its interface, it won't let you down. But don't expect the simple step-by-step walkthroughs that Microsoft provides.

I don't have an obvious winner to declare. All these products offer some unique features and address a wide gap in XP's core digital-photo functionality. As is often the case, the product you end up choosing will be the one that most closely matches your needs.

In Organizing Photos for Non-Dummies, Part 1, I began my look at the most recent photo-management and photo-editing software packages. That discussion concentrated on two products: Adobe Systems' Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Microsoft Picture It! Digital Image Suite 9.0. This week, I'll conclude my examination of the Microsoft entry and look at a third product, Jasc Software's Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0.

Although Digital Image Library 9.0 is the newcomer to the more comprehensive Digital Image Suite, its Digital Image Pro 9.0 image editor is the most recent version of a product that's been around a while. Digital Image Pro is a full-featured image editor that lets you touch up photos, apply special effects, and edit multiple pictures simultaneously. I have little doubt that most digital-photo enthusiasts would be quite happy with the product. The application uses a Windows XP-like, task-based UI. A strip of tasks--Quick Links, Touchup, Format, Effects, Edges, and Add Something--dominates the left side of the application window, and two image wells, dubbed Stack and Files, fill up the right side. The Stack well contains image layers that appear to be analogous to those that you use in applications such as Adobe Photoshop, and the concept of a stack reminds me of a similar feature in Microsoft's earlier Office drawing package, PhotoDraw. Basically, a stack is an individual object in an image file, and it's a construct that the typical consumer won't find terribly relevant. The Files well contains all the photos with which you're working.

Microsoft has taken the task-based approach to an extreme in Digital Image Pro, and the product is wonderfully successful at stepping users through common tasks. In short, you load a photo and select a task--such as "Brightness and Contrast" or "Fix Red Eye"--complete the task, and move on. While you're completing a task, the software typically presents you with a series of steps. For example, "Fix Red Eye" instructs you to "Zoom in on the eyes, click the red part of the eyes," then click "Red-eye autofix" or "reset" to continue. To close the task, you click Done or Cancel. The software is extremely easy to use, and if you're familiar with the task at hand, you can skip the explanatory text and get to work.

The problem with this package is that you must spend more than $100 for the full Digital Image Suite, which includes both products; you can't buy Digital Image Library separately. Frankly, I think Digital Image Pro is a more successful product than Microsoft's library application anyway, so you might be better off buying just Digital Image Pro and skipping the full suite product.

You've probably heard of Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, which is a popular and powerful bargain-priced digital-image editor. Paint Shop Pro has done so well that its parent company has launched a suite of products under the Jasc name. The latest product is Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0, which helps you easily capture, organize, share, print, and find your digital photos. In most respects, Paint Shop Photo Album is superior to both Adobe Photoshop Album and Digital Image Library because it offers simpler access to advanced features such as panorama creation and batch image editing. Sadly, however, Paint Shop Photo Album uses a hierarchical, Windows Explorer-like organizational structure--like the Microsoft product--which gives the product a less natural feel than Adobe's excellent product.

The interface is the first and most obvious way that these products differentiate themselves. Adobe's entry grudgingly lets you view photos hierarchically (by folder structure) but defaults to a simpler, tags-based view that is as graphical by nature as the photos you're trying to find. The product also features a similarly well-designed photo well and calendar views. So, if you want an elegant interface, Adobe is the way to go.

However, after you get past its utilitarian interface, Paint Shop Photo Album exposes more functionality than the competition. In fact, Jasc's entry might let you forgo a dedicated image-editing application, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 or Digital Image Pro 9.0. For example, Paint Shop Photo Album's batch-resizing and photo-renaming features are more full-featured, if less wizardlike, than similar features in the Adobe and Microsoft products--a boon for people like me who upload lots of pictures to custom Web sites. With Adobe's product, I'm forced to return to Adobe Photoshop Elements, itself a $100 product, to easily batch resize and rename photos.

So which is the best image-management package? Typical consumers will want the elegance and simplicity of Adobe Photoshop Album. Consumers who have more technical needs should consider Jasc's interesting Paint Shop Photo Album. And be sure to download the trial version of Paint Shop Pro 8.0 while you're at it; this package includes some features that even Adobe Photoshop CS can't match, including a cool Background Eraser tool I'm now examining for a future review.

Because you can't buy Microsoft's image-management application without buying the entire suite, that product should fairly be compared with similar suites from Adobe and Jasc, neither of which are as integrated as Microsoft's offering. Today, for roughly the same price, you can buy Jasc's Paint Shop Power Suite - Photo Edition, which includes both Paint Shop Pro 8.0 and Paint Shop Photo Album 4.0; Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 with Adobe Photo Album 2.0 (really a bundle and not an integrated suite); or Digital Image Suite 9.0. Microsoft's suite is probably the simplest offering, and Adobe Photoshop Elements is a bit too complicated, I think, for average users. However, I use Adobe Photoshop Elements regularly; if you take the time to master its interface, it won't let you down. But don't expect the simple step-by-step walkthroughs that Microsoft provides.

I don't have an obvious winner to declare. All these products offer some unique features and address a wide gap in XP's core digital-photo functionality. As is often the case, the product you end up choosing will be the one that most closely matches your needs.