Adobe Photoshop Elements 2

by Joe Gillespie — Nov 1, 2002

Photoshop Elements 2 To describe Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 as a cut-down version of Photoshop would be missing the point somewhat. Where it's true that it does share a great many of the same features, and underlying code too no doubt, Elements is aimed at a completely different market. The program may be similar, but it is packaged completely differently. Photoshop, with its fairly steep learning curve and price will do just about anything that a graphics professional could want – with a bit of coaxing. Elements removes all the difficult stuff, putting on a much friendlier face for those that don't need, and can't afford, the advanced pre-press work flow.

Anybody who has bought a scanner or digital camera and struggled with the bundled software will find Elements like a breath of fresh air. Bundled software tends to be fairly basic, and that's being kind. Some of the famous 'name brands' in the scanner and camera marketplace provide software that is shameful. Given that you have the basic driver software in the form of a Photoshop plug-in, Elements will let you import, manipulate and output the images in ways you never dreamed possible – and with a lot of fun in the process. If you don't have a plug-in, don't worry. The new file browser is great for sorting through folders full of images and also lets you rename and rotate the thumbnail previews if you like.

You can grab photos from digital cameras, or still frames from video footage. Resize, crop, get rid of nasty red-eye effects, blur, sharpen and all the basic stuff. Then you can play with the filters and effects. They are not just menu items as they are in Photoshop, but chosen from colorful thumbnail icons in a drop-down palette. If you need help at any stage, it is never far away with a comprehensive and well thought out set of help files and tutorials and a Help Search facility to find the ones you need quickly.

There are even some features here that big-brother Photoshop doesn't have, such as the ability to stitch multiple images into panoramas and to attach photos to email messages.

For Web designers, Elements could be the only graphics package you need. Apart from the photo manipulation features, it can also set text. There aren't as many anti-aliasing options as in the full Photoshop, but you are unlikely to miss them. You still have a vast array of instant effects for stylising text to make logos or navigational buttons.

The 'Save for Web' feature is similar to the one in Photoshop and Illustrator although you only get the original and one optimised view, not the two or four-up that the more expensive packages provide. Again, no big deal – it's enough. You can still save your images as GIF, JPEG, PNG8 or 24 with all the usual colour-depth, dithering and compression options. Unlike Photoshop, Elements rolls the GIF animation features and image resizing into to the 'Save for Web' window, which actually makes more sense than having to launch ImageReady although it doesn't offer quite so many options.

With all the wonderful features, and the very attractive price, there must be some things that Elements doesn't have. Well, yes, it doesn't go anywhere near CMYK and all those horrible color management profiles that confuse even the most experienced Photoshop users. It has much shorter menus – great! In fact, the only thing I would miss if I were to downgrade from Photoshop would be the path tools for drawing complex selections – but the intended audience would probably shy away from drawing Bezier shapes anyway, so if something has to go, that's a prime candidate.

I could go on for ages about the similarities and slight differences between Photoshop and Elements – from the point of view of someone who has been using Photoshop since version 1.0 – but that would be wrong. Whatever those differences are, they are very minor and make Elements easier and more appropriate for the intended audience. One thing Elements does have that none of its competitors can offer is the Adobe Photoshop pedigree.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0
Features red bar95%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar95%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar95%
Manufacturer Adobe
Price $99 for Mac and PC. (Check around for deals)
Summary Unrivalled bitmap editor, easy to use and at a very good price. Only bettered by Photoshop itself.
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