Finally, Elements 3.0 is here. Jamie Harrison fi nds that there are somerntasty improvements over the previous version

elementsPrice: £69

*Type: Image-editing software
*Syetem requirements: Mac OS X v 10.2.8/10.3;Windows XP Pro or Home with service pack 1, 2000 with service pack 4 or later

For the majority of camera owners Adobe Photoshop is an unnecessary and overly complicated tool. All you want to do is fix your pictures and print them, or maybe play around without worrying about the finer aspects of picture control. And let?s face it, Photoshop is expensive and contains many tools for the designer, the repro house and so on, that most of us just don?t need. Adobe Photoshop Elements then, contains as the name implies, just the essential elements that most people will ever need. Now onto its third incarnation, there are some new features to make life easier. Some of the new features come from the rebuilt Photoshop CS,some are unique to Elements 3, while for Windows users at least, Elements has also absorbed the stand-alone Album software. Adobe didn?t include this in the Mac version as Apple?s iPhoto is equivalent and is included within the Mac OS. Briefly I will start of an overview of some of the most interesting new features. Firstly the new package now supports RAW camera files, together with 16-bit processing of images. This provides a lot more control over your pictures, as well as providing a much higher colour depth and tonality, so better prints can be made. This is also the first package to have Adobe?s new DNG format supported straight from the box, so archiving, theoretically at least, should be safer and future proof. There are also CD and DVD creation tools included to further ensure safe storage of your pictures. In keeping with the principles of ease of use, some new quick fix tools have been added. The spot healing brush, for example, makes an easy job of fixing skin problems, while the quick fix tool automatically fixes exposure, colour and contrast problems. The excellent Highlight/Shadow filter from CS has now been included, which allows an easy solution to fix backlit or underlit pictures. Meanwhile the Photo Compare tool allows you to view and zoom in on similar pictures to choose which is the best. Sharing pictures is easy too, as the email option automatically resizes pictures for email, and allows you to add themes and backgrounds to transform your pictures into ecards. Alternatively you can produce slide shows of favourite pictures. The improved picture package lets you arrange multiple photos onto one page for printing, saving paper and time. This in particular is an especially simple and useful tool, and really speeds up the printing process. All the tools from previous versions are present, so upgrading isn?t a major upheaval for existing users, and the interface maintains a simple, uncluttered look. As it is a slimmed-down version of the full Photoshop it also loads quicker on your PC, so can be used as a fast fix tool for simple jobs. That?s not to say the software is limited; many of the things you may want to do in Photoshop, such as cut-outs, montages and special effects can still be carried out in Elements.

At about a tenth of the price of its daddy, Elements is a bargain, and the inclusion of Album for PC users is an added bonus. This is a worthy upgrade with some genuine improvements and useful features.

PROS: RAW editing, ease of use, album
CONS: No album for MAC, still no curves control

Features 16
Ease of use 18
Performance 18
Design 18
value 20