For consumers, the world of graphics software breaks down roughly into two categories:

Photo editing programs – for working with images from your scanner or digital camera. Examples: Adobe Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro.

Home publishing programs – for creating projects like greeting cards, signs, labels, etc., with clip art and photos. Although these programs typically have the ability to do many things with digital photos, the tools aren’t as powerful as dedicated imaging programs. Examples: Print Shop, Print Master.

For the last couple of years, I’ve used Microsoft Picture It, which had all the projects offered by the home publishing suites, plus more than adequate photo editing tools, all presented in a very easy to use interface.

Microsoft has changed Picture It’s focus with the 2003 release. Digital Image Pro 7.0 and two cheaper Picture It 7.0 titles are no longer intended to compete with the home publishing suites. There’s far more emphasis on working with digital photos, and far less on creating projects with clip art. Digital Image Pro is competing with Adobe Photoshop Elements – and it should win the competition; it’s got a clean, easy-to-use interface, while Photoshop Elements shares an incomprehensible interface with its big brother, Adobe Photoshop.

I’m going to pick up Digital Image Pro, but I’ll be back in the old position of wishing there was a single program that could handle all my graphics needs.

Regardless of the program you use, you might learn something from the Digital Image Pro Companion Guide, which you can download from this site. It’s a marvelous introduction to the world of digital images, with sections on digital cameras, scanners, and working with photos on a computer. Some of it is devoted to the Digital Image Pro program, of course, but a fair amount of it is entry-level, general information that anyone could benefit from.

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