Adobe has now released upgrades to its consumer photo organizer and editor, Photoshop Elements, and consumer video editor, Premiere Elements.

Photoshop Elements 5 is a minor upgrade from version 4. (If you have an earlier version, upgrade immediately – the improvements are dramatic.) It continues to be the richest photo organizer available, as well as having unparalleled editing tools – if you don’t mind a learning curve and some initial confusion. Some people will prefer a simpler program like Picasa, or the simpler controls in Microsoft Digital Image Pro, but most people would be better served in the long run by installing Photoshop Elements and using it exclusively for everything related to digital photos – retrieving photos from cameras or memory cards, scanning, organizing, editing, and creating projects and gifts.

I had trouble integrating Photoshop Elements 4 with Windows Media Center Editionhere’s my notes about that experience. For the handful of people running Windows Media Center in its fullscreen mode, it’s good news that the new version automatically installs itself into Windows Media Center, so photos can be displayed in Media Center with the assistance of Photoshop Elements’ ability to search by date and by tag. The bad news is that the integration was badly broken on my Windows Media Center system and required registry editing to work correctly. Sigh.

Premiere Elements 3 is a significant upgrade to previous versions and stands head and shoulders above any other video editing program on the market. Nothing can make video editing simple, but much thought has gone into the screen layout of Premiere Elements so that the screen controls are in logical places. Many functions that were hidden in previous versions (and frequently unavailable in competing programs) are arranged naturally and work as intuitively as possible. If you have a digital camcorder and you’ve been stymied by the cruddy software supplied with it, or if you’ve been frustrated by other programs, give Premiere Elements 3 a look.

Having said that, it’s worth reiterating that video editing is the most appallingly difficult thing I’ve ever tried to figure out in all the years I’ve spent around computers. Be prepared for some serious head-scratching and many failures before you feel like you’re making much progress.

Although I’m generally giving high marks to Premiere Elements 3, I’ve already run into a glitch. I have yet to be able to successfully capture any input from a USB device – two webcams and a Pinnacle Moviebox work perfectly in other programs but Premiere Elements more or less ignores them. Are there programs today that can perform all of their functions successfully? It feels like they’re few and far between.

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