Monday, December 17, 2012

Impressions: Corel Paint Shop Pro X5 After 3 Weeks

I was going to wait a month, but I realized a month would be right at Christmas, and that's probably not going to be a time when I'm interested in blogging.  I was previously using version 8 (yes, I know.) because I didn't really like PSPX and didn't find that there was enough in it to warrant buying.  So some of my impressions are probably going to mention "new" features that have been in several of the Corel versions since then.

Disclaimer: The following is my opinion.  It's a bunch of impressions, not a full review of the program.

The good

As I mentioned before, the menu options haven't moved around too much.  I've read some users complaining that the Corel versions of the program are much harder to use and figure out than the old Jasc version was.  I'm not a photographer, so I don't know if the photography-related features are much different, but for my use, the creative editing features are not that different at all.

For me, the menus are set up simply and intuitively.  I have relatively little trouble finding what I need, and I can still accomplish most of the effects I want fairly quickly.

(As a side note: it used to be that I could do EVERYTHING I wanted much more quickly and easily than people I know who use Photoshop, but from what I've read and seen in recent PS-related tutorials, Adobe seems to have moved way ahead in terms of "push-button" tasks and filters.  I don't mean actions or scripts, I mean built in program features that create certain effects and styles automatically.)

Increased maximum brush size.  I work on high resolution images meant for print on a regular basis.  I had pretty much stopped utilizing brushes when I did that in v. 8 because the max size was only 500x500 px.  The max size is now 999x999.  I'm not sure if there IS a max size in Photoshop, but I'm aware of higher resolution Photoshop brushes out there.  So, while it's an improvement, it's less of one than it could be.

Depth of field is a fun thing to play with.

The customizable selection dialog now has a "use current selection as default" checkbox, which is a great help to me in editing selections,  since I have bad depth perception and have a hard time "eyeballing" a selection and getting it the way I want.  Sometimes I just need an extra three or four pixels on one side and although "edit selection" will work, it  I think that's a return to something we had in v7, though, so I can't really credit Corel for it.

The Bad

Slow load times are still my biggest complaint.  I did manage to find the interactive script toggle, which was my other concern last time.

I've started having some problems with crashes on startup.  I'd read that on some reviews, but I didn't experience it directly in my free trial.

Freezing and crashing when importing Photoshop brushes.  There is a workaround for this (open source .abr viewers will convert the brushes to .png format and then you can open the .pngs and export them again as PSP brushes) but there shouldn't have to be.  If Corel is going to use "easily import Photoshop brushes" as a selling point, then importing the brushes should be easy.

Some of my filters won't work.  (And the issue is not a missing DLL.) They work just fine in v8, but when I load them in X5, the program crashes.  The filters I'm referring to are mainly useful for creative design, not photo-editing, so whether it matters to you will depend on what you use the program for.

Lack of quality user-generated content.  This is not a direct complaint I have with Paint Shop Pro or Corel.  It's still frustrating.  PSP is not as popular as it used to be. (I'm sure someone will comment that Corel is responsible for that decline in popularity, but I don't want to enter that debate.) Photoshop brushes can sort of be imported, but seamless tiles, gradients, and custom shapes cannot.  There is some content out there for PSP, but I'm not finding nearly as much as I used to, and what I have found is often not the best quality.    If I had to guess, I would say that a lot of users are switching to Photoshop Elements or GIMP, so resource makers are focused more on those programs.

Bloat.  Junk services.  Integration with social media sites.  I use an image editing program to edit images.  Big surprise, right? I don't use it to manage the photos on my collection of hard drives--it's a lot easier to use Windows Explorer or a small, quick-loading image viewer rather than to load PSP and wait through all the lags as the various windows and menus try to find the content in each folder.  I also don't use my image editor to upload to Facebook or "tag" my photographs.  Those features may be useful to someone who is looking to create a family scrapbook or photo album, but if that's all you want, I'd suggest a cheaper program like Print Shop  and just tag your photos when you upload them to Facebook.  (For $10 versus 79.99? I'll use my browser to handle my Facebooking.)

So, the bottom line.

For the price I paid--Black Friday Sale--X5 was a good buy.  There are still a nice bunch of features that Paint Shop Pro has which I wouldn't do without.  It's not worth paying full price for this artist; the crashes make it too frustrating and since I can't really import Photoshop content, I'm left wondering if PSE would have been money better spent.

(While I'm not anti-Adobe or Anti-Photoshop, I have never believed it's really the best program out there.  I've always been able to say that with Paint Shop Pro, I could do anything Photoshop could in less time and with less frustration.   Since I haven't used Photoshop or it's little-sibling Photoshop Elements in a long time, I can't really offer a valid comparison, but I've never considered switching before.)

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