It appears there aren't many users of the latest versions of Corel's Paint Shop Pro looking in on this forum, but just in case, here's some updated information:
First, PaintShop Photo Pro X3
A much delayed patch -- Service Pack 5 -- has finally been released. It includes:
- Fixes to allow PSPPX3 to run certain plug-ins (including Topaz) correctly (these bugs were added in an earlier patch;
- Fixes for High Pass Sharpen;
- Fixes for the Organizer workspace;
- Fix of stability issue when using the ruler;
- Addition of raw support for some new cameras and fixing raw support for some others.
If you own PSPPX3, when you open the program you should receive a message for beginning the patch process. If you didn't get that message you can download the update at http://www.corel.com/akdlm/6763/down...X3_Patch5.exe.
Thanks to Tim in the PSP Users Group for the previous information.
Next, Corel PaintShop Pro X4
Earlier this month Corel released PaintShop Pro X4. Yes, that is correct. After a couple of versions of tinkering with the name, Corel has gone back to the name users are familiar with and have been using, PaintShop Pro or PSP.
Frankly, there's better software now for my needs, and I seldom use PSP anymore. But I have been a lover of PSP since the shareware days with its developer, Jasc. I kept PSPPX3 on my hard drive but stopped using it many months ago because of the bugs. I found out about the new version at the same time I learned of the last patch for X3. So installed the patch and then downloaded the trial version of X4.
Because the Organizer bogged down X3, I never used it, renaming the MediaCataloger exe file in X3 so it wouldn't run on startup and changing my preferences to prevent an organizer scan of my C: drive.
After installing the trial of X4, I found out I couldn't rename MediaCataloger because it's now a dll file and X4 won't start without seeing it in the program directory. So I clicked the PSPX4 icon and waited. After waiting an hour or so for X4's media cataloger dll to register my image files, I was finally able to get the trial version of X4 to open for examination.
To disable this operation in the future, which slows the startup of X4, I went to preferences, set my C: drive to be excluded from the scan and set all of the file extensions on the list there to be excluded from the media cataloger's scan. I also changed the program default to open in the X4 editor.
When I reopened X4, it started in six seconds. That had to be a fluke. I closed and restarted it again, this time opening in seven seconds. Unbelievable! To compare to X3, I opened X3 to which I had only hours earlier applied Patch #5. It opened just as fast. So, after several versions, Corel had finally solved a significant speed problem related to how the program opens!
After testing for several hours, I decided X4 is a mixed bag:
- As far as speed, there obviously have been changes which make the program run more efficiently under Windows 7, 64-bit;
- PSP remains a 32-bit program, not yet written to take advantage of 64-bit, even though computer users are upgrading to 64-bit systems;
- I will note here that PSP promotional material indicates X4 is significantly faster than X3, but I did not test that. I suspect that comparison may have come before the addition of Patch 5;
- PSP's scanning of images should not begin until after the program is opened and the user has had an opportunity to select options on how the background scanning is done;
- The workspace has received a facelift, but it's mostly cosmetic (some will hate the new black and white icons);
- Although some tools are now set to handle 16-bit color, others remain at 8-bit;
- Gradients remains hidden and difficult to access in the Materials Pallet. It should have been given a place on the toolbar;
- Even though brushes and several other tools provide the convenience of size change by holding down the Alt key and dragging the mouse with left button down, the Scratch Remover tool still requires a mouse movement to the top of the screen to enter a number in the width box or use the adjustment buttons there;
- Corel has fixed the problem with the failure of some Topaz filters to run, a problem that popped up with the release of an earlier patch to X3 (fixed with Patch #5);
- It should be noted that some users may encounter problems with a favorite filter when they buy a new computer or switch to a new operating system. Usually these problems are the result of the failure of the plug-in developer to keep up with changes rather than Corel causing the operational error;
- Vignette was added as a Photo Effects filter, following the lead of competitors;
- A second new filter under Photo Effects is Selective Focus, which provides numerous options for altering the focus in an image. Selective Focus does much more than the clunker Depth of Field option under the Adjust Menu. For some reason Corel chose to leave Depth of Field in the program;
- Scripting remains an important function although Corel doesn't market that feature.
- The Help file is not installed on the user's computer, requiring the user to be online when operating PSP. Some users don't like that, but most software publishers seem to be moving to that method of providing help.
- There are several other added and welcome features that have already been a part of at least one competing product.
If you already own X3, get Patch 5, and save your money, unless you really need one of the features added to X4. X4 is clearly an improvement over previous buggy versions, but it's too little, too late. From the forums, it's obvious PSP is continuing to lose market share.
In the same price category, there are better options.
If you're are looking to switch and want a software package that's intuitive as PSP, take a look at Serif PhotoPlus X5. It's simple to learn, and in some ways reminds me of PSP. Adjustment layers for non-destructive editing, recording of macros (actions/scripts), and a lot of other features similar to PSP.
A better program, but more difficult to learn, is Photoshop Elements 10. Elements is really a stripped-down version of Photoshop. Buy the $12 third-party Elements+ 10, and you'll be able to unlock more of the Photoshop functions. Plenty of non-destructive editing through adjustment layers and Smart Brushes. Elements, however, does not allow the user to record actions (scripts/macros).
For the user needing the power of Photoshop at the price of PSP, there's PhotoLine 16. It's 64-bit and 32-bit with full 16-bit color, more than 33 adjustment layers, other non-destructive editing with virtual layers and lossless editing of jpeg files. Many more professional features. However, be prepared for a steep learning curve.
Forget about the organizers/browsers that come with these programs and use the free Picasa to manage your images or if you need a heavy-lifting application, spend the bucks to add professional level Lightroom 3 or ACDSee Pro 5.