When you open a photo for editing, the program layout is intuitive. The opening screen is broken down into six major functions: Open, Open from Camera, Scan a Picture, Edit Multiple Pictures, Create a Project, and Digital Image Library. There are also links to view a tour, get additional help, or view online tips—a great way to start. There is a column on the left that displays shortcuts to common tasks such as Touchup, Format, Effects, etc. Most of the functions are broken down into simple steps. Some of this coddling can become annoying after you know the program well. I found it cumbersome to do something simple—zoom in on an area I wanted to edit—because of all the help so close at hand.
The opening screen of Digital Image Suite lists your importing options. When you import, you may automatically opt to make common edits to all or some of the photos at once. It took a long time to apply an auto fix to several photos at once, however. If you use Digital Image Library, you can choose to catalog the images to an album but not copy them to the hard drive, or you can copy the images at the same time.
Digital Image Suite has most of the features you'll need to fix common photo mistakes. You can adjust the brightness and contrast, color, fix red eye, sharpen or blur, fix blemishes and scratches, crop and straighten. But Digital Image does not offer an auto-color fix as in Photoshop Elements 3. This would have been a good feature to include—so many digital camera photos end up discolored due to artificial lighting. The red eye tool is simple, but not customizable. The program also includes advanced features to remove blemishes, whiten teeth, remove wrinkles and improve the look of facial features.
The layer feature is primitive in Digital Image Suite. There are virtually no layer options. Layers function like separate images that you can stack on top of each other; you can apply a transparency filter to an image in the stack, but once you change it you can't go back after you close the program or after you exhaust your undo capability. You also can't hide the layers as you work. This isn't necessary, but it is difficult—if not impossible—to select objects at the bottom of the stack to edit them.
The text tool is much better than average; you can type right on the image instead of working on a separate text entry tool. You can also edit text at anytime because the program puts your text in a separate layer. You can also insert text with a pre-determined shape, such as text with 3D warp effects or text that follows a circular pattern—there are several options to choose from.
The selection tools include a simple shape tool, a lasso tool, an edge finder and a magic wand. The magic wand tool will select a section of an image with the same range of colors-useful when you have a simple background that you want to delete. The edge finder is supposed to find the edges of an object in a photo, but it only works if there is very high contrast between the objects (such as a solid blue sky surrounding a solid black shirt). In fact, I never got the edge finder to work at all.
There are some preset batch capabilities in Digital Image Suite. You can apply the same actions (e.g. contrast auto fix, rotate, crop, etc.) to multiple pictures at the same time. You can also change the file format of multiple images at once. You can't, however, create your own custom batches.
Digital Image Suite offers several fun photo sharing capabilities. You can easily send photos through email, upload photos to MSN's online printing service, set an image as wallpaper, print unique layouts, and save images for devices like PDAs and cell phones. About the only major feature the program lacks is the ability to create a web gallery. Even though the Suite has several options, however, not all work well. For instance, their version of a slideshow is simply an animated gif. This is not a good format for sharing a slideshow with others.
Digital Image Suite supports only nine file formats: png(picture it!), jpeg, gif, tiff, bmp, emf, pcx, tga and png. This should be enough for the average user. If you want the ability to optimize images (reduce file size) for the web, you should probably go with Photoshop Elements 3. With Digital Image Suite you can choose a level (low-high) of jpg compression but there's not really any control and you can't see the result in a preview before you save.
Organizing and searching for images is simple using Digital Image Suite. When you view a folder of images, the program will display the thumbnails and when you click on a thumbnail, the program lists simplified information about the image on the same screen. You can get more detailed information (like the digital camera EXIF data) by drilling down into properties. From the main thumbnail browser you can also rank pictures and add keywords to organize your photos (and to find them easily with advanced searches). Another feature that stands out is the archive wizard that helps you burn your photos to a CD.
This program is a good option if you like templates and want a simple way to improve your photos. However, it lacks some key features that may limit your creativity. For example, the layer functions are limited and the program has no options for file size optimization. If you want more options, go with Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0.