Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 full review

Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 is a powerful image editing package, but some of its new additions disappoint

In Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3, Corel has redesigned the former PaintShop Pro interface, added a handful of useful features, and enhanced some others. In addition, the company has added ‘Photo' to the product's name, to emphasize a focus on the photography-enthusiast market. But at £59, X3 is far from a compelling upgrade.

Corel PaintShop Pro has a reputation as a well-established and generally respected Windows program for consumers and hobbyists who want a wide diversity of image editing tools and creative control. Despite that, it has always been an also-ran in comparison with the better-known products from Adobe, such as Photoshop Elements.

Oddly, the Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 software package requires separate installations of its three components: PaintShop Photo Pro (the main program), PaintShop Photo Pro Project Creator (the new output project utility), and Painter Photo Essentials (for making painterly images from your photos).

In fact, PaintShop Photo Pro and Painter Photo Essentials have two different serial numbers that you have to input. And integration among the components is non-existent - to use Project Creator or Painter Photo Essentials, you have to open the desired program separately. This arrangement is almost acceptable with Painter Photo Essentials, given that it really is a distinct application; but Project Creator should be part and parcel of PaintShop Photo Pro, the way similar functionality is available in competing programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements.

The most significant change in Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 is the new Organizer. While the previous version had a floating palette within the main program for accessing and organizing your photo library, the Organizer is an entirely new window. Conforming to what is now the industry standard, the Organizer is positioned in front of the main app, giving you space to name, rate, tag, caption, and sort your photos, as well as to view metadata.

Read our review of Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X2

Unfortunately, Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3's Organizer offers no side-by-side comparison of images, making sorting and choosing among similar images cumbersome. In addition, if you want to access pictures that are stored on a network drive (as opposed to saved on your local computer), you must first map that network drive through Windows Explorer.

Within the Organizer, you can do some quick edits via the Express Lab. In Express Lab you'll find a nice set of tools that go beyond the basic functions and allow you to edit exposure and colour; to correct facial imperfections; and to sharpen. The selection of tools also includes one-click noise reduction.

When saving the edits, Express Lab asks if you want to 'Auto-Preserve' your original image, which is very useful. You can apply the edits to batches of other images in the Organizer, too.

The Organizer also supplies tools for handling RAW file formats, including the new Camera RAW Lab and the ability to convert batches of RAW files to another file format.

Camera RAW Lab doesn't have the depth of Adobe Camera RAW, and it lacks the ability to adjust midtones. However, given how much more affordable Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 is in comparison with Adobe Photoshop, these omissions are not surprising - and Camera RAW Lab still does the job for typical hobbyist DSLR users.

Double-click any thumbnail in the Organizer, and the image opens in the main application window. The Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 interface remains quite familiar, with its usual rich and deep range of features for editing and enhancing photos. Docked at the left is a learning centre, which provides useful guidance on what the selected tool is and how to use it (and when you no longer need the learning centre, you can close it).

NEXT PAGE: New Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 tools, plus Project Creator for outputting final images >>