Corel has enhanced a handful of tools in Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 with easier-to-use and more-comprehensive options, such as the depth-of-field adjuster (for blurring all but a focal area as though the image were photographed at a high f-stop) and the text tool.

A few new tools are in the mix, too. Most notable among them is the Smart Carver, which contracts sections of a picture primarily to delete extraneous objects or people; it works best, though, when the background is homogeneous enough for a smooth transition.

The most significant change to Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 is one that goes unseen on the surface. Corel optimized Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 for multicore processing, focusing on improving performance for the larger image files that a typical DSLR camera now produces.

PaintShop Photo Pro has no direct link to Project Creator; instead, you have to open the latter as a separate application from the Windows Start menu. Once open, Project Creator is the conduit for creating, editing, and outputting photo books, cards, collages, calendars, and slideshows (the last of which can now include HD videos).

In addition, Project Creator has output options for Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube, as well as links for backing up data and ordering photo prints and projects online. Starting up a project is simple. You select a project and name it, and the program presents you with a Windows Explorer-like interface that displays thumbnails of pictures in the selected folder.

To choose the pictures you want to use in your project, you drag and drop them into the holding area at the bottom of the screen.

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Unfortunately, Project Creator has a number of irritating problems. The first is that it doesn't show the names of subfolders in alphabetical order, so we wasted time looking for specific folders. And if you previously installed Corel Digital Studio on your system, even if you have since uninstalled it, Project Creator may have difficulty displaying any image thumbnails. (Corel knows about this bug and is working on a patch.)

In addition, we found Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3's Project Creator more sluggish than the rest of the suite. And once you've created the project, your options are limited.

For instance, while you can choose from among several different shapes and sizes of picture placeholder templates, you can't custom-edit the placeholders for size to make them fit the photos. As a result, you must either allow the program to crop your pictures or accept empty space around your pictures within the placeholder.

We were disappointed in this package of Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3, primarily because we have a lot of respect for the quality and versatility of the main application. Certainly, the core program continues to be a worthy contender in the photo-editing market, and the new Express Lab (which builds on PaintShop Pro's strengths) is a solid addition that goes the extra mile with a wide range of easy-to-use tools.

But with additions to the front-end (the Organizer) and the back-end (Project Creator), Corel has failed to deliver a well-integrated, well-thought-out new version, which makes the Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 upgrade feel like something of a downgrade.

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Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3: Specs

  • Microsoft Windows XP, Vista or 7 with latest service packs installed (32- or 64-bit editions)
  • 1.5GHz processor (2GHz or higher recommended)
  • 1GB of RAM (2GB or higher recommended)
  • 3GB of free hard drive space
  • 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution (24-bit colour)
  • Microsoft Windows XP, Vista or 7 with latest service packs installed (32- or 64-bit editions)
  • 1.5GHz processor (2GHz or higher recommended)
  • 1GB of RAM (2GB or higher recommended)
  • 3GB of free hard drive space
  • 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution (24-bit colour)

SHOULD I BUY COREL PAINTSHOP PHOTO PRO X3?

For photo editing, Corel PaintShop Photo Pro X3 has some great tools and versatility, including the new Camera RAW Lab. The package is poorly integrated, however, and the new Organizer and Project Creator leave a lot to be desired.