Paint Shop Pro X5 Ultimate 

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Many more years ago than I care to remember, I installed a Shareware product on my Windows 3.1 system - I told you it was many years ago. This product was the JASC developed Paint Shop Pro. Designed to convert images between different file formats and capture screen grabs, the software could easily fit on a floppy disk of the 360K variety. There was still room left over for other files of that period. I was reminded of this compact piece of coding when I opened the box containing the latest version of Paint Shop Pro.

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Now up to version Paint Shop Pro X5 Ultimate, the box contained two optical disks.  Admittedly one of the disks held extra software that was the reason for the Ultimate part of the product’s title.  However the other the disk was required to store this 2013 version of photo editing and management software.  It just shows how much the product has grown over the year before and after it became part of the Corel family of software titles.  The second disk contained bonus offerings made up of NIK Color Effex Pro 3.0, REALLUSION FaceFilter Studio 2 and a collection of images, brushes and textures.

Installing Paint Shop Pro X5 Ultimate requires the entry of a 31-character serial number.  You can accept the default destination or choose one of your own by selecting a different drive and/or folder.  If a previous version of the software is detected then you will be offered the choice of importing the existing user database or creating a new one.  I opted for the former to retain the settings I was use to when using the previous version of this product.

The first time you run this program will be a rather drawn out process but this loading process speeds up considerable on subsequent occasions.  In fact it quickly became obvious that version X5 was markedly quicker that version X4 when it came to loading.  Paint Shop Pro X4 required 27 seconds to load on the test system while X5 managed the task in just 10 seconds as you arrive at an interface that will be familiar to those who have used the previous version of the product.

For those coming to the product anew, I should explain that the Paint Shop Pro interface consists of the three modes of Manage, Adjust and Edit with each one having its own interface layout.  The Manage mode, which appears by default but you can switch this from the Preference option, features a hierarchical tree structure that can be opened out to show available folders and devices.  There is also a scrollable pane of thumbnails of images in the selected folder or collection plus an information pane and access to a range of instant effects.  These features are arranged around a work area displaying the selected image.

While retaining the scrollable thumbnail pane and instant effects, the hierarchical tree structure is replaced with crop, straightened, red eye, masking and other basic photo fixing tools in Adjust mode.  Selecting the Edit mode brings up a bigger work area with a well populated tool bar with numerous fly-out options, panes for materials and layers plus help in the form of the product’s Learning Centre.

Having resisted the temptation for cosmetic changes, Corel has added a number of new and enhanced features to this version of the product.  Particularly fortunate with regards to new features is Manage mode.  Finding people through the use of face recognition is now possible although you might not always agree with the results but it does make a reasonable attempt to tackle what can be a time-consuming task.  You can also use geotagging to help categorise your images by location.  The results can then be built into a slideshow for sharing with others.  While available from other modes, the new Instant Effects tool is first encountered in Manage.  This feature allows you to select from categories such as Artistic, Film styles and Landscapes containing thumbnail examples of the effects which can be applied as a single or multiple effect to create a specific look. 

Moving on to other modes, there is a new Retro Lab which, as its title suggests, gives your images a yesterday look.  Making use of a graduated filter effect, you can apply semi-transparent colour gradients to photos to product affects normal obtained through the use of different lenses.  Raw photos can be split into three exposures and then combine them to create different effects.

As well as new features, enhancements have been made to the existing text, paint brush, layers and art media tools.  There is also a new Corel Guide feature giving access to instructional videos, tutorials and downloadable content.

When you add in the various bonus items that come with the product, you are getting good value for money with Paint Shop Pro X5 Ultimate priced at £79.99.  System requirements call for a Pentium 4 or better processor with 1.5GB of RAM, 1GB of hard disk space with support for DirectX 9 running Windows XP (SP3) and later. The product is Windows 8 compatible.

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