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Software Review of:
Photo Impression version 4


Shari Lynn Parker is a free-lance writer, mini-entrepreneur and sometime do-gooder. She is happily engaged to another Alamo PC member and is mother to five terrific rescue animals.

From the November, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

One can never have enough creative software.  That’s why I was thrilled to review yet another design-oriented product, this one named Photo Impression version 4 by ArcSoft.  Touting itself as an "all inclusive application specifically designed for the novice user" for image editing, I was intrigued. I consider myself as having just enough desktop publishing experience to make me dangerous.  But when it comes to manipulating photos and other images, alas, I am but a newbie.

Alas, once again, no instruction manual came with the software.  I had never used this program before (there were three versions preceding this one), and I wanted a manual, darn it!  What is it with these companies?  Don't they want us users to enjoy their products to the fullest possible?  But as Tony Soprano says, "whaddya gonna do?," and I decided to plug along anyway, telling myself I could just learn again via trial and error. 

My Pentium 4, 1.5 GHz, 256 MB PC-133 SDRAM with CD-ROM managed to make installation easy.  The opening window was quite organized and colorful.  I like colorful, especially when I'm dealing with graphics, photos, etc.  It keeps me entertained.  The left side of the screen had task buttons (such as "get photo", "edit", "create", "print", etc.)  The right side kept tools neatly ready to use, as did the photo albums conveniently shown at the bottom of the screen.  The center was saved for a large workspace. 

Image editing is the core of this program.  I had no problem acquiring images from my photo albums saved on my desktop or after scanning them on my Hewlett-Packard ScanJet.  After fumbling around for a bit, I managed to crop, resize and change the look of my picture.  The beauty of this program is the large selection of special effects it offers.  It gives you 36 effects to apply to your image:  "ripple" (image takes on a water-rippling effect), "sketch" (it turns the photo into a hand-drawn image), stained glass, old photo, fog, etc.  You may also enhance the quality of the image in regards to brightness, contrast, clarity, etc. I couldn't however, change the effects once I applied them to my image.  After going to the help index and finding nothing of value, I just deleted the image and started over again.

Several tools (paint brushes, spray guns, cloning tools, etc.)  allowed me to retouch the image…I was impressed.  I could delete spots on the photo, soften a scratchy area, and even take out "red eye"…just about anything I wanted. But unlike with the "effects" options, I could use the undo button in the retouch mode, going back as far as 20 times, enough for me.  Text could be added in all different fonts, sizes, and colors. Photo Impression gives you several printing options for single or multiple photos, including the ability to print entire albums. Auto-crop and auto-rotate features let you maximize your print area and save paper. You can even print multiple pages at one time. Pre-defined crop templates let you cut your picture to a specific dimension.

Once you have finished editing your image, you may then embellish it with more selections.  Creating a border for your picture is easy with the pre-made frames.  Want a star-shaped picture of your child?  Use the "cookie cutter" tool and there you have it.  In fact, Photo Impression 4 lets you take images and turn them into calendars, greeting cards and more with its pre-fabricated designs.  I thought it would be fun to use the "funhouse" design.  This is where you can put someone's head on another's body.  So of course, I took my head and attempted to put it on a pin-up girl's body, dressed in a workout leotard.  Much to my dismay, I couldn't figure out the "layering" application needed for my transformation.  Even my tried and true "trial and error" attempts failed.  Desperate, I went to ArcSoft's Website and looked for the instruction manual as a last resort.  I found the instruction manual and thought I had hit paydirt!  I should have known it was too good to be true, when I noticed the manual was called Quick Start Guide.  It was vague and I had already figured out the instructions it offered by my trial and error method.  Sadly, I never figured out how to give myself the aerobics instructor body.  But I am sure once I play with the program a bit more, the dream can still be mine.  (Although if I joined Weight Watchers and worked out I might get it quicker).  Hopefully, ArcSoft gives the buyer of the store-bought version (mine was a freebie from the company) a more-detailed instruction manual for a newbie's full enjoyment.  

System Requirements are for Windows:  Pentium-based PC or equivalent (Pentium II 300 or higher recommended), 275 MB free hard disk space, 64 MB RAM, 16-bit color display at 800 x 600 and Macintosh:  Power PC, 275 MB free hard disk space, 64 MB RAM, 16-bit color display at 800 x 600.

I found Photo Impression 4 available for sale on ArcSoft's Website for $49.99.  I did not find it in stock at CompUSA, e-bay or a few of the online software Websites I visit.

ArcSoft, Inc
46601 Fremont Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538.
510-440-9901 (Monday-Friday 8:30am-5:30pm PST)
Fax: 510-440-1270

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