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Photo Center is an image editing and organizing program that manages to combine powerful functionality with excellent ease of use. Beginners will appreciate the Image Wizard, which walks you through the process of correcting imperfections in an original photograph, cropping it to a specific size for printing on photo paper, colorizing and sharpening it, and removing dust and scratches. The "variations" control is particularly useful here, displaying thumbnail images of how the different effects will alter the look of the photo before actually making any changes.
Although the wizard will suffice for many basic editing jobs, it won't be long before you start delving into the menus and toolbars to discover a wide and impressive range of pre-set effects that can be applied to your photographs. These include frames, artist effects (like chalk, pencil, and oils), masques to change the outline of a photo, various kinds of distortion, and some excellent lighting effects, especially the spotlight control. Elsewhere there's a range of tools for adding pre-drawn shapes like rectangles and circles, good freehand drawing tools, a text tool (which includes some super textures and 3-D effects), drop shadows (impressively easy) and a highly effective tool for removing red eye.
The program reads and writes all the popular graphics file formats, including JPG, GIF, TIFF, and BMP, and supports a wide range of printing styles (full-bleed single images, multiple photos on the same page). Finally, the included Photo Album program allows you to find and then organize your photos into albums that you can browse, print out or share electronically via a wizard that creates a simple Web site in a few mouse clicks. The world isn't short of photo editing software, but Photo Center is definitely worth considering for beginners and enthusiasts alike. --Rob Beattie
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