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Corel PaintShop Pro X7 Ultimate review

Ben Pitt
13 Sep 2014
PaintShop Pro Adjust mode
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
65
inc VAT

PaintShop Pro X7 has plenty of strengths, but it could be better

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Specifications

OS Support: Windows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8, Minimum CPU: 1.5GHz with SSE2, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: 1GB (2GB recommended), Hard disk space: 1GB (2GB recommended)

PaintShop Pro is the godfather of bitmap editors, with a history that dates back to 1990. Does that make it older and wiser than the competition, or is it ready for retirement? A lot of that depends on whether it can beat its old rival, Adobe Photoshop Elements. Both applications have only seen incremental rather than revolutionary improvements in recent years, but both still dominate for home-oriented creative image editing.

 Remove unwanted objects with the click of a button, but only if it's sitting on a relatively nondescript background

A new Magic Fill command erases unwanted objects in a photo, automatically cloning from other areas. It's a great idea, as compositions often look stronger when unnecessary distractions are removed. It worked flawlessly when removing objects that were surrounded by grass. However, it struggled for objects that sat in front of more structured backgrounds such as the regular pattern of floorboards, or in front of two or more background objects. Ultimately, it's about as effective as the Content Aware mode built into Photoshop Elements' Spot Healing Brush since 2010. Neither software makes the feature easy to find. PaintShop Pro's Magic Fill button is tucked away in the Tool Options bar for the various selection tools.

Also new is the ability to use a photo as a textured fill for text or a vector shape. It's a great idea but, again, the implementation could be neater. As with Magic Fill, it's activated via a button that's tucked away in the Tool Options bar. In this case when the Text Tool or Symmetric Shape Tool is selected. Pressing this button hides the selected text or shape layer, creates a new layer with the textured fill (drawn from the layer below) and also creates a new image document of the same textured fill.

  The Text Cutter button combines the colours from a photo with the shape of a text layer.

This is a technique we've been able to do for years in Photoshop Elements, by Ctrl-clicking a thumbnail in the Layers panel to make a selection based on that layer. This works not just for text and vector graphics but any layer with a complex shape, and regardless of which tool is selected.

PaintShop Pro's new Smart Edge option for brushes is more successful, helping to avoid brush strokes spilling across into other parts of the image. Brush performance is faster than in X6, too, but that's not saying much. Processor-intensive brushes such as a large Dodge Brush, which is used for lightening colours, were still hopelessly sluggish on our Core i7 PC. The same function in Photoshop Elements was fully responsive. In most other tests, PaintShop Pro X7 performed well, but copying and adjusting the opacity of layers and adjusting the size of text were slower than in Photoshop Elements.

Happily, there are a few interface improvements, such as a redesigned New Image dialog box with presets for common document types. Various effects' dialog boxes now use the full screen space rather than presenting tiny previews in the centre of the screen. Various other operational anomalies remain, though. The preview only updates after an element has been resized or rotated rather than as it's adjusted, making it hard to adjust accurately by eye. It's easy to undock the Tool Options bar accidentally, simply by missing a button and dragging the bar itself.

As with Paint Shop Pro X6, our biggest concern is PaintShop Pro's handling of RAW files. We like the concept of the three-tabbed interface, with a Manage mode for keeping track of photos, Adjust mode for sprucing them up and Edit mode for layer-based editing. The reality isn't so successful, though. The Adjust and Edit tabs each have their own RAW-processing engine that bear no relation to each other. The one in Edit mode is pretty useless, with very basic control and poor results. The one in Adjust mode is much better but still not a patch on Photoshop Elements' sublime RAW processing. It can't compensate automatically for lens distortions, which is a major setback for owners of Micro Four Thirds cameras and various others such as the Canon G1 X II, where lens distortions can be severe because it's assumed that they'll be corrected in software.

PaintShop Pro Adjust mode

 Adjust mode looks like it should excel for RAW processing, but the lack of lens distortion correction is a big setback for certain cameras, such as the Canon G1 X II shown here.

Develop mode resembles the non-destructive editing workflow used by Adobe Lightroom, but the truth is that processed RAW files must be saved as a separate file, which discards the edit history and prohibits further tweaks. There's a new feature that claims to be able to write and read metadata for RAW files in an XMP sidecar file, but this is only for ratings, captions, keywords and so on, and not for image-processing settings. Photoshop Elements doesn't look like it supports non-destructive editing either, but with the help of its Organizer and Camera RAW modules, it does allow a degree of non-destructive editing for RAW files.

PaintShop Pro remains a non-starter for photographers who shoot RAW. For everyone else, it has plenty of strengths, but it's hard to pinpoint any particular area where it outperforms Photoshop Elements, and there are a few areas where it falls short. 

System requirements
OS SupportWindows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8
Minimum CPU1.5GHz with SSE2
Minimum GPUN/A
Minimum RAM1GB (2GB recommended)
Hard disk space1GB (2GB recommended)
Buying information
Price including VAT£61
Supplierwww.morecomputers.com
Detailswww.paintshoppro.com
Product codePSPX7ULIEMBEU 

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