Quick Look: Photoshop Elements 9


The latest edition of Adobe’s (s adbe) amateur image editing software takes a little from Photoshop and a little from iPhoto (s aapl), but it may not be enough to justify the price. Features include:

  • new advanced editing tools: layer mask, content-aware spot healing
  • new organizer software
  • improved repair tools
  • copy and paste photo “styles,” texture, contrast, tone, tint, etc.
  • new guided editing effects: portraits, out-of-bounds, pop art
  • improved panoramic photo merging
  • create calendars, greeting, cards, and photo books for printing or purchase
  • more sharing options, including Facebook, Flickr, and Adobe Online albums

However, the bulk of the program really boils down the first two points: the organizer and a couple of editing tools.

Adobe Elements Organizer 9 replaces the previous Bridge software, but it’s clearly designed as an iPhoto replacement, too. Organizer can access the iPhoto library, copying photos into its own directory in the Pictures folder of your User directory.

Like iPhoto, Organizer scans photos for faces and other attributes, and automatically tags them, often with similar mixed results. Also like iPhoto, Organizer has editing features like automatic color and levels, as well as the one-button Smart Fix, which is much better than Enhance in iPhoto. As in iPhoto, you can make cards and books, as well as share photos online, though not with MobileMe. If it weren’t for the lack of integration with MobileMe and iTunes syncing (which isn’t Adobe’s fault), I’d switch to Organizer in a heartbeat.

In terms of editing, to my surprise, I found Layer Masks. Until now, that’s been an “advanced” feature found only in Photoshop. Even better, the Spot Healing tool is now content-aware. Using that tool, it took four stokes to remove the unwanted people in the waterfall photo above. The Spot Healing tool draws on surrounding content, so the bigger the “spot,” the less impressive the results. Still, it’s a nice feature.

If there’s one problem with Photoshop Elements 9, it’s probably the price: $79 after an annoying $20 mail-in rebate. While that’s over $500 less than Photoshop CS5, it’s also the price of iLife ’09, which includes the adequate iPhoto along with iMovie, iWeb and GarageBand. Luckily, there’s a 30-day free trial that lets you judge for yourself. If you’ve tried both, let us know which you prefer in the comments.

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Charles Jade

I wasn’t a big fan of Pixelmator when it came out, more flash than substance. Looking at it now, it could be argued that Photoshop Elements is bloated compared to the lean, focused Pixelmator, until one needs some PSE3 bloat.

The content-aware Spot Healing tool in PSE3 is a good example of that. The web exporting process is better in PSE3, too. I also think the auto-enhancement tools are better in PS3E. That’s a subjective list, though.

Objectively, the biggest issue I have with Pixelmator is the price being too close to PSE3, $59 versus $79 (after rebate). Beyond that, it’s an iWork versus Mac Office debate, what’s needed versus what’s offered.


I will be very happy to be able to dump iPhoto. Frankly, iPhoto’s editing stinks and so I use it only for storage of 6K plus scanned slides and digital photos. There have been instances of lost EXIF data and any improvement Adobe can make to facial recognition will be a major plus.

Charles Jade

You may need to be patient with this first iteration of Organizer. It crushes your CPU as it imports and does analysis. I only brought in 275 photos and finally quit the analysis process after ten minutes. The results were mixed, too. If you look at the first picture in the Organizer image above, you’ll see an iLife banner. It picked out a face on the banner and tried to tag the photo accordingly.

I still like Organizer better than iPhoto, but the lack of integration with the MobileMe/iTunes is a deal killer for me.

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