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Adobe Photo Software Now Makes it Easy To Create Albums

Adobe Photo Software Now Makes it Easy To Create Albums

So you got a new digital camera for the holidays, and by now you’ve discovered what savvy computer users have known for years: The free software that comes with hardware products usually stinks. That means you now need a good software program to organize, touch up and share the thousands of digital pictures that are filling your computer’s hard disk, or will be soon.

If you own a Macintosh, this problem is easily solved. Apple’s iPhoto, the first good photo-organizing program, comes free on every Mac and still offers the best blend of simplicity and power in the industry.

It’s a harder quest on Windows. While Windows XP does a nice job of handling photo files, Microsoft doesn’t bundle anything like iPhoto. There are many photo-organizing programs for Windows, but most are too techie-oriented or too primitive.

Last year, I reviewed two then-new Windows programs attempting to match iPhoto: Picasa, from Lifescape Solutions, and Adobe Photoshop Album, from the famous graphics company. I picked Picasa, because it was easier to use, although less powerful than Photoshop Album. The Adobe program was built around a complex and labor-intensive organizing feature called tags, which attempted to categorize every picture.

A year later, Picasa still lacks the most important organizing feature in iPhoto: the ability to create virtual albums, or collections of photos, and to assign a single photo to more than one such album.

Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0
Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0

By contrast, Adobe has overhauled Photoshop Album for version 2.0, simplifying the user interface. The tagging system is still there, but it isn’t front and center. And for people who don’t want to use tags, Adobe has added the virtual-album feature, which it calls “Collections.”

As a result, I believe Photoshop Album 2.0 is now the best choice for Windows users looking to manage their digital-photo collections. It still has lots of power and plenty of appeal to techies, but it’s now more accessible to average users.

Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 costs around $45. You can download a free, stripped-down starter edition at, but it lacks some of the key organizing and sharing features — including the new Collections feature.

Like iPhoto, Photoshop Album 2.0 is organized into two main areas: a large window with thumbnails of all your photos, which Adobe calls the “Photo Well,” and a sidebar that allows you to call up selected groups of those photos. In Adobe’s case, this sidebar can show either your lists of virtual Collections or a list of tags.

The virtual-collections feature is the key to managing your photos without relying on a mastery of Windows folders and files. You can have a virtual album of your trip to Hawaii without worrying about whether all your pictures are in neatly organized folders and subfolders on your hard disk, with names relating to vacations or Hawaii. And virtual albums also spare users from having to be anal enough to add captions or tags to each and every picture.

With the new Collections feature in Photoshop Album 2.0, you can just use your mouse to select your pictures of Hawaii and turn them in seconds into a unified collection. You merely start a new collection called Hawaii and drag the thumbnails of the pictures into it. It’s like creating a play list in a music program. The file containing the picture isn’t moved or copied. But the software knows which pictures to display when you click on the name of the collection.

Any picture can be in multiple collections. So, the same picture might appear in your Hawaii collection, in a collection of photos of your husband and in a collection of photos of beaches you’ve visited.

Beyond the Collections feature, there’s lots to like about Photoshop Album 2.0. You can re-size thumbnails by sliding a size bar, as in iPhoto. A terrific timeline at the top of the screen helps you locate photos by date. There’s even a full-screen calendar with thumbnails of the photos associated with each date.

Simple touchups to pictures are easy to make right in the product, and you can dispatch a picture to a separate photo editor of your choice. You can convert slide shows you create into special PDF files, viewable on Windows PCs and Macs, even by people who don’t have Photoshop Album. These files, which can be e-mailed, can contain music and titles for the slides.

One cool feature tries to find all the photos that have similar patterns or colors to a single picture you select. I tried this with a picture of my cat, and Photoshop Album found a bunch of other pictures of the cat.

There are some downsides to Photoshop Album. You have to know a special keyboard command to play back quickly a slideshow the program has created. You can’t burn a slideshow onto a DVD. And when e-mailing a photo or slideshow, you have to use the program’s own address book instead of your regular e-mail address book.

Worst of all, the program can be sluggish with even a few thousand photos. But Adobe deserves great credit for improving and simplifying Photoshop Album in version 2.0 and, in my view, it’s the best choice for digital-camera owners with Windows PCs.