* Prices may differ from that shown
Photoshop Elements 5 is two versions down from the latest and greatest (Version 7) which was released in October 2008. Elements 5 was released in 2006, but is still a useful piece of software for the amateur digital photographer.
There is, I believe, an advantage to using Elements 5 rather than the later versions, in that the PC hardware requirements are less demanding (Version 7 requires a 2GHz processor and 1Gb of RAM, Version 5, 1.3GHz processor and 512Mb RAM).
Photoshop Elements, is of course, the baby brother of Adobe's massively expensive and more complicated Photoshop. Elements is basically a reduced features version, that is nevertheless more than powerful enough for most users.
I'm not going to go through a massive list of features as this programme has most of what would be expected and I don't want to produce a list, I want to give an impression of how easy the package is to use and how effective it can be.
When Elements is opened, the main screen looks reasonably uncluttered, with little evidence of the powerful features hidden away inside. The interface is significantly customisable, however, with lots of toolbars available which can be shown or hidden as required.
There are two main edit modes, "full edit" and "quick fix". As you might expect, "quick fix" has some simple photo editing tools for adjusting image brightness, and removing red eye etc. These are straightforward and available within Windows, so there's no reason to buy the programme for these. "Full edit" allows access to the full suite of photo-editing tools.
In use, the software is reasonably fast, with most actions completed almost instantaneously (with some exceptions such as noise removal which can take a few seconds).
One of the most useful aspect of this software is the instantaneous preview available for all functions. This means that as you select an option (e.g. adjusting brightness or contrast), you can see the effect on your photo straight away, before you've clicked apply. If you don't like the effect you can cancel it or change to something else.
The interface is really easy to get used to. I don't pretend to be a 'power user' and so use probably about 30% of what the software's capable of, but for my workflow for adjusting photographs, I can access all of the required functions with a few clicks of the mouse.
Simple adjustments (noise removal, colour adjustment, histogram tweaking) can all be perfomed within a few seconds with the image then ready for printing. This for me is the real plus point of this software. I suspect a more powerful, demanding programme would require me to spend longer learning it, and it would take me longer to process each image.
I've been using this now for two years, must have processed over 5000 images, using it, and can recommend it to anyone who wants a cheap, capable, photo-manipulation package that does not have excessive hardware requirements.
Remember, there are later versions out now, however.