Photoshop Elements 7 incorporates direct access within the software to Adobe's new-ish Photoshop.com Plus web site. Basically, Photoshop.com Plus seems to be an important part of Adobe's approach to customer relations and community building. It works though, and I'm hoping that the online side of things is able to expand rapidly. As of this writing, Photoshop.com Plus membership provides access to 20GB of remote photo file storage, a nice looking site on which to post your photos (a la Flickr, Photo.Net, etc.) using an online interface which is a simplified duplicate of the Organizer interface in Elements itself. The common interface approach makes it very easy to post your photos online. What distinguishes Photoshop.com Plus is the online photo editing feature. It's not a substitute for Photoshop Elements, but for quick crops and for working with all the free templates online, it's very handy. The new, free templates, fonts and themes that Adobe is pushing regularly through Photoshop.com Plus help keep family, vacation and themed photo collections interesting, but note that there aren't any business presentation templates just yet. You can also create private online photo albums which are accessible by invitation only. The whole Photoshop.com Plus approach is much more focused on family friendliness and on keeping people on task. The similarities between the online tools and the Organizer tools in the desktop software help make the whole thing work quite seamlessly for most of the people who used it during the review period.
Editing photos with Photoshop Elements 7 is still the same satisfying experience. Support for all the latest digital camera RAW formats is provided by regular updates to the Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) plug-in. The new versions of the Dodge & Burn tools install with gentler default settings and the tools have also been refined to the point where they're much more useful (previous versions were coarse). The Organizer seems to be able to recognize a broader range of EXIF tags set by other software, notably ACDSee Pro tags which previously weren't always recognized. It's an important consideration if you've been working with another photo editor/organizer that has been used to set keywords, ratings and other data on hundreds or thousands of digital photos. You sure don't want to end up having to do all that tagging work again. Layers, masking, image control and all the power inherent therein are present in full force as usual.
The main conclusion we drew from our own poking around and from the feedback provided by our field testers is simple. Photoshop Elements 7 & Premiere Elements 7 are easier than ever to use. That's good news for anybody with a typically large (and growing) collection of digital photos and digital video.
Cons: Premiere Elements 7 — You need lots of oomph to process HDV and AVCHD productions. That's not the fault of Premiere Elements 7, but it's something you need to know before getting into that sort of production. Fast Core 2 Quad processors and lots of fast RAM will get you home relatively quickly, but your old 2.8GHz hyperthreading Pentium 4 or even a somewhat newer original Dual Core processor is going to leave you gasping for breath. Some older DV cameras (like the Sony DCR-SR100) generate MPEG-2 files that have to be converted to AVI before Premiere Elements 7 can use them. We encountered some version confusion on a computer with a previously installed version of Premiere Elements 4 which seemed to prevent an old project from loading into v7 because Windows contained some conflicting registry entries apparently installed by Premiere 7. Adobe Support helped us sort out the problem, but the issue may point to a teensy bit of sloppiness in the program installer. On an 'older' Core 2 Duo 1.7GHz Windows XP machine with 2GB RAM, we kept hitting a "low system memory" message which persisted until we reduced the number of backup copies being maintained, but which also pointed to a lack of use of the vast amount of pageable hard drive space on the same computer. Admittedly, paging data back & forth from a hard drive is slower than keeping it in RAM when a project is loaded, but Adobe should address the matter in the next release because fast SATA hard drives are pervasive these days. We had problems loading a number of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 files, which may be a real bear of a problem for some people. Older Realtek audio drivers (pre-2008 as far as we can tell) will do strange things to Premiere Elements 7. Check and update your audio drivers and DirectX drivers before installing Premiere Elements 7.
Cons: Photoshop Elements 7 — The Organizer is still a bit slow, lagging behind the thumbnail display speed of several other products including the still-speedy ACDSee Pro. We're not crazy about all the XMP RAW descriptor files which Elements 6 & 7 litter all over our hard drives. As a matter of fact, it creates a huge, needless load on the operating system just keeping track of what amounts to a single XMP file for every single RAW image file that you open or import using any recent version of Photoshop including Elements 7. These XMP files are all part of Adobe's extensible data sharing platform in addition to being a RAW data edit/action storage file. Frankly, we don't like the concept or its application because it makes RAW file management a huge headache. The extra XMP files have to be copied along with the original RAW file any time you reorganize files and folders. XMP files work as intended, but they're a clunky solution in the midst of an otherwise stellar piece of software. I've got the function turned off.
Pros: Premiere Elements 7 — It's not perfect, but it also hits so many high spots that the 'Cons' fade into the background. Are you a Timeline video producer or a Sceneline video producer? Either way, Premiere Elements 7 should work for you. Lots of tutorials on the Adobe site and lots of tutorials supplied with the software. Basically, if you can think of some problem you've had or some project you want to do, there's probably a tutorial to help you get started. The Instant Movie feature is a lark. Try it—you'll love it—and people will wonder how you produced such good stuff so quickly. Shoot the video and show it quickly (as opposed to months later when you finally find the time to fight with the footage). That's the point, yes? Can't say enough about Instant Movie. For that alone Premiere Elements 7 is highly recommended.
Pros: Photoshop Elements 7 — Photoshop Elements 7 is Photoshop for the rest of us (plus most photographers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, small print shops, kibitzers, a large percentage of graphic artists, etc., etc.). Photoshop Elements 7 provides an excellent and well-supported organizer for cataloging and searching digital image collections of almost any conceivable size. The PhotoMerge Scene Cleaner feature is amazing and can be used to eliminate unwanted objects, automatically, from almost any pair of sequential photos of the same subject or scene. I played with it on & off for several weeks as I went through a couple of large directories full of otherwise interesting photos which were unfortunately spoiled by someone (or some thing) appearing in the composition just as I hit the shutter button. It was eerily easy to fix this sort of thing with PhotoMerge. Adobe has designed Photoshop Elements 7 to keep you in place with the tools needed to get everything done with your digital photos. The general workflow of sorting, tagging and organizing your photos, then selecting, editing and publishing or printing is basically nailed down quite well. Tutorials, instructions books, videos and other help is plentiful for this powerful software. Once again, Adobe has hit a home run with Photoshop Elements 7. Highly recommended.