As the hard drives and Flash memory cards of the world’s burgeoning photography community continue to fill up, there is increasing demand for low-cost methods of keeping their images in some kind of order. With some snap-happy enthusiasts taking hundreds of pictures a week, there’s a danger that the fun of photography will be replaced by the mundane task of finding the shots you once they’re on your PC. While programs such as Photoshop Album and PaintShop Album are pretty good at helping you sort images, StudioLine aims to take things one stage further – by not charging you for the privilege.
You might expect that by not demanding a fee for a photo organizing program, you’d have to settle for a largely scaled-down version of its costly equivalents. We were pleasantly surprised to see this wasn’t the case, and the application is brimming with features that not only make it easier to sort and search for photos, but which can instantly improve the appearance of your images.
The main premise of the program is to help you whip your photo collection into some sort of order, and it does this admirably. You start with an Image Archive, which is basically a database where you can load in all of your images. From here, you can create a hierarchical tree system of folders based through an Explorer-style interface, making it a painless process. Sorting through your images is aided by the capacity for adding information about a photo using the ‘Descriptors’ data, photos, allowing you to categorize by image topic, date, location or person. You can even enter a star rating for each image to help you later in the sorting process. Another nice inclusion is the ability to change the size of thumbnail previews using a slider when viewing all the images within a folder.
As if the slick sorting facilities weren’t impressive enough, the program boasts a range of editing tools that rival many priced image editors. There’s a diverse variety of tools ranging from preprocessing, through photo correction, to special effects, all of which can be previewed and applied with ease. The Classic version of StudioLine Photo comes with a raft of features that you don't get in Basic. These extra treats include a Timeline view that automatically organizes images by date, a star rating facility, and a neat image archive filter which significantly ramps up your picture hunting speed. The user interface is generally a joy to use, with lots of customizable options, and draggable palettes like those you see in professional editing suites. There are a couple of bothersome aspects of the interface which could do with changing though, such as the fact that an image loads in a new pop-up menu when its thumbnail is clicked on, rather than in the main window (as a tab perhaps). The tips boxes that spring up a little too frequently can also get a tad irritating, especially as there seems to be no way to permanently disable them.
Apart from these minor niggles, this is a fantastic program which, is arguably the cheapest way of effectively managing your image collection. The addition of features for creating slide shows, web galleries and emails only serves to raise its status as a serious contender to its big budget rivals.