|App Version Reviewed||14|
|Test System Specs||Win XP Pro, Pentium 2.0 GHz, 2GB RAM|
|Supported OSes||from WIN98 to Vista, Mac OS X, and (unofficialy) Linux under WINE|
|Support Methods||forum, email, phone|
|Upgrade Policy||pay per major upgrade 29 Euro|
|Trial Version Available?||trial available, "fully" functional for 30 days (I was not able to find the restrictions)|
|Pricing Scheme||59 Euro|
|Relationship btwn. Reviewer and Product||no special relationship; end user|
Although PhotoLine has already arrived at version 14, it has remained largely unknown outside its country of origin, Germany. PhotoLine is an advanced image editor which also packs considerable vector editing and page layout functionalities. Highlights are for example the 16-bit capability throughout the program, LAB color space and CMYK support, color management, and extensive options for lossless editing. Since I am used to do my vector graphics in CorelDraw I never did learn the vector and page layout aspects of PhotoLine and this mini-review is focused on the bitmap- or photo-editing capabilities of PhotoLine. I have been interested in photo enhancement and image editing for a long time, but could never get used to the unwelcoming photoshop user interface. Thus I have used Paintshop Pro instead for years as it is easily usable without memorizing a multitude of keyboard shortcuts. I did switch to PhotoLine 32 (now named just PhotoLine) a year ago, as it is similarly mouse-friendly but provides several more advanced features.
Who is this app designed for:
PhotoLine is certainly best suited for people that already have a bit of experience with layer-based image editing. The manual is pretty extensive however (280 pages). Thus it could be possible even for beginners to get the hang of it. PhotoLine is of special interest for people who want to leave the restrictions of the “consumerized” image editors like Paintshop Pro, PhotoImpact and Photoshop Elements behind (these keep on getting “upgraded” with marketing gimmicks only and do not see any development of their core features), but still do no want to pay the heavy price for the full photoshop. It might be interesting also, for potential photoshop users in search for a less keyboard intensive working style.
Since PhotoLine combines bitmap editing, vector editing, and page layout features it might be interesting for people in need of such a combo-product (similar to Acdsee Canvas, which, AFAIK, has far more refined vector tools but weaker bitmap features).
PhotoLine is a fully featured image editor which, unique in its class, provides for full 16-bit per channel editing, LAB and CMYK support and color management. It has all of photoshops standard tools (adjustment layers, layer masks, layer styles), has a download size of only 12.3 MB, loads quickly and can be run from an USB-stick. PhotoLine is available for both, MAC and Windows.
PhotoLine has a larger set of adjustment layers than photoshop (19 different types including the standard types and for example unsharp masking and gaussian blur). Thus PhotoLine is very well suited for lossless editing. Similarly the rotation of layers is also carried out in the way adjustment layers are handled. This means the interpolation of the rotation is only carried out on export and all changes and adjustments are handled losslessly.
Uniquely, many filters and all blend modes have adjustment options ranging from -200% to + 200% ( other applications only have ranges from 0 to 100%). This feature becomes very useful once one gets used to the additional leeway.
Similarly, many filter dialogs allow choosing the channels to which the effects are applied, without the need to convert the image to a different color space beforehand.
- PhotoLine can use photoshop plugins of the "*.8bf" variety and in contrast to many other applications it lets them work in 16-bit and also reports EXIF data to these plugins. As always you might be able to find a few plugins which will not work in PhotoLine, but the compatibility is comparatively high.
- Macro (action) recording and batch processing
- Very customizable user interface; keyboard shortcuts can be assigned to almost any feature or command
- multiprocessor support
- A big assortment of sharpening, blurring, noise reduction, and artistic filters (but I have not used the artistic filters much).
- animation options
- A helpful and active user community with great interaction of the authors (English and German language forums).
The "room for improvements" section
PhotoLine runs very solidly and all the tools I have used are working for me as expected. Thus the most annoying aspect of the program is its sometimes unusual terminology for tools and filters, which make the switch from another program to PhotoLine unnecessarily complicated. Gradients (a term used in all other graphic apps for the same feature) for example are termed blends in PhotoLine. Selections are called “Lassos”, adjustment layers are working layers and there are a few other such complications. The translation of the help files from German to English could be improved, although the manual is perfectly readable and far better than for example the one of Silkypix.
Macros (actions) seem to be restricted to the recording of PhotoLine activities. Thus the coders on this forum might not be fully satisfied.
I would love to have the option added to edit gradients "on canvas" (edit: this was implemented in the latest beta version).
There is a quite a variety of tutorials available in German but few of them are currently translated to English.
The RAW file conversion is very adjustable. But it is DCRAW based and thus slow compared to dedicated RAW converters.
The authors of the program seem to be not really interested in marketing. This becomes apparent for instance when opening the supplied example files and images or also when looking at the images on their website. These rather bland and unimpressive examples are in no way indicative of what is achievable with the software. Do not be too disappointed when opening the supplied example files. A better impression of the graphics capabilities can be gained for example here http://www.dayhuber.ch/pl.html (please scroll down on this site) or here: Pekele uses Photoline to color his comics http://www.comicspace.com/pekele/.
Why it would not be a bad idea to give PhotoLine a workout
PhotoLine is a very capable tool for advanced and high quality image editing and montages with a unique feature set in its class.
How does it compare to similar apps
PhotoLine is technically quite a bit more powerful than other middle-class image editors (e.g. 16-bit editing, LAB and CMYK support, etc.). PhotoLine does provide very little hand-holding for beginners however and has comparatively few instant effects. It’s built-in RAW conversion provides high quality results but is comparatively slow. However, only PS Elements is superior in this regard. On the other hand Elements is very much restricted in many basic image editing aspects. Picture Window Pro is an editor specializing in photo enhancement and is the only other fully 16-bit capable editor I am aware of. But PWP is far more specialized and is not very approachable due its very idiosyncratic layer-less workflow. Compared to the pricy big photoshop, there is certainly quite a huge feature gap (e.g. perspective cloning, or ACR a fully featured RAW converter) between the two, but PhotoLine has all the important tools and then some. On the other hand PhotoLine is far more accessible for a mouse-only editing style than photoshop. Further, many layer and channel operations are handled more elegantly in PhotoLine and are thus carried out with far less mouse and keyboard clicks.
PhotoLine is not necessarily for beginners, but is a high powered solution for people looking for an universal image editor - and with a little bit of time on their hand to figure out the terminology idiosyncrasies. PhotoLine lacks gimmicks (e.g. groupshot and teeth-whitening tools) but is an excellent tool for people who want full control over the image editing process. AFAIK, it is the only editor in this class offering CMYK, LAB and 16-bit capabilities. In addition it provides the, here not tested and not reviewed, vector editing and desktop publishing functionality.
All my thumbs up
Links to other reviews of this application
From the Australian online magazine PC Update: http://www.marketnow.com...._Review_for_PC_Update.pdf
Added 01/20/2008: Just found a brand new review of the MAC version: http://macapper.com/2008/...at-photoshop-alternative/
Actually, most reviews are in German; in general these reviews show mixed ratings because they are all geared toward absolute image editing beginners. For example in this relatively extensive review in a computer mag from 2006 it came in fifth out of five (and PSP first): http://www.chip.de/artike...uro-im-Test_19329460.html . Well, the review praises “wizards” and automatic enhancement tools in their introduction and PhotoLine has none of the former and only a few of the latter (these are working well however).
Another nice writeup about PhotoLine: http://www.plugsandpixels.com/photoline.html