- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

SAN DIEGO.

Snapfire, released today by Corel Corp., offers Windows users a digital photo program that is just as easy to use as Apple Computer’s IPhoto for the Mac.

Of the two Snapfire versions, one free and one sold at retail, I’d be tempted to go straight for the $39.95 “Plus” version, which adds what I consider to be key editing and photo-sharing tools. The pay version gives users basic tools for editing video clips, saving slide shows as video presentations and a “Quick Disc” feature for fast burning of photo discs or digital video discs. The photo editing features include straightening out photos caught at an angle — the Washington Monument, after all, is not the leaning tower of Pisa — and a set of makeover tools that would make a plastic surgeon jealous.

Unlike many other photo editing programs, perhaps the real “plus” of Snapfire Plus is its simple operation. Once installed, the program will automatically download pictures from a digital camera connected to a personal computer, or from a memory card inserted in that same computer. Everything appears in a browsing window; click on a photo and you can start editing.

One of the easiest steps is called “Quick Fix,” which is similar to the “enhance” feature in Apple’s IPhoto. With just one click, photos are brightened, sharpened and improved in just about any other way. In many cases, that one click was all I needed to create a better-looking photo. I particularly liked how Quick Fix would help with lighting and balance in a photo. Even at close range and with auto-flash, not every digital shot is perfect, but this program can give a picture a big push in that direction.

Red-eye repair involves more than one click, but it’s still easy. When a single photo is displayed, Snapfire will let you zoom in to select the “true” eye color and “get the red out” with a click. The zoom feature, best experienced firsthand, is a tremendous help when doing touch-ups such as this.

Doing things with photos — e-mailing them, making collages, albums and books from them — are all possible with Snapfire. The “Plus” version lets you create certificates and replicas of magazine covers, something the regular version won’t do. But in either program, there are plenty of ways to take photos and make something of them. The simple “click to e-mail” a photo or slide show is a feature many novice digital photographers will appreciate.

You also can use the program to create “Snapfire Shows” that merge video clips with photos, let you add music and employ various effects. The steps aren’t too complicated and the finished product can be rather exciting, certainly more than a parade of slides.

However, I feel Corel might have tried to do more in the sharing department. Apple’s IPhoto links to the “.Mac” Web service, offering users ways to make Web pages and download sites of photos. It would be nice if something similar could be included in a future release of Snapfire.

Corel says it expects to offer one enhancement — a module that takes slide shows created in the program and turn them into discs viewable on a television using a DVD player — toward the end of the year at a price of $9.95.

You can test-drive the program via download from www.snapfire.com. My prediction, however, is that it will be difficult to get a Snapfire user to give it up.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Technology blog, updated daily, at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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