Adobe Elements (Photoshop v6, Premiere v4) hits AU stores this week

We generally try to avoid software talk, but the US flagged the new Elements release and the fact that it is a big bump in quality for the line means I'll give it its dues.

Hitting stores this week for Windows ('early 2008' for Mac), I had a recent briefing on the new Photoshop Elements and it is so good that 98% of users should probably not go anywhere near the full version ever again. Under the hood this is THE SAME engine as CS3, and it actually makes a lot of hardcore tasks easier than CS3. Basically, unless you need CMYK, you should be starting here first. Upgrade pricing to CS3 from Elements is now available, essentially covering the price of Elements so you can safely start here with no price disadvantage and then step up if necessary.

$159 for each standalone, or $235 bundled. A few more deets down below.The new version has a streamlined workflow across Organise, Edit, Create, Share, with tabbed workspaces to keep everything streamlined. They've even gone for that upmarket dark grey look of a high-end compositing package.

Photoshop Elements 6

Photoshop Elements now does photo stacking on import, as well as EXIF tag data. The best feature is its new 'Guided Edits' that will do things like Photomerging group shots to build the best single image out of a group of shots. This is based on the new blend algorithms of CS3 but made much easier.

Quick sharing options are fantastic, letting you set up emails, messages, sizings, etc and then have an auto drop spot to have emails instantly ready to send. Adobe has also really used their Macromedia acquisition to great effect, incorporating new Flash-based Photobooks for putting on the web. These are interactive photo albums and the templates have a polish you'd usually expect out of the Apple template design studio.

You won't get the full suite of effects you find in CS3, but then, who ever uses them all? As said above, with the new upgrade price option you can start with Elements risk free and take the step up only if/when you need to. Adobe told us that they wanted to make Elements 6 far exceed what you can expect to get from free apps like Picasa. That sort of competition has pushed them to really bring the quality of CS3 to the mass audience, and the strength of this package is such that $159 is well worth it for what we are seeing here.

Premiere Elements 4

We didn't get a good look at this at the demo session as it was between builds on that day, but we heard there will be features like 'Edit to Beat' for music video style auto edits, and the power of Macromedia would be drawn on again by producing local FLV video files for YouTube uploads that look far better than what YouTube would auto compress at the other end. Plus output options for many mobile devices (using the power of Adobe Device Central features to pick your output device - not just iPod or PSP, but many specific mobile handsets too).

We heard at that time that *possibly* we would see DVD-style menu offerings that could be output to the web in Flash (a killer feature in Adobe Encore CS3), but a quick look at the Premiere Elements 4 site shows a hint of that in the sharing options, but doesn't confirm it outright - we'll need to test that when we get our hands on.

Other cool features spotted on the site are blue/green screen keying (how good it is will have to be tested) and support for burning movies for Blu-ray.

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