Thursday, June 21, 2007

The end of Microsoft... Digital Image Suite

Summary: Obituary for Microsoft Digital Image Suite.

By now, you must have heard that Microsoft has discontinued its line of Digital Image Suite products. I'm a bit disappointed because it's one of my favorite Microsoft applications.

From the beginning, Digital Image Suite received mostly positive reviews from press and consumers. In his 2005 review, Paul Thurrott, who is not shy to criticize Microsoft's bloopers, said:
"Though I spend a lot of time using PhotoShop, I've come to appreciate the simpler, task-based approach used by Digital Image Editor, and some of its tools are clearly superior to those offered by the more expensive Adobe product. [...] And what can I say about Photo Story 3.1? It's an application without peer, and one of the few times when I can honestly say that Microsoft continues to out-do the best Apple has to offer. Taken together, the applications that comprise Digital Image Suite 2006 combine to make a fantastic solution for editing, managing, and sharing digital photos. Given the price, it'd be a mistake to ignore this elegant, well-designed product."
I totally agree. After using both Adobe Photoshop Elements and Digital Image Suite for a few years, I found Digital Image Suite more intuitive. I absolutely love its smart erase feature, which deletes unwanted objects (I could not find this option in Photoshop Elements, at least in the older versions). To be fair, Photoshop makes it easier to erase backgrounds (based on color proximity), which is a must feature for making transparent icons and images. But overall, I prefer Digital Image Suite's user-friendly interface.

And it is not just Paul Thurrott and me. Average user ratings of Digital Image Suite at Amazon.com stand between 4 and 4.5 (stars) out of 5 (depending on the version and edition), which is no worse than Photoshop Element. If user responses focused only on the product features and functionality, the ratings would have been even higher (many negative reviews addressed Pinnacle Studio, which came with some editions of Digital Image Suite; a few users also complained about Digital Image Suite's handling of RAW image files).

Why did Microsoft decide to ditch such a decent product? We may never know. Microsoft claims that
"Many of the digital imaging features and tools that have been enjoyed [in Digital Image Suite] for years now can be found in new Microsoft titles and services including Windows Vista™."
I would be really surprised if this were the case. Maybe some of the simple features, such as photo album and basic image enhancements (cropping, rotation, red eye reduction, color and exposure correction, image resizing) are or will be offered in Vista, but I really doubt that Vista would provide smart erase tools or anything more-or-less advanced. We'll see...

Microsoft has promised to support the product for the next 3 years, but in the meantime, maybe it's a good idea to start learning new tools. Say, GIMP (or GIMPShop)... Just kidding (no offense to GIMP lovers, I'm sure it's a great application once you figure out how to use it, I just never had time -- or patience -- for it). I must be naive, but I hope that Paint.NET will take over from where Digital Image Suite left off, similar to what Digital Image Suite did after Microsoft PhotoDraw died.

2 comments:

Ron Lankshear said...

I would suggest try
http://www.xnview.com/

it is free and has I find very easy to use. Has lot of plugins that adjust exposure etc etc

an excellent product

Alas I have not tried erasing blemishes but maybe it does

I hope they release a REAL MAC version soon. Current one is nowhere near the quality of the windows version...Ron

Alek Davis said...

Thank you, Ron. I'll check it out.