Adobe Photoshop is legendary. Graphics professionals can do magic with it, and they turn up their nose at anything else. I’ve tried to learn it repeatedly, and I remain firmly convinced it is the least intuitive, worst designed, most annoying program in the world. Did I mention that it’s incredibly expensive?

What do I use? Professionals and snobs, avert your eyes. I use Microsoft Photodraw v.2 for photos. It’s fast and easy and I can easily live with its limitations and quirks. And Microsoft Picture It Publishing Platinum is just great – it’s got all the core functions of Photodraw, plus tons of projects and wizards for greeting cards, signs, and lots more. The interface is very polished and it’s rock solid on Windows 2000. The other consumer programs – PrintShop and the like – are a mess in comparison.

Next month Adobe is releasing Adobe Photoshop Elements, a mid-level package that might be a good compromise. It’s got 80% of the power of Photoshop at about a fifth of the price. The interface is cleaned up, the most obscure functions have been removed, and some wizards have been added to spiff it up. Here’s one review and some links, if you’re curious. It’s an appealing package, especially because it allows you to use the standard Photoshop .psd file format.

Incidentally, if you’re going to work with photos in any of these programs, make a note to yourself – buy memory, and lots of it!