Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 is a great upgrade to a great program. A few neat features caught our attention right away, so let’s get to them.

The first is the clustering of images into groups. One of the problems with looking at pages of thumbnail views is that if you have a lot of pictures

you have to leaf through a lot of pages. What you can do in the newversion of Elements is stack those pictures into subject groups.

So, for instance, if you have a lot pictures of avacation, the family, a business project, etc., you can collect those into a stack and only one of the pictures shows on top. You can tell there are othersbecause you can see the edges of them, like the leaves of pages peeking out the side. Right-click on the stack and all of those images are then displayed asthumbnails.

A second elegant feature is a calendar with picturedates. You can select ‘calendar view’ from the top menu and it will show you a tiny image of any photo you took on a particular date.

How does it know when you took that picture? Well, if you’re using a digital camera, the date and time you took the picture isrecorded along with it when you snap a shot. That information is transferred to the computer along with the image when you upload from the camera.

If you take and store pictures in December, for example, a tiny sample shot will show up on the calendar for the date they were snapped.As you use this, you can move through a timeline of your photos. Move back to any month in any year and you will see examples of what pictures you took onwhat days.

One more feature that really grabbed us has to do with scanning. If you put several small pictures on a scanner bed and then activatethe scan, what you get is a single image – just the scan itself. Photoshop Elements 3 recognizes that they are really separate pictures and divides andstraightens them into separate images. They can now be edited and saved individually.

You can save any pictures, slideshows or extendedprojects as PDF (Portable Document Format) files. And you can e-mail images “as is” or through a special feature that lets you choose frames andlayouts.

There are tons of features here, including a single-click “smart fix” that corrects color, lighting and contrast problems.Photoshop Elements 3 has a list price of $100 (all prices U.S.) for the Windows version from Adobe (www.adobe.com. The Mac version is $90.

SINGING THE SAMSUNG SONG

A few weeks ago, we briefly reviewed the new Samsung color laser printer, model CLP-550, and liked everything about it except the color quality. Well, it turns out the fault was not with the printer, but withthe cheap paper we were using. We put in some decent laser printer paper andthe color looks great.

We have mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: paper quality has a significant effect on print quality. This is true with inkjet and laser printers. It’s especially worth mentioning again herebecause the Samsung CLP-550 is far and away the lowest cost color laser printer we can find. The list price for the CLP-550 is $550.

A very nifty feature of the CLP-550 is the ability toprint multiple pages to a single sheet of paper, which is great for archiving. You can choose to print as many as 16 scaled-down pages on one sheet of paper.

Another nice feature: If you have a company logo that you want to always go at the top of any page, it can be permanently saved in memoryand will automatically be slugged in, as they say in the newspaper business, when you call for it.

IT’S LIKE DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

If we ever saw a “must-have” gift for aging baby boomers, this would be it. It’s Atari Flashback, an old-fashioned gameconsole with some old-fashioned games and joysticks. You do not need a computer.

Once again, fire in a low-res desert tank battle, smashasteroids before they smash you, bust your way through the Breakout blocks, andpiece by piece, dismember a sinuous centipede. There are 20 arcade-style action games in the console. It’s only $60 at www.atari.com.

BOOKS

What could be better for the holiday season than a book about how to hack the game console machines? There are more than 100 millionout there already and there are going to be a lot more after the holidays.

“Game Console Hacking” by Joe Grand, Frank Thornton and Albert Yarusso is $40 from Syngress (www.syngress.com) and coversthe Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Atari and Gamepark 32. Some examples: Turn anold Atari 2600 game console into a full-featured PC; run Linux on the MicrosoftXbox; boot the Playstation from its own memory card. Making all or any of the hacks in the book will void your warranty, of course, but who cares; this isfor the adventurous, not the cautious.

Readers can search three years of columns at the “On Computers” Web site: www.oncomp.com and can e-mail the Schwabachsat bobschwab(AT)oncomp.com or bobschwab(AT)aol.com.

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