Adobe has announced Photoshop Elements - an image-manipulation product tailored for people who need a powerful, but easy-to-use imaging solution.

Based on Adobe Photoshop, Elements carries many of its parent app's features - including the ability to Save To Web. Photoshop Elements will replace Adobe's Photoshop LE.

Elements takes commonly used Photoshop tools and puts them into an affordable package designed for mid-range users, such as amateur photographers, image hobbyists, and business users.

Limited Elements is limited compared to the full version of Photoshop. It does not support CMYK - the common format for professional printing - it lacks the full image-slicing capabilities of Image Ready, and it offers limited support for layer styles.

Adobe designed Photoshop Elements for the growing number of digital camera users, said Adobe product manager, Mark Dahm. He added: "Photoshop Elements, along with its range of editing features, reflects the increasing sophistication of digital imaging."

Elements offers tools to capture, edit, and print images, as well as the ability to post them on the Web and in email messages. The program offers plenty of help in the form of tips, shortcuts, and templates.

Elements explained When you launch Photoshop Elements, you're greeted with what Adobe calls its quick-start screen. This holds a list of common commands with rollover explanations, as well as a quick link to tutorials.

Place your cursor over the acquire button, for example, and you see the explanation: "Acquire digital images from camera, scanner, or other devices."

Photoshop Elements even extends the rollover explanations to its tool palette. So, for example, you don't have to remember which symbol is the sponge and which is the smudge tool.

Content-sensitive hints "We also added a hints palette that offers content-sensitive help for tools and palettes," Dahm said. Once you see the name of the tool, you can find out what you can do with it in the hints palette.

You hit the "more help" button in the hints palette to launch further content-sensitive HTML help from Adobe online, Dahm adds.

Elements also adds several new commands that address common requirements for mid-range users with simpler steps than Photoshop requires, he says.

For instance, the straighten and crop image command helps correct the common problem of getting your image lined up straight to scan, he says.

Template recipe Photoshop Elements adds pull-down palettes to display and explain things such as filters and effects. And, in the pull-down menu there are thumbnail previews of what each filter or effect does to an image. A Recipes palette offers template commands for complex Photoshop instructions.

The Filter Browser lets users visually scan the 95-plus special effects filters then drag-and-drop the desired filter onto an image to apply it. Previews save time on trial and error by letting users immediately see the effect of a filter on an image.

One-click action Dahm calims: "Recipes are like a wizard that provides quick buttons for certain complex Photoshop actions. It tells you the step-by-step commands in Photoshop and gives you a one-click button to perform the action."

Elements also includes features new to Photoshop 6.0, such as on-canvas text editing. It ships with a library of pre-configured shapes as well as a collection of layer styles. Though its support for layer styles is limited compared with Photoshop 6.0, Dahm admits.

Elements integrates parts of Adobe Photomerge – it can automatically arrange and blends multiple photos into panoramas by re-sizing and skewing any portion of the images to fit "seamlessly" together into a single image.

Missing CMYK Because it's cheaper, Photoshop Elements lacks some significant components that make Photoshop a professional print and Web tool. While you can view CMYK images, you can't edit and output in CMYK.

Dahm said: "Within the Save for Web command in Elements are pieces of Image Ready. You can save GIF and JPEG with presets for Web compression - you can even animate a GIF."

Overall, Photoshop Elements offers a much more solid and nurturing intermediate version of Photoshop than its predecessor LE did. Still, many similarly priced image editors offer more-flexible tools.

Adobe Photoshop Elements for Macintosh and Windows will ship in spring and cost £79. More information is available from Adobe's Web site.