Platform: The software is available for both Mac and PC, but of course my review is of the Mac software. Your mileage may vary, especially if you're on a PC.
Perspective: My previous experience with digital scrapbooking software is pretty limited, so what you're getting is my comparison of this software to: a) real scrapbooking, b) a very brief trial of the Creative Memories software several years ago, c) other software with graphic elements, and d) limited-use software, such as the iPhoto calendar maker and online card-making applications.
The Features and Functionality:
I have to admit, I'm very impressed.
|This took me less than 5 minutes|
to make. Click to embiggen!
There are an impressive number of ways to share your albums: You can send pages directly to your printer, or you can export pages individually to JPG format in a variety of sizes. You can order printed and bound album books and calendars, for a price, of course (I haven't tested those options, but they're in the menu and I'm sure they're perfectly simple to do). And you can, with some additional (free) software, create slideshow movies or create an interactive DVD album.
The My Memories Suite software lets you select backgrounds, lay out photos and decorative elements, and provides lots of customization options. Elements (which is to say any photo or individual image) can be cropped in a variety of shapes, overlapped, rotated, flipped, mirrored, resized, stretched, and shadowed. You can change the opacity of elements to have some show through others. There are some basic photo manipulation options as well, like red-eye removal and some common filters and deformations, though you're probably better off doing your photo corrections and manipulations in your photo software before you import the picture into MyMemories Suite.
If you're planning on generating a slideshow or DVD album, there are some other options as well, like the inclusion of background music and the ability to add multimedia "hotspots" to include video or audio files, other files, and website links. It will also let you record your own narration. (The example below has background music, but not narration.)
The Ease of Use:
I thought the software was pretty easy to figure out, though I did have a few false starts and like any new software, there's a learning curve. (Worth noting is that their website has a fairly active blog and forum which includes links to demonstration videos with both basic and advanced tips and tricks.) It's got several "startup" options, including a number of automatic layouts and templates, but unless you've got a very clear idea straight from the beginning of what you want, including how many pictures you want on each page, I thought it was easier to just use a blank template and add elements as I thought of them. The software takes a little bit of time to load, but not an excessive amount. I got beachballed a few times (stuck in some sort of loop where memory locked up) but only once did I have to force-quit the application; the other times, it cleared up after a short wait. As far as speed goes, it's a huge improvement on the Creative Memories software trial, which started chewing up my system memory as soon as I had more than a handful of elements on a page.
I did have a few quibbles. Element show the standard graphic adjustment tags on corners and side middles to resize and rotate, but if the tag you want to grab is underneath another element, you can't. There were some things that weren't intuitive (like how to crop without changing proportions -- turns out you hold the Shift key) and some things I don't think can be done at all ("snap to grid" and/or "align elements" functions would be nice). The resource gallery (essentially a mini file browser on the side of the screen that lets you easily select and place elements) doesn't refresh except on loading, so if you re-organize those folders, you have to quit and restart the MyMemories software to get it to show that. The software to make your album into a DVD or movie comes separately from the base package -- but it's free once you have a registered copy of the base package, so I'm not sure why they're not just bundled together. You can pick a different background music song for each page, if you like, but you can't choose an alternate starting point in the music files. When you generate a slideshow, every slide shows up for the same amount of time -- you can't have a page that shows for 5 seconds and then another page that shows up for 10.
I'm really impressed with how easy it is to use this software, catering to people who want to use existing templates to just pick pictures and get on with it, and people who want to lay their hands on every element. I'm also really pleased with the number of options for the completed project; the interactive DVD option, in particular, gave me some fun ideas!
The element files are mostly .PNG files, which makes browsing them fairly simple. And if you don't like the way those files are organized by default, you can rearrange the files in your file browser with impunity; each template and project makes a local copy of the files it uses, which could be a little problematic for hard drive space if you have a lot of very large projects, but guarantees that reorganizing won't break anything. (Another minor quibble -- it sure would be nice if the software had an in-app way to let you reorganize things.)
Which is good, because the software comes with lots of base files to start with -- plenty of papers and decorations to make some very decent albums right from the get-go. (Very nice after the Creative Memories trial software, which admittedly was a trial version but had a very disappointing collection of starter elements.) And if that weren't enough, the MyMemories Suite software comes with a $10 credit toward purchased packages, and their website offers a fairly impressive collection of completely free download packages that gets updated, from what I can tell, at least a couple of times a week. Naturally, many of these are merely sample packs advertising the for-pay packages, but all my samples here were built with elements I downloaded for free. Items do rotate in and out of the free section, so your mileage may vary, but an occasional check of the website will have your collection built up in no time. I've been testing this software for two weeks, and in that time I've downloaded dozens of packages -- papers, pre-built frames and pages, and decorative elements -- and not even once have I given the MyMemories site my credit card number, because everything I've downloaded has either been free or "bought" on that $10 credit. (Did I mention the 99-cent discount packages?)
The Bottom Line:
Despite my minor frustrations and wishing for a few extra capabilities (which may well be addressed by the new version that's coming out next week!), it's very nice software, well worth the $40 price tag if you've been looking for a way to dump your traditional scrapbooking gear for something less cluttery, or if you've been dying to create digital, interactive scrapbooks that incorporate videos and other files that just don't fit into a traditional paper album. I'm already working on making several projects with it!
Now (finally!) for the contest! If you would like to win a complete free copy of this software, please visit the My Memories website and tell me in the comments here (or you can email me, if you'd rather not post publicly) the name of the scrapbooking kit package you're going to download first when you win! One entry per person, please! I'll give this until after Thanksgiving (mostly because up until then, I'm too busy to really mess with it) and then I'll put all the names in a hat and draw my lucky winner!