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Image editing and photography are important parts of a PC's everyday activities but commercial software is often prohibitively expensive. Adobe Photoshop CS3 is beyond most peoples' requirements and is incredibly expensive at close to £500, while cheaper alternatives such as Adobe's Photoshop Elements or Corel's Paint Shop Pro will still cost you in excess of £50. This isn't so bad and both are excellent programs, but for those with very basic requirements they are still hardly essential.

Perhaps the best of all the free alternatives is Paint.NET (pictured above), which combines an attractive interface with a good set of features and a comfortable level of accessibility for the novice user. There are plenty of options for making small changes to images, allowing you to get the most out of your pictures without going into too much depth.

Another popular program is The GIMP, which is also open source but which is generally considered far more advanced with features and functionality at least comparable to Photoshop in some respects. This makes it excellent for those who want more functionality without splashing the cash, with the more advanced features also making it ideal for web designers as well as photographers.

For something really light though, it's well worth looking at IrfanView (above). Less an image editor and more a viewer, it does feature some limited but useful filters and resizing tools. It's great if all you want is to quickly resize a few photos for posting on the Internet, with the Batch Conversion and Renaming tool being particular strengths.

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