September 4th, 2014

Using our free software build a coffee table Photobook.

Every part of every page—as well as the cover, and even the spine—is customizable.

Every part of every page—as well as the cover, and even the spine—is customizable.

As with any software, you’re looking for something that’s robust (i.e. plenty of capability), reliable and simple to use. I found that the Home Edition scored well on all three fronts. To begin with, as soon as you open it you’ll notice that it’s very easy to navigate. In certain ways it closely mimics a web browser; however if you’ve ever used programs like GIMP, Photoshop, Indesign or Illustrator, you’ll probably notice a lot of very familiar functionality.

Here’s how to get your creation up and running:

  • Once you’ve opened the software, select ‘Photobooks’ from the menu in the far left sidebar (you can also create albums, calendars, greeting cards, gallery wraps, even playing cards).
  • Select ‘Create New’, then choose your preferred size.
  • From there, depending on what kind of book you want to create, click the ‘Start Empty Book’ button or choose ‘New Book Wizard’ to use one of the pre-set themes. (And if you change your mind, just hit the ‘back’ button.)

Simply drag and drop images from the lightbox onto the page, and adjust at will.

Simply drag and drop images from the lightbox onto the page, and adjust at will.

After that, once you’re in the work area you just drag-and-drop your photos from the lightbox (at the bottom) onto the cover and pages of your book. Speaking of which, one of the most joyous moments I experienced during this test was when I discovered that I could drag-and-drop photos directly into the lightbox from iPhoto—instead of having to search one folder at a time to import my photos or first export them out of iPhoto in order to use the software’s d&d feature. From the menu palette on the right, you can select different preset page layouts, photo borders and much more. If you make a mistake or change your mind about a photo, to clear the page simply go to the edit menu and select Edit>Clear Page.

However, this post is intended to be a review, not a tutorial; and I can essentially summarize my review in one word: Simple. (In fact, this software is so simple to use that I’m not even sure a tutorial is needed.) But just in case you’d like me to elaborate—and if you do, you’re my kind of people—here are a few of my favourite things about the software:

  • The word “custom” definitely applies literally. You can create your very own page layout template or choose one of the many provided—and either edit it or use it as-is. You can also add clipping masks, vignettes, clip art, photo captions, text blocks and easily change page order.
  • Not only can you easily build and edit pages, but you can also edit photos directly within the workspace: you can adjust size, colour and gradient levels, fix red eye, rotate, apply filters and more—without having to toggle between different screens.
  • You can spend hours carefully crafting your Photobook, but you certainly don’t have to: once you’ve chosen the photos you want to use (which is always going to be the step that requires the most time), you can use the templates and default options to put a great book together in minutes. However, I strongly recommend taking the time to experiment with all of the possibilities, as there are far too many of them to adequately describe in a blog post.

Once your creation is complete, getting it printed is also a very simple process. The software can create a proof you can check in your computer’s PDF viewer; once you’ve had a look at it (which is probably a good idea, but you can skip this step if you wish), you have the option to place the order online or export it to a .dgl project file that you can bring to your local PhotoLab for printing—whichever you are more comfortable doing. If you choose the latter option, all you need to do next is burn it to a CD or DVD, or copy it to a USB drive, etc. and then bring it to any London Drugs store. PhotoLab staff will then advise you when it will be ready for pick-up.

This was my first time using this software, and I’m 100% sold; I anticipate creating plenty of future gifts for grandparents and other relatives, not to mention keepsakes for our own family. Heck, had I known how truly simple it is to create a professional-quality customized Photobook, I would have started doing so a long time ago.

(BTW—if you’ve downloaded the software on a Mac, here’s how to open it after you’ve unarchived it:

  1. Ctrl+click or right-mouse-click on the app icon and select ‘Open’
  2. When the dialog box pops up, select ‘Open’ to confirm

This will allow you to open the program even though you didn’t download it via the Mac App Store.)


When your book is finished, you can order it immediately online or export it to your hard drive for printing later.


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