We used to look down on Photoshop Elements: it did not give the tools and controls serious amateur photographers needed. I got an early version with my first digital photo apparatus and uninstalled it as soon as I could, as far as I remember. The choices in the old days were between simple browsing tools which had some editing options if you were lucky, like Irfanview or Picasa, or find a copy of the full-sized Photoshop that had mysteriously lost its hefty price tag. In the meantime, open source solution The Gimp has become an alternative to Photoshop in many respects, though even in version 2.6 (the most recent one I found) it still looks a bit like a collection of loose menus floating all over your desktop and it still cannot handle 16-bit colours, taking away my 'happiness of the smooth histogram'.
All the time, I forgot to look at Photoshop Elements, yet that programme has been extended in versions 6 and 7 to incorporate all kinds of tools that I and many other amateur photographers would look for, without getting as expensive as the big brother—it is available for € 90 or less, while Photoshop CS4 sells for € 600-800 or more (the higher prices are for the translated, Dutch version). Of course I do not hesitate to pay a sum like that for a new camera or a lens, but then I hope to enjoy that thing for many years without hearing about newer versions in a year or two—and to use all its options rather than feel that most of the menu options remain closed books.
Photoshop Elements lets you work with selection 'magic wands', layers and masks in the Full Edit mode, but has simpler ways of working if you just want the automated Quick Fix mode, or if you feel you are a novice (Guided Edit mode). It has a bit of the look & feel of Lightroom; I don't know yet to what extent the two integrate or are duplicating each other. For instance, Elements has its own cataloguing tools, but I do not want to give up my Lightroom catalogue that has been building up over a couple of years. Reviews on the web (just google for 'photoshop elements review') are fairly positive about Elements. The one thing I'd probably never use is online backup: I want to keep control of my own backups; they remain off line, no one else can see or (ab)use them.
Clearly, I need to find out a bit more about Elements to be as certain as a Sherlock Holmes about the choice for or against this package, but I sure would like to investigate if this is what I need. Any help you readers can give, is highly appreciated! Why don't you write a little comment?