Entertainment and multimedia

Entertainment and multimedia

Explore the lighter side of life with our guide to the best leisure time programs out there

Photo editing

No one takes a perfect picture every time. Even with instant review on a digital camera, plenty of grainy or badly composed snaps will still slip through your clutches. And that’s not to mention all those old family history portraits waiting to be scanned into your computer. Treat yourself to photo-editing software and it won’t be a problem. You’ll have all the tools you need to correct everything from poor lighting and out-of-focus shots, to unwanted marks and scratches.

Best package: Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 offers a rich array of tools for cleaning up, improving and transforming your photos, all wrapped up in a user-friendly package that makes organising, editing and sharing your photos a simple, frustration-free experience.

Photoshop Elements 12 is an award-winning tool for quickly fixing, organising and showcasing your photos

Best free package: PixBuilder Studio contains all the key tools you need to tweak and improve your troublesome pics. There are no one-click fixes or tools for organising and sharing your photos, but you can get that functionality from Windows Live Photo Gallery or Google Picasa.

Video editing

Whether you use your phone, digital camera or camcorder to capture memorable moments on video, you’ll find your Advent PC is the perfect tool for turning raw footage into tightly edited, professionally presented video. Video editing tools don’t just let you stitch together and trim your clips into one coherent film, they also allow you to add captions and subtitles, add special effects (such as scene transitions) and output your finished movie on a DVD or Blu-ray disc, ready to play back on your big-screen TV.

Best package: Cyberlink PowerDirector 11 Ultra has all the tools you need for professional editing, including the ability to edit in 3D and burn to Blu-ray disc.

Best free package: Windows Live Movie Maker offers all the core tools – including DVD burning and HD support – you need, in an interface that’s beautifully simple to use.

Windows Live Movie Maker is the perfect tool for editing your video if you don’t need too many fancy tools

Family history

The internet has brought people’s ancestry to their fingertips so there’s no longer any need to hunt around dusty archives and dank churches to connect with your past. Your Advent PC is the perfect tool for organising, collating and sharing that research with others.

Best package: Family Tree Maker 2014 Platinum Edition is undoubtedly the best overall package. It’s simple to use, includes all the tools you need and it’s also linked to the Ancestry.co.uk website, so adding your ancestor’s records to your research file is a breeze.

Family Tree Maker 2014 makes genealogy simple and fun

Best free package: RootsMagic Essentials is a cut-down version of the full program, but has all the core functionality you need, including full integration with the free FamilySearch.org records repository. If you want more features (but fewer charting options), then My Family Tree is also worth checking out.

 

Craft and design

If you’re itching to indulge your crafty side, then you’ll find your computer makes the perfect assistant. The idea of digital crafting might initially seem like a strange one but when you think about it, your computer is more than capable of creating newsletters and brochures, so why not greetings cards, scrapbooks, gift bags and invitations, too?

Best package: Serif CraftArtist Platinum is a one-stop shop for digital craftmaking, providing all the templates, graphics and embellishments you need to create striking projects.

Best free package: Serif CraftArtist Compact is a cut-down version of the Platinum edition, so there’s only a limited selection of templates and designs and some of the high-end tools – such as image editing – are missing. It’s still the perfect place to start if you’re venturing into digital crafting for the first time.

Unleash your creative side with the help of Serif’s superb CraftArtist design tool

Games

We could devote an entire section to gaming but suffice to say there are games to appeal to all the family – even if granny has a hankering for shooting escaped fugitives.

You don’t even have to play on your own or against the computer these days – many games are now designed to be played over the internet, pitting you against (or with) fellow gamers from across the globe.

When you’re choosing games for your children, look out for the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating, which lets you know what age group the game’s suitable for. You can set up Windows 7 to filter the particular games that each child can play on your computer, via the Parental Control Panel (type ‘parental’ into the Start menu’s Search box to find out more).

Best free games: If your tastes aren’t too complex, you’ll find dozens of websites offering free online games that you can play through your web browser. One of the best is Free Online Games, which offers you a choice of thousands, split into categories such as Puzzles, Adventure and Platform.

Today’s games combine breathtaking graphics with complex storylines and unrivalled game play