PCR takes a look at creative and self-improvement software

Help yourself

From restoring old family photographs to keeping fit, software publishers now produce packages for almost every activity imaginable.

Creative and self-improvement software are both booming, thanks in part to the economic downturn. The Mirror’s recent list of recession-busting hobbies included, along with metal detecting and jigsaw puzzles, family tree and imaging software. So what is it about this sector that appeals to consumers’ interests, as well as their pockets?

“For us photo and video editing software, along with website design, are a huge success, especially where customers see the added value from what the machine already ships with,” says Joanna Kemp, head of software sales at Koch Media.

According to Kemp, the creative software segment also has extremely broad appeal. “Creative software is so vast in terms of content that it can be aimed at a variety of people, from enthusiasts composing their own music to hobbyists building a photo slideshow of their holiday or grandchildren.”

With digital camera ownership and the popularity of social networks on the rise, vendors are seeing a growing demand for photo editing packages. “With the popularity of low-cost digital cameras and social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, everyone wants to put their photos online, but not without editing them first,” observes Ellie Dyke, Serif’s head of business development EMEA.

It is often wallet-friendly prices that draw in such a diverse customer base – many publishers have a range of packages priced at under £10. “The impulse price point captures hobbyists on a budget who fancy a dabble,” comments Grant Hughes, Focus Multimedia’s PR and marketing manager.

“We have products priced at £9.99 for entry level users who just want to have a go, mid-range titles for consumers who need more specific features, and powerful, high end titles capable of delivering professional results,” adds Debbie Hives, marketing manager at Avanquest Software Publishing. “These products are specifically targeted at different sectors of the market.”

While many consumers buy software to edit their photos or create music, according to some, craft programmes are a growing part of the sector. The recession has led to a huge revival in crafting, with retailer Hobbycraft reporting massive sales increases over the past year. According to Dyke, these creative enthusiasts represent a huge opportunity for software sales.

“You only have to look at the increase in crafting and scrapbooking magazines, and events like the recent International Craft and Hobby Fair in Birmingham, to know that the industry is booming at the moment,” she notes. “The challenge for Serif is to encourage the craft retailers to sell software alongside more traditional product lines.”

While crafts may seem like a surprising subject for creative software, the self-improvement segment can be equally leftfield, encompassing everything from driving test preparation and touch typing lessons to ‘brain training’ – a selection of puzzles and memory games to improve the user’s mental faculties.

“There has always been a market for self-improvement software, but its popularity has increased as PCs have become cheaper and more powerful. For many people, owning a PC is a necessity but they also want additional products that can help them get the most from their computer,” suggests Hives.

“We were publishing brain training titles a few years back and they performed consistently, but the real gold rush came when Nintendo spent millions marketing Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training,” Hughes adds. “Brain training is no longer the all-conquering genre it once was on PC, but it’s still an essential part of our overall non-games offering.”

Another key addition to many publishers’ ranges is driving test software, which Hughes claims is Focus’ best selling budget product. With around two million learner drivers taking their theory test each year, it seems the days of simply studying a battered copy of the Highway Code are gone. Many learners are now using programmes to help them prepare for the hazard perception test as well as parts of the practical assessment.

While they sell well as stand-alone products, self-improvement and creative software is also an ideal add-on sale, with consumers routinely purchasing packages like Photoshop along with new digital cameras and scanners.

“Consumers want value added to their purchase. Being flexible in the variety of creative software you offer the consumer could encourage sales, while bundling photo editing software or website makers with hardware will provide consumers with better service and a better experience,” says Yen Tru, marketing executive at Interactive Ideas.

“Most customers buy a PC first and foremost for the internet, email and word processing but they are aware that they are buying a machine that can do so much more,” adds Hughes. “By stocking a range of competitively priced non-games software in your store you can create a great opportunity for add-ons.”

SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Jargon free and seriously easy to use
Specs: One year’s hosting included with 75mb web space for website and email inbox, secure shopping cart creation, message board, blog, photo gallery, MP3 jukebox and password protection

SRP: £19.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: A touch typing tutor that delivers success in as little as 90 minutes
Specs: Unique learning method based on just 11 words in five phrases, speed builder practice sessions, free book included with 90 time-saving tips, compatible with various versions of Windows and Mac OS

SRP: £39.99
Distributor: Koch Media

They say: Professional recordings from your home computer
Specs: On-screen mixer, loop explorer for adding audio loops and MIDI patterns, 150 different instrument sounds, instruments plugged into the PC’s sound card can be recorded in up to 24-bit audio quality

SRP: £9.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Ideal Software, Computer Bookshops

They say: The UK’s most comprehensive learner driver pack
Specs: Up-to-date official DSA theory test questions, hundreds of hazard perception test simulation videos including 10 official clips, 60 video lessons for practical test, mock driving test, latest edition of the Highway Code

SRP: £9.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Ideal Software, Computer Bookshops

They say: Keep fit from just 15 minutes per day
Specs: 500 exercises including pilates, yoga, cardio fitness and weight loss routines, tutorials on how to perform each move correctly, compatible with popular fitness equipment, meal planner with over 4,500 recipes

SRP: £9.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Ideal Software, Computer Bookshops

They say: Have fun while improving your brain power

Specs: Divided into five areas: memory, logical, numerical, spatial and verbal, 15 new puzzles and games, unlimited questions, up to five difficulty levels, progress charting, reminder system

SRP: £29.99
Distributor: EntaTech, Gem Distribution

They say: Use lifelike crafting tools and techniques to create beautiful designs
Specs: Built-in photo editor, blending, new stencils for enhancing designs, realistic brush strokes, video tutorials, online sharing, multiple format options including scrapbooks, greeting cards and wedding invitations


SRP: £79.99
Distributor: EntaTech, Gem Distribution

They say: Professional quality web design made easy
Specs: Video and PDF tutorials, content management system, customisable Flash animated navigation bars, quick publish options, colour scheme designer, integrated photo editing, online booking system and photo gallery creation

SRP: £39.99
Distributor: Gem Distribution, Ideal Software, Interactive Ideas, CentreSoft

They say: Makes digital photography easier than ever before
Specs: Image editing and repair, photo albums that can be organised and searched, over 10,000 photo projects and graphics, hundreds of special effects options, sharing across social networks, burning to CD


SRP: £71.51
Distributor: Gem Distribution

They say: Professional quality results for your photo and video projects
Specs: HD footage capture from camcorders or DVR, movie editing, Bluray and DVD burning, unwanted noise removal, soundtrack creation, photo enhancing tools, hard disk backup, audio ripping from LPs, cassettes and other formats

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