For many of us, Photoshop's Unsharp Mask feature is all that's needed to give images a bit more punch and to sharpen things up. However, applying the settings properly is a skilled job and you can't always trust what you see on screen.

Good sharpening depends on a number of important factors. For example, you need to take into account the image's target size, the quality of the original, and the viewing distance of the finished image. Sharpening an image for a website will of course require totally different settings to those required for a photo that's being reproduced in a glossy magazine.

Nik Sharpener Pro (Complete Edition) enables you to sharpen an image specifically for the type of output device you are using. The choices offered are between inkjet, colour laser, Internet and offset. Within these groups you can set the size of the image, the image source, image quality, the printer, the quality of the printer and the distance at which the image will be viewed.

You can choose between three personalities of sharpness: conservative, average and strong. These personalities have been given names: Anna, John and Zap. Hmm... it's a cheesy scenario, but if you read the manual you'll soon understand.

If all this sounds confusing, you can invoke the Autoscan feature which does it all for you. It usually works well, but sometimes you may wish to override the settings.

If you follow the workflow, you'll get images that are optimally sharpened for their intended use. Don't be fooled by what you see on your screen, either - what comes out of the printer will be different. Let Sharpener Pro call the shots and you should have crisp images. Mark Sparrow