I recently bought Adobe Photoshop Elements 9. It’s a new release, I previously have used Version 6 (free with my laptop) and before that Version 3 (way back when). I had considered Elements to be just too reduced. Adobe’s pruning was just too harsh for my liking. PSE9 has crossed the boundary for me. I am a long, long time user of Photoshop. I started on Version 3 on System 7 for the Mac at College in the late 90s. Before that I used Personal Paint on the Amiga A1200. I’ve used most versions of Photoshop since. Photoshop has filled out it’s feature set since Layers were first introduced, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
PSE9 is for an old time user the first Elements I am truly happy with. Sure it misses huge amounts of features. For me though the core nuts and bolts of what I want to do at home are there. For everything else there is Elements+. One area that kicks CS4 in the nuts (the Version I use at work) is Project Bin. Freed from the assumption and political maneuverer that is Bridge, PSE9 lets you manage your open files in the sanest manner imaginable, with thumbnails. Sure we have the stupid tabs from CS4, but at least they can be ignored. Also for an Adobe non-standard UI, Elements 9 looks far better than CS4. No more early 90sbattleship grey, no more monochrome icons. You artwork and the tools to work with it jump forward and the UI recedes.
UPDATE: Bought Elements+, not perfect by any means. Applying a layer style seems to rasterise vector layers and layer styles are far more limited. Worth the ~£10 though.