I don't have much experience with Photoshop Elements 11 or really any Photoshop product for that matter and I needed a guidebook to get me going. My go to technical manual is usually one of the more comprehensive, although sometimes less user-friendly, guides (think The Missing Manual series). These guides pack absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about a given product into their pages, but since I barely qualify as a beginner here I took a different approach and picked up two MUCH more user friendly books (this one and Teach Yourself VISUALLY Photoshop Elements 11 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))) and I couldn't be happier with my choices.
I won't compare them fully here (I've reviewed the Teach Yourself Visually book on its own page) except to say that the main way they differ is in the graphics that accompany the step-by-step guides and the amount of commentary between guides. This book has much more text between guides that goes into why you might use tools and special tips for using them in different situations. The teach yourself visually guide has very little commentary, but makes up for it by providing fully labeled pictures with each of its guides that SHOW you exactly which buttons to press. That said the two books really balance each other out making a great pair. If you're a true beginner or are just feeling a little intimidated I'd recommend getting both.
But lets look specifically at this book
Photoshop Elements 11 for Dummies is broken down into 6 parts. Although you could use it as a strict reference, these parts are laid out in a way suggesting that they be read in order as sometimes topics in late chapters refer to things you would have picked up in earlier chapters. The six parts are:
1) Organizing and Editing Images - Before you edit your photos in PSE you have to get them into the program. This section is incredibly helpful with that covering not only importing digital images, but also scanning in photos. This section also introduces you to the work areas of PSE and defines many of the icons. It's nice to have this all up front giving you bearings so the following chapters are easier to understand.
2) Managing Media - I don't know why some of the topics here weren't just covered in section one. Creating albums would to me fall under organization, but its not a big deal.
3) Selecting and Correcting Photos - This section is the "meat" of the guide and probably the real reason you bought it. It covers the majority of ways you can manipulate an image including step by step guides, before and after examples, and lots of tips to speed up your work flow and get the most out of each tool
4) Exploring Your Inner Artist - Beyond editing your images to fix imperfections, there are a lot of "artistic" corrections you can make like adding filters or integrating text into an image. If you're a strict photographer you may not use these as much, but if you want to make your images into posters or greeting cards or just give images a certain feel with a filter you'll spend a lot of time on this section.
5) Printing, Creating, and Sharing - I thought this was interesting, while I don't print many images, I didn't know about the additional printing options that come with Photoshop Elements things like adding boarders, labels, printing proofs etc.
6) Part of Tens - I have never understood the purpose of this section in a dummies book. It always feels like a bit of filler to me. This gives ten ideas for projects and ten tips for composing your pictures. They don't seem like revolutionary tips or ideas and could probably have been included somewhere else in the book. It doesn't detract from the rest of the book, but I could live without it.
Overall the content in the book is well laid out and described, but might be a little on the light side for more advanced users. On the bright side if you like the layout of this book and the author's writing style it looks like she has a similar dummies book that's a little denser (Photoshop Elements 11 All-in-One For Dummies).
Beyond the content organization the layout of the book and it makes it easier to use. If you've read a dummies book before you'll know what I'm talking about. The book defines a set of icons that point out things that you should really remember, things that are especially important because they could damage something if you do the wrong, things that are extra technical and can be skipped over, etc. I like having these icons for two reasons one they do direct you to the kind of information you're looking for and two they act as mini guide-posts throughout the book which make finding your way back easier. A few times I knew there was a small topic I wanted to revisit. I could remember that it was marked with a quick tip icon, but couldn't remember the exact page number. With the icons I could easily flip back and find it.
Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this guide and thought it shortened my learning curve substantially. It has the content that I needed and a good bit of commentary to string it all together. As a more visual learner I did think that it could have been improved with more action screenshots to show, but with Teach Yourself VISUALLY Photoshop Elements 11 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech)) as a companion book this wasn't problematic at all.
Four Stars for very visual learners
Five Stars for everyone else
Five Stars overall