I have to second Bob's comments...I've used -many- photo editing packages over the years and Photoshop, barring the money issue, is simply second to none. There is most certainly a learning curve...this program isn't for the computer illiterate to be sure, but like any powerful tool, it's very well worth learning and learning right. With that said, it really depends on just how much you really want to do with your images. If your just looking to do simple crops, levels and saturation adjustments, etc., then pretty much any image editor would work fine for you. If for example I'm only resizing images for something like thumbnails for a spread sheet, then frequently I've just used my Olympus Camedia software which I have on my laptop (it came with my Olympus C-4000)...portable, simple and it does the job. On the other hand I'm also a graphic artist as well as a photographer (I'm a musician too), and I do get into much more detailed work from time to time...aka my background swaps or "extractions" as other have called it. I wouldn't dream of doing this type of work on anything other then Photoshop.
Like purchasing a new camera, decide what you actually "need" first and then go from there. Most digital cameras come with some kind of basic image editor these days and for many people, that's all they really need. Then's there's power mongers such as myself who would simply stop and implode if that's -all- they had to work with! LOL!!! I'm currantly working in Photoshop CS2 and I have to honestly say it has some wonderfully powerful tools...I can't really recommend it enough if your serious about working on your images.
Okies....dat's it for now!