1. Always do the trial.
This is a good idea for any version of Elements so that you can be sure there's nothing in your system that quarrels with a new version, but it's especially a good idea for PSE 11. If you're a heavy user of the Organizer it's particularly important to try the new way and see if you can adjust to it.
2. Get out of the Quick Fix.
When you start Elements 11 for the first time, you're in the Quick Fix module. That's fine and it may be a little easier for a first-timer, but you can do a lot more in what Adobe calls Expert Mode, so click this button to go there:
This is what used to be called "Full Edit" in earlier versions of Elements. It's where you have access to everything the Elements Editor can do. Even if you're a total newbie, give it a try. Open a photo and play around with what you see. If you aren't using the Organizer and its version sets, go to File>Duplicate before you start and work on the copy. Never, never, never work on your original photo. (If you use the Organizer or another program like iPhoto or Lightroom that creates versions for you, this isn't an issue.)
3. Find your tools.
Adobe also redesigned the Tools panel in Elements 11. It's always two columns now, for one thing. Also, if your screen is tall enough, the tools are grouped into labeled sections: View, Select, Enhance, Draw, and Modify. (If your screen resolution is minimal for Elements, you won't see these section headings.)
Many Elements tools are actually nested groups of tools. When you move your cursor over a section of the Tools panel, you see a tiny arrow at the upper right of any tool in that section that hides a group of other tools:
If you have good eyesight, these tiny arrows (where the red arrow is pointing)
tell you that there's more than one tool in this slot in the Tools panel.
In Elements 11 there are two ways to get to the other tools. First, when you hover over a tool, like the Spot Healing Brush in the example, there's a letter in parenthesis after the tool's name. That's the key shortcut to activate the tool. In this case, it's J. If you keep tapping the J key, you cycle through all the tools in that spot. (In this case, the Spot Healing Brush and the Regular Healing Brush.)
Or you can just go down to the Tool Options at the bottom of your screen (click the Tool Options button if you don't see it), and you'll see all the tools that share that slot. Just click the icon for another tool to switch to it.
Here you can see the icon for the Regular Healing Brush. Just click it to switch over to it.
If you've used a previous version of Elements, there's no more right-clicking or holding the mouse down on a tool icon to see the others.
4. Take back the Editor.
If you've used Elements before, you'll probably find that Expert Mode's restrictions on what you can do with panels will have you beating your head on your desk after using it for about ten minutes. You'll be happy to know there's a well-hidden way to make Expert Mode more like the Editor you knew. Click the tiny arrow to the right of the More button and choose Custom Workspace:
Click where the cursor is here and choose Custom Workspace from the popout menu.
It's not exactly the same as before, but it's a whole lot closer to how it used to work. You'll find more about the differences between the Basic and Custom workspaces at http://barbarabrundage.com.
5. Add some things to Elements.
One of the best new features about Elements 11 is how easy it is to add actions, Layer styles, and suchlike. No more delving into the bowels of the program to track down MediaDatabase.db3. Now there's a handy Actions panel, just like the one in Photoshop (except that it only plays actions, not writes them), and it's a snap to add things to the Effects panel as well. Just click the little four-lined square at the panel's upper right for this menu:
Adding a Layer style is as easy as choosing this menu item.
This is a huge improvement over the old way. There are tons of actions and Layer styles you can download if you just do a quick search for what you want.
There are a lot of changes in Elements 11, but there are some really nice new features, too, like the Actions panel and the new filters for creating illustrations from your photos (Graphic Novel, Comic, and Pen and Ink).