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Photoshop Expressionism

I first used Adobe Photoshop more than 15 years ago, as an editor at my college newspaper. It was too powerful for all but one computer in the office, and only a small minority of the people in the office even tried to learn how to wield this fiendishly difficult program.

The program I reviewed today shares the Photoshop name, but has little else in common with that image editor. You could say that Photoshop Express is to Photoshop as Microsoft's Outlook Express is to Outlook--but such a comparison would be unkind to Adobe's effort.

Photoshop Express needs a lot of work, but even in its embryonic state it's an impressive product.

Eight years ago, I would not have thought it possible to construct something as complicated as a photo editor inside a Web page. Now, I'm amazed by how many sites offer these functions. Of the others I tried, I found the most to like at Flickr, whose tools are provided by a third site, Picnik. Photobucket's editing features are mainly geared toward adding artistic effects of one sort or another, while Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly and Snapfish only provide basic stuff like rotating, cropping and removing red eyes from photos.

Considering this profusion of Web-based image-editing programs, it's clear that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson was right when, in his "Findings of Fact" in U.S. v. Microsoft, he wrote that the Web browser could become a software platform:

Operating systems are not the only software programs that expose APIs [application programming interfaces] to application developers. The Netscape Web browser and Sun Microsystems, Inc.'s Java class libraries are examples of non-operating system software that do likewise. Such software is often called "middleware," because it relies on the interfaces provided by the underlying operating system while simultaneously exposing its own APIs to developers.... [T]o the extent the array of applications relying solely on middleware comes to satisfy all of a user's needs, the user will not care whether there exists a large number of other applications that are directly compatible with the underlying operating system.

What's not as clear is whether photo editing is something that is better done online. I can think of some scenarios where that would be the case: People who habitually use multiple computers, or who don't have a computer of their own at home, or who are uninterested, unwilling or unable to add any more software to their own machine. But all of the Web-based photo editors that I've tried have been built for use by one person at a time, lacking the collaborative tools that make Web-based applications like Google Docs seem such a breakthrough compared to disk-bound word processors and spreadsheets.

What do you think about the idea of editing your picture in a browser? Leave your thoughts here, or send them my way during my Web chat today, starting at 2 p.m. this afternoon.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 3, 2008; 9:35 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

Web based software just scares me. I can't imagine allowing a large corporation having access to my files whether photos or other documents. There are just too many opportunities for abuse of data. Large corporations have shown too much arrogance in regard to users' privacy in order to make sales.
No thanks.

Posted by: Grant | April 3, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I signed up because I share all of my nature images with the world for free.

I love photoshop so this will wirk good for spreading my work online with the social network integration.

Nature Photography
http://www.ForestWander.com

Posted by: ForestWander | April 3, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I haven't used this new PhotoShop (and from your review, I think I'll wait), but I have used Picnik, via Flickr. It is pretty impressive and quick considering what it is. I think it's great for a quick crop or lighting adjustment, especially if it's a photo I've sent directly to Flickr from my cellphone (meaning I don't have a copy on my PC to begin with). For more extensive editing, and assuming it's something that I already have a disk copy of, I'll stick with a locally installed editor.

Posted by: LarryMac | April 3, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

LarryMac: That is an excellent point--if the photo can be sent directly from a camera to a photo-sharing site, a Web-based image editor becomes a lot more important. You can already buy several different cameras with WiFi built-in, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of them. I should have thought of this angle!

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 3, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Cool. Can I be your official assistant now? :-)

Posted by: LarryMac | April 4, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

For those interested in online image editing, it's also worth taking a look at FotoFlexer, which has a new version. (I have no personal or financial interest in FotoFlexer.)

Posted by: TonyW | April 4, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I teach mostly older adults to download their photos and do some basic edits to them. Picasa has been a great tool for this purpose, but downloading and installing it has been pretty scary for many of those folks. I think that, for *some* of them, it might feel safer to do the edits in the browser -- provided they can find the photos to upload (and that's a big "if").

I wasn't aware of Picnik or FotoFlexer. FotoFlexer's terms of use seem much like the original Photoshop Express TOU -- or perhaps they're even more extreme (although I never feel sure of what I'm understanding when I read legalese).

Thanks for your reporting on this stuff.

Posted by: Lisa T | April 6, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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