Saturday, March 29, 2008

Adobe Photoshop Express Beta launches

Digital photography has become a way of life for lots and lots of web users and there is no shortage of services out there to host your digital pictures (Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa, Windows Live Spaces, not to mention social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace). As more and more day-to-day computing tasks move to the cloud, the market really needs a solid, web-based editing suite. With Adobe Photoshop Express, which launched its beta today, we get just that.

We look at a lot of web software and services, but have to say that Photoshop Express one of the slickest web-based applications for photos that we have ever used. Although services in the past like Picasa or Picnik have offered some basic photo editing capabilities, what Photoshop Express is doing is in a completely different league. Like many other photo services, Photoshop Express will let you share and display your online photos; each user account is given 2 GB of space to store and share photos (this is free, additional space and extra features will be available in the future, pricing TBD) and you can embed links to the Photoshop Express hosted galleries or direct-embed individual images.

What makes Photoshop Express so different is the Photoshop aspect of it all. To be clear, Adobe is aiming this service squarely at consumers -- people who spend most of their time connected to the net and want a fast, effective way to edit photos -- not prosumers or digital professionals. JPEG is the only supported photo format (though editing RAW in a web based app makes little sense to use anyway) Still, the editing capabilities and the smoothness of the interface are leaps and bounds ahead of any competing service. For instance, the service is non-destructive -- meaning that any edits you make to your photographs can be removed at any time -- and in any order. Don't like a change you made last week? Remove it, or revert back to the original. Nothing is permanently changed or destroyed. Tools like red-eye removal, white balance, exposure, digital and color effects are all easy to use and very, very effective. There's even a version of Adobe's Healing Brush if you need to remove part of a photograph and remap it with something else.

Even cooler, Adobe has worked with other popular photo management websites and social networks and included hooks into those APIs within the program. As of right now, you can access you Facebook, Picasa and Photobucket accounts from within Photoshop Express, edit the photos just like you would edit any other, and a saved copy of that edit is then automatically added to your Facebook or Picasa page, for the world to see. No downloading and reuploading -- just edit as if it was already in your library. If you want to add those images to your Photoshop Express library, you simply drag and drop the images over. During the conference call Adobe held last week, we asked about future API support and Adobe told us that a deal has already been made with Flickr that will be appearing in the very near future and that other major photo services are being contacted as well.

And because this is completely web based, the product is platform independent. Mac, Windows, Linux, as long as you can run Flash 9 -- you can use Photoshop Express and it will perform the same in Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox (and we assume Opera too, we just haven't tested it with Opera). You will need a broadband connection to use Photoshop Express -- but on a fast connection, even in the first day of the beta, this thing flies.

Check out the gallery for a look at the interface and some of the stuff available right off the bat. Although this is definitely aimed at consumers, this is something all photo fans should check out, because it offers an easy, no-fuss alternative to photo editing.

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