Although Adobe Photoshop has long been a household name in desktop photo editing, it’s been facing serious competition from free Web-based photo editors, namely the critically acclaimed Picnik. Photoshop Express is Adobe’s answer to such popular Web apps; the free editor offers casual photographers 2GB of storage, seamless integration with popular photo-sharing sites, and a clean, ad-free interface. We only wish Photoshop Express’ effects were as comprehensive and fun as its competitors’.
Photoshop Express Interface
One of the best reasons to choose Photoshop Express is its ad-free interface. Photos don’t take up the whole screen, but not having ads makes it easier to focus on the editing at hand. The black background and white font make for easy-to-navigate pages. Sprinkled throughout are small, labeled icons. The top nav has links for browsing your photos, and others’ in the public gallery; on the bottom of the screen below the photos are icons for creating albums and editing, e-mailing, and deleting pictures. When you select Editing, all your options appear in the left-hand pane.
Sharing and Storage
We love how smoothly Photoshop Express integrates with Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and Photobucket. You can be logged into multiple sites at once, and each site’s albums appear as expandable trees in the left-hand pane. Photoshop Express is also a good choice for people in a hurry: Uploading a 1.81MB photo took only 27 seconds with Photoshop Express.
Photoshop Express also offers a huge amount of storage: Up to 2GB worth of pictures can live on the site. In this way, Photoshop Express offers a much-needed marriage between Flickr’s community-minded storage and Picnik’s beyond-basic editing. However, we’re disappointed that Photoshop Express supports only JPEG files.
Given Photoshop’s reputation as a desktop editor, we had high expectations for its performance on the Web side. Alas, the editing options aren’t comprehensive enough. In addition to the basics—cropping, rotating, red-eye removal, and others—Photoshop Express offers six effects: Pop Color, Hue, Black & White, Tint, Sketch, and Distort.
In addition, Photoshop Express users can adjust white balance, highlights, fill lights, and sharpen or soften the focus. Photoshop Elements offers more depth, but the target user of this site is all about simplicity. That’s why Adobe offers how-to videos for each of these functions.
Ease of Use
We like Photoshop Express’ sliding gradients for effects and unlimited undos. We also like that you can save a picture as many times as you want, saving the original as well as countless edited versions. One of the neatest things about the interface is the previews, which appear as a series of thumbnails above the photo. As you scroll over a thumbnail with your cursor, the quality of the photo in the center of the screen changes as well, so you can see the changes you’ve made easily.
Photoshop Express has a few user interface flaws. For example, the Zoom button is buried in the lower left corner of the screen. Also, the Undo button seems understated compared with the Reset All button (which returns the photo to its original state) and the Cancel button (which exits the editing screen).
Learning to Share
Adobe is quickly getting the hang of the whole Web 2.0 thing: Photoshop Express’ interface has a dedicated button for e-mailing photos; your friends will see the image in the body of the e-mail, as well as a link for viewing it online at a higher resolution. You also get free, customizable URLs with easy-to-remember names (e.g., dbwollman.photoshop.com), so friends can check out updated albums on their own. Like Flickr, Photoshop Express lets you browse public galleries (there are more than 45,000 as of this writing) and tag favorites. Unlike Flickr, however, you cannot leave comments and nor make galleries selectively private.
Photoshop Express offers two-way integration with photo-sharing sites. Once you edit a photo taken from one of these sites, it saves the edited version to the album from which it came (it always saves the original on its server). If you choose to share your photos, you can either e-mail the link to friends or post the album for anyone to see. Users can also embed slideshows in blogs and other Web sites, and viewers can download pictures from slideshows.
Photoshop Express vs. Picnik
In taking Photoshop Express for a test drive, it’s hard not to make comparisons with Picnik, the free editor that boasts editing tools galore and a simple interface. For starters, storage options don’t come cheap on Picnik. The free version stores only the last five pictures you’ve edited.
And although we like Picnik’s layout, we prefer Photoshop Express. Whereas Adobe offers an ad-free interface for free, Picnik users have to upgrade to Premium accounts ($24.95 per year) to enjoy this. Moreover, only Premium users can log into multiple photo-sharing sites simultaenously. Photoshop Express is faster, too: Picnik took 50 seconds to upload a photo that Photoshop Express uploaded in 27 seconds.
When it comes to editing options, however, Picnik still takes the cake. It offers 31 fun filters to nonpaying users, plus text, shapes, frames, and standard editing tools. Photoshop Express’ six effects lack both the depth and the cleverness of Picnik’s. Moreover, it allows users to upload everything but RAW and PDF files; Photoshop Express users can upload only JPEGs.
Both Adobe Photoshop Express and Picnik offer easy editing and integration with popular sharing sites. We like both and recognize they cater to different needs. The free version of Picnik offers more filters, making it more fun to use. But if you can live without the flashy effects, Photoshop Express’ 2GB of free storage makes it a one-stop shop for photo management. And its clean, ad-free interface will make you want to stick around.