Don't know much about photo editing (or just don't care to pay for a premium program)? Kodak's EasyShare is a small, free download, whose dead-simple interface lets you organize and edit photos in a snap. However, if you're looking for lots of editing tools--especially fun ones--you're looking at the wrong editor.
Installation and Hardware Requirements
Downloading the initial 1.6MB file to our HP Pavilion dv5t took just 4 seconds, but installing the entire 45MB download file took a little over 12 minutes. In addition to the fact that it's free, the advantage to choosing EasyShare overAdobe Photoshop Elements 7or Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 Ultimate is that its system requirements are more lenient: it requires just 200MB of disk space and a Pentium IV processor with a minimum clock speed of 1.2 GHz (Elements 7 and X2 Ultimate both require 1.5GB hard disk space). On the other hand,Google Picasa 3requires even less space--100MB--and takes only 11 seconds to install.
Like all of the above programs, EasyShare 7.1 works with Windows XP and Vista; Mac users must use Version 6.1. EasyShare also integrates withKodak Gallery, the company's online storage and sharing site (it's optional). During the installation, you'll be prompted to configure or create an account.
Across the board, ease of use has been a trademark of Kodak's products, and EasyShare 7.1 is no exception: it has one of the simpler photo-editing interfaces. Although not as sleek as Google Picasa 3, EasyShare's zen-like white-and-yellow UI takes even less time to master.
Kodak's secret is that everything is task-oriented--and clearly labeled. Running along the left side of the screen is a narrow column of high-level options, including My Collection, Print at Home, Email, Order Prints Online, Creative Projects, and EasyShare center. Across the top are a few more icons: Add Pictures, New Album, Edit, Burn CD/DVD, Slide Show, Tag Pictures, Copy To, and Gallery Upload.
There you have it: at a glance, users know exactly what EasyShare can do. That's in stark contrast to Photoshop Elements 7, which not only has more features, some of which are buried, but represents them with small icons, whose meaning often isn't obvious until you roll over them with your cursor.
EasyShare draws a distinction between albums saved on the hard drive and those stored online in Kodak Gallery. As with other programs, a sliding scale lets you change the size of the thumbnails. Using the Sort tab at the top, users can arrange photos by caption, date added, date modified, date taken, format, size, or favorites/star rating. If you've used another program to give a photos star ratings, EasyShare can import them. There's also an icon allowing users to mark a photo as a favorite (that is, award it five stars) with one click.
When you double-click on a photo, you can write a caption in the space provided. Later, when you search for photos you can use any word in the caption as a search term. Users can also add tags by clicking the Tag Pictures icon, one of several lining the top of the screen. This is ideal for when you don't think a picture warrants a caption but you still want to be able to find it quickly.
As for the searching, we think EasyShare 7.1 could use a few improvements. For one, we wish it had live search, which means that as soon as you start typing the program begins to narrow results. Picasa 3 does this, as does Elements 7. We do like the advanced search option, which lets users search the photos on display, or their entire collection, as well as decide if they want to search tags, captions, or both.
The trade-off for Kodak's simple interface is that its set of editing tools is pretty spartan; just one row of icons lines the top of the editing screen. Users can crop, rotate, correct red-eye, and enhance photos with one click. With Scene Balance, one of the editing icons, users can adjust the exposure, shadow, and highlights on sliding scales.
Color Balance, another editing option, works differently: EasyShare 7.1 divides the screen into before-and-after shots. Click on a gray area of the Before shot; the program then automatically corrects color in the After shot. We wish you could just click "Color Balance" and immediately see the difference between the Before and After panes; nonetheless, it's a useful tool. We began with a shot of overexposed leaves, with a concrete sidewalk in the background. When we clicked on the gray sidewalk, colors looked much richer in the After shot.
The EasyShare 7.1's effects (divided into Scene and Fun categories) are pretty paltry. The six Scene effects include mainstays such as sepia, black-and-white, and portrait. The four Fun effects include spotlight, coloring book, cartoon, and fish-eye. Other editors, including free ones such as Picasa 3 and Picnik, offer many more options.
New with EasyShare 7.1 is the ability to add text to photos and the Facial Retouch feature; we tried out the latter on a self-portrait, but didn't notice a change in our skin texture or color.
Sharing and Creating
EasyShare 7.1 has all of the sharing options you'd expect from a photo editor: users can copy to hard drives and digital frames, burn CDs and DVDs, and e-mail photos. But most of the program's core sharing and creation features hinge on Kodak Gallery. So, although membership isn't necessary, it definitely helps in getting the most out of EasyShare.
For one, users can upload albums and photos to their Gallery accounts, where they can edit them and order prints. While all of the creation options--which include items as diverse as mugs, calendars, and tote bags--come courtesy of Gallery, when you click on these options in the interface, EasyShare shows you content in that screen, rather than opening up your browser to bring you to Kodak Gallery. To order these products you'll need to set up a Gallery account, of course.
Kodak EasyShare 7.1 Verdict
It's free and foolproof, but Kodak EasyShare 7.1 still lags behind other free editors, such as Google Picasa 3 and Picnik, thanks to a dearth of clever editing features. For users who aren't wed to Kodak Gallery, we'd suggest one of these other two options. But for people who have simple editing needs and like the idea of storing and sharing their photos in Kodak Gallery, EasyShare's integration with the site could outweigh its lackluster feature set.