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MARCH 27, 2008   

Photoshop for the masses

Adobe has just announced a very interesting online application called Photoshop Express, a consumer-friendly version of its flagship image-editing application that's used by virtually all professional photographers, illustrators and designers.

The Photoshop Express is different from the stand-alone application in that it offers a much shorter list of things to do to your photos, and groups them in three categories:

When you choose an action that affects the entire image, like "Saturation" you're presented with a strip of small images showing varying degrees of saturation applied to the image. As you move your mouse over each one, the large image changes to that variation. It's a very simple and immediate way to experiment.

Photoshop Express screenshot

While it's easy to use, I suspect that Adobe will get customer requests to change one aspect of this approach. Currently, the range of each effect is limited. You can only go so far with an effect. For example, it was frustrating that the "softest" setting for Soft Focus wasn't as much as I wanted. With "real" Photoshop you go as far as you want. I think Adobe is trying to gently keep us from going crazy with effects, but I predict that once folks start to play with them they'll demand that Adobe unlock the settings.

If Adobe does open up the range of variations we'll see a lot of really bad stuff done to photos as people get carried away with the possibilities, but that's all part of the learning curve. Sooner or later most people learn that a light touch works best.

Photoshop Express also offers photo-sharing possibilities, slideshows, etc. that I haven't tried yet. Given its Photoshop DNA and the fact that it's a free web-based application, it's hard to see how PS Express will be anything but a huge success.

My only minor quibble with it so far is that because of how it's built using Flash, the text is a fixed size that on my large monitor is hard to read. I'd like to be able to make the text larger as would be possible if it were a standard HTML/Web application. For younger eyes than mine this probably isn't an issue.

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MARCH 2008