Adobe Photoshop Express review

Those familiar with Photoshop Elements 6 will be in familiar territory using Express, but there are two vital differences between the tools. First, Express is not a desktop application at all, but a Flash-based website.

It forms the latest part of Adobe’s campaign to develop online tools that has seen it buy up the online word processor Buzzword, and means that users can access and edit their saved files from any computer with an internet connection, simply by logging in.

The second and perhaps most important difference is that Photoshop Express is completely free. Although it’s currently still in beta testing, there is no charge to sign up, and users are also given a 2GB file store to keep their images organised. Compared to the £60 price tag of Photoshop Elements, this immediately starts to seem like a good deal.

Because it’s an online service, Adobe has been able to tightly integrate it with Facebook, PhotoBucket and Picasa. Users can log in to those sites from within Express and import all their images, with titles and descriptions intact. These are shown as thumbnails, and can be browsed much as albums are in Elements.

Unlike images uploaded directly to the site, these imported images are never altered during editing. Instead, new copies of the files are made on the site they originated from. In Picasa, these copies are given a forgivable but slightly cheeky self promotional link to the Photoshop Express website in the title.

Using the software, images can be cropped, tinted, rotated, distorted and sharpened and there are several automatic tools for reducing red-eye and adjusting the hue and saturation of an image. This should be enough to cater for most users looking to touch up photos before uploading them to Facebook or PhotoBucket.

Despite these tasks being very intensive, the site performs edits quickly and smoothly, feeling far more like a desktop application than many online tools we’ve previously used. Past versions of the file are even stored, as in desktop applications, and can be scrolled through with undo and redo buttons at the bottom of the screen.

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The interface is admirably clean and sophisticated, just as Elements is, with menus animated in a simple but attractive fashion. It shows that Adobe has come closer to mastering web applications than anyone else and it even gives Google’s polished Documents a run for its money.

Unfortunately, though, Express is missing several features that we find invaluable in Elements. It’s conceivable that Adobe will continue adding new features to the tool, and APIs for connection to yet more third party sites, but selection, photo merging and clone stamp tools are all absent right now.

It’s clearly a tool with amazing potential. It’s as usable as its desktop cousin, Elements, and offers a good selection of basic image processing tools. But, for now at least, if you need serious image manipulation tools you’re still better off spending hard cash.

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Software subcategory Photo editing software

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