Climbing aboard the Photoshop Express

This week I have news of a very interesting development from Adobe who are the makers of Photoshop, the industry-standard digital image manipulation program.

Photoshop is extremely expensive so they also produce a slimmed-down version of the product called Photoshop Elements. It is relatively cheap, pretty powerful and more than enough for the needs of most photo hobbyists.

Adobe has now taken things one step further by launching a free version of Photoshop called Photoshop Express, which is available free for use over the Internet and includes 2Gb of photo storage space and an album facility

Before going any further, I should mention that Photoshop Express is still in Beta which means that it is still being tested and probably still has some glitches. In theory, Express accounts are still only available to Americans because of issues to do with slow operating speeds, but I found I was able to sign up by accepting the default USA as my location.

The site is at photoshop.com/express/ and you get the option of having a test drive first or opening an account immediately. Signing up is easy and the only delay you might encounter is if your browser wants to download the latest version of the Adobe Flash software needed for the site.

Once you’ve entered your details, an e-mail is sent to you with a link that you have to click to complete the sign-up process. You then get access to Express and the first thing you do is upload pictures in .jpg format to your storage space.

You get the option of uploading pictures to an existing album or creating a new one depending on how you want to file them. You might create a new album for pictures from a party, for example, or add new pictures of your dog to an album you might already have created.

A list of your albums is displayed on the left of your screen and, once you’ve selected one of those, the pictures in it are displayed on the right. By clicking a picture, you’re provided with a list of options including editing, rotating, downloading, using the picture in a blog, or e-mailing it to someone.

The Edit feature is surprisingly powerful and gives you the option of cropping, adjusting exposure, adding fill light to shadows, altering white balance, fixing red eye and converting to black and white, among many other options. You save the altered picture and then it’s ready to be downloaded back to your computer, or for whatever else you want to do with it.

Possible uses include using pictures on web pages or in blog posts and you can also let people view them on Express. You are given a web address which you can give to other people to allow them to view those of your albums which you have decided to share.

Photoshop Express still has a slightly unfinished air, with some features being a bit hard to discover and there being no complete feature description that I could find. In spite of those few niggles and the slow speeds, however, I was extremely impressed with what has been achieved.

I think Adobe is on to a winner which should appeal to people who want to do a bit of picture fixing and to those looking for an online home for their pictures. I think that there would even be room, in the future, for an online shop through which users could order calendars, photo books and other products incorporating their pictures.

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