Introducing Photoshop Express

It used to be the case that decent photo-editing software would cost you hundreds of pounds and hundreds of megabytes of hard disk space. Photoshop Express isn't only one of the best in the business, it takes up hardly any disk space on your computer and, best of all, it's free.

what it is and does Adobe Photoshop is one of the most venerable names in photography: speak to any professional photographer and they'll tell you how they couldn't live without it. But for all Photoshop's undisputed power, most people will only ever scratch the surface of this professional's tool. Instead, you need access to Photoshop's core tools: the ability to retouch photos and perform tasks such as removing red-eye. Software such as Photoshop Elements gives you these kinds of features, but why pay for it when you can have it for free? Enter Photoshop Express, which gives you core features at no cost.

Photoshop Express uses Adobe's Flash technology to run a well-featured photo editor from your browser. Its chief benefits are that it's fast, has the kinds of features that you'd expect from expensive software and, because it runs from a browser, you can access your editing software - and up to 2GB of your photos - from anywhere in the world.

Getting started could hardly be easier. Head to www.photoshop.com/express and set up a free account. Accounts come with 2GB of storage, which is enough for a few thousand photos, and are activated within a few minutes. Once that's done, grab a few photos (see Create and share your photos, p111), and you'll see them in your thumbnail gallery ready to access.

the good errs Photoshop Express's biggest selling point is its power. Fire it up and send it into full-screen mode (using the button in the top-right corner) and you'll tup ^^ Remember that despite Express's convenience, for the best results possible you should still go for a standalone package such as Photoshop or the Gimp (see p98).

Your library is where your images go once they've been imported into Photoshop Express. You can edit any photo that Photoshop Express can access, but only those in your library can be shared.

These are the thumbnail-size buttons. With them you can change how big your thumbnails appear, depending on whether you want to see detail or an overview.

This is the full-screen button Push it and the borders of your internet browser vanish, leaving PSE more or less indistinguishable from a fully blown desktop application.

Your library is where your images go once they've been imported into Photoshop Express. You can edit any photo that Photoshop Express can access, but only those in your library can be shared.

These are the thumbnail-size buttons. With them you can change how big your thumbnails appear, depending on whether you want to see detail or an overview.

This is the full-screen button Push it and the borders of your internet browser vanish, leaving PSE more or less indistinguishable from a fully blown desktop application.

If you don't upload photos from your PC, the Other Sites bar can be used to get your images into PSE. It can connect to Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa.

The show button determines which information is shown alongside your photos, while the sort by button determines the order in which they're displayed.

If you don't upload photos from your PC, the Other Sites bar can be used to get your images into PSE. It can connect to Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa.

The show button determines which information is shown alongside your photos, while the sort by button determines the order in which they're displayed.

Photoshop Express's image-editing abilities are surprisingly fully featured for a free online application.

be hard-pressed to tell you're using an application that exists only in your web browser. Once your images have been uploaded you're presented with a scalable set of thumbnails, from which you can launch any individual image for editing.The tools available are widespread: you can alter the saturation of your image, crop and rotate it, resize it and alter the exposure. There are also red-eye removal and touch-up tools that are useful for removing blemishes from your photos: for dust spots, the latter is even easier than using the clone stamp in Photoshop. You can also change the white balance of your photos or convert them to black and white.

Best of all, the changes you make to your images are non-destructive, so if you return to a photo the day after you've changed it, you can undo all your edits without altering the original file.

Another of Photoshop Express's major draws is its ease of use. Everything is attractively laid out and easy to reach, and even inexperienced users will find their way between the gallery and editing modules with no fuss. In comparison, the full version of Photoshop can take some time to get your head around. Those with a good working knowledge of Adobe Lightroom (see p106} will be in heaven.

Photoshop Express also supports a wealth of online photo services, including Flickr (see pi 74), Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa (see pi 76). If you already have images hosted on these sites, you can import them into Photoshop Express without needing to go through the hassle of uploading them twice.

Finally, once your images are uploaded and edited, sharing them is simple. Photoshop Express allows you to create a slick online gallery that you can invite your friends to, or even create a slideshow that you can embed in your own website. If you want people to drop by and see what's new in your photo galleries, Photoshop Express even gives you your own URL, in the format http://yourusername.photoshop.com.

what's bad Some would say that the idea of a free online photo editor is too good to be true, and to an extent those people are right.This is particularly so for users who want to print their photos: Photoshop Express doesn't offer any way to print your shots locally, although you can opt to have them professionally printed.

The lack of printer support might be a blessing in disguise, though, since Photoshop Express's other failing is its handling of high-resolution images. You can't upload images larger than 25MB or 6,000 pixels x 6,000 pixels. This doesn't preclude shots from most cameras, but might stopyou uploading stitched together panoramic photos, for instance. What's more, photos larger than 2,880 x 2,880 will be shrunk after editing. Photographers who use their camera's RAW mode (see p74) will also be disappointed: Photoshop Express works only with JPEGs.

A complaint more advanced users will have is that Photoshop Express doesn't allow you much flexibility when it comes to adjusting your images. In full-blown editors, for instance, you can make either extremely large or extremely small changes to your images: Photoshop Express allows only medium-sized corrections, so if you're a perfectionist and want to make the very small change that turns an image from very good to perfect, it won't be for you. The final drawback is speed. On a quick broadband connection - 2Mbits/sec or faster - Photoshop Express works superbly. If you have a slower broadband connection, however, you'll find it frustrating. Uploading take hours, and although the processing is all done on Adobe's servers, downloading the results will take a long time. It goes without saying that dial-up users needn't apply. ►

DIGITAL PHOTO SOFTWARE

HOW HARD?

Easy. The tools are aimed at novices

HOW LONG?

About 30 seconds per photo

■ Remember not to rely too heavily on internet-based tools for storing your shots. You should always keep backups of the originals somewhere safe - see p164 for more on backup

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