If you've ever used Picnik (review) before, you have an idea of how far online photo editing has come. Similarly, there's Fotoflexer, a user-friendly photo editor that offers one-click tweaks, along with some advanced tools on par with desktop class photo editing software. The service has been around since late last year, and is launching version two this morning.
Like several other online photo editors, Fotoflexer integrates major services like Flickr, MySpace, Picasa, and Facebookto pull your photos down for editing. Short of MySpace (which doesn't have an open API), you can send your edited photos back to all of them if you've plugged in your login credentials. Once you've found a photo you want to "flex," the app will jump you out to a full-screen editing canvas, where you have quick tabbed controls for all the usual editing goodies like rotation, a cropping tool and a resizer. You'll also find some fun distortion effects similar to the liquefy tool in Photoshop (as seen in the screenshot below). This is probably the most enjoyable of the bunch, since it processes the effect in real-time.
The real claim to fame however, is Fotoflexer's Smart Cutout and Recolor effects, which can help you cut out various pieces of a photo, or recolor them to match the tone of your choice. The cutout is the more useful of the two, and lets you cut people or objects out from a shot without having to trace their outline. If you've ever used Photoshop's magnetic lasso or masking tool, you'll know full well how tedious a process this can be. Instead, you use a small paintbrush to "tag" objects you'd like to keep or remove. One click later, and the app will do its best to single out those parts of the photo. If it makes slight mistakes, you can then go back in and remove or replace bits and pieces manually.
Once you've got a cutout, you can add it into another photo, or bring another shot in to the workspace. Fotoflexer lets you have as many layers as you want, and you can move them up and down, or merge them by simply right-clicking. Again, it's probably one of the few Web apps for photo editing that offers contextual menus.
Despite its beauty, there are a few snags here and there. For one thing, even in full screen, the editor remains the same size, which looks and feels very odd if you're using a wide screen monitor. The feature is being added as early as this week according to the Fotoflexer team, although in the meantime, if you're working with a landscape shot, things feel a bit cramped. There's also a lack of some of the advanced editing controls on the quick color effects. For example, clicking the "stamp" button will do its best to make your shot black and white shot with an excess of contrast, however there's no slider or option to tweak it. You either like it or you don't. Luckily, if you know what you're doing, you can achieve similar effects by using the advanced options to recreate each effect manually.
All in all, Fotoflexer is a really well put together app that could make a solid piece of standalone software. The fact that it's free and runs in your browser makes it even better.