A few years ago you would have needed some good software and a beefy computer to do sharable, animated photo slideshows as good as what travel site TripAdvisor is now offering. Called TripWow, this new photo tool is completely free and requires no registration whatsoever. Better yet--the results look beautiful.
The tool appears to be aimed at folks who either do not have access to photo editing and sharing software, or a subscription to a photo-hosting service. That said, Picasa, Flickr, and Facebook users can import their shots with very little effort. There's also an option to upload from your hard drive, though these files must be in the JPEG format.
In my go with the app, I opted for Flickr, which worked like a charm. I didn't even need to sign into Flickr for it to get my shots, I just typed in my username and picked which sets I wanted to grab from. One minor kink here is that you cannot pick individual photos from a folder; instead, you can pick a whole set, then remove the ones you don't like. This can turn out to be a very laborious process if you've got heaps of photos stashed somewhere.
When done re-ordering your photos, and setting their location (which won't automatically be set if your photos have GPS data), you can pick between two different themes and a handful of music tracks. Missing is the option to use your own music, which other photo slideshow tools like Animoto let you do. While the theme stays the same, you can pick a different music track to play for each city you're in.
What's impressive here is that your slideshow is done and ready to go in about 10 seconds. This is how mine turned out:
As a photo nerd, I do shake my fist at some things that are missing and that would make the experience much more enjoyable. The first being that you cannot download the result--it's only available to view within the Adobe Flash-based player. You cannot set how long you want each photo to display, which would give you a much greater degree of control.
On the visual side, your photos are also constantly in motion, something that makes them hard to track as they move across the screen; this is compounded by the fact that they don't take up the whole screen. And speaking of screen real estate, the player's "full-screen" option is not truly full-screen. What you get instead is a slightly blown up version surrounded by a large, black border.
Niggles aside, this tool is totally free and very polished. Many of the irksome things about its slideshow experience can be fixed by using alternatives such as Animoto, Slide, and RockYou. However, few of those would be as good for chronicling your globetrotting against a giant, Indiana Jones-esque animated map like this one does.