Web 2.0 has seen a proliferation of Web sites and services that, in theory, free us from the shackles of desktop applications. From the streets of London to the foothills of , all the intrepid webnik needs is an Internet connection and some pixels to share with the world. One of the biggest explosions has put image editing right in our browsers -- just like in our picture -- and today we're rounding up some of our favourites.
Gone are the days when monkeying with photos was the sole preserve of designers and artists with ridiculously expensive copies of Photoshop and the like. Now that even the average Joe has a digital camera and a Flickr or Facebook account, online image editors are here to help us crop out randoms, banish red-eye and even seam carve with the ease of a pro.
We've also decided to put these services to the test on a deeper level than simply tweaking pictures from last night's party. One of the more tedious tasks for the blogger is resizing images for the Web. We may love capturing enormous shiny high-resolution images of the latest gadgets with our digital cameras, but then we have to drop the size and the resolution to 72dpi.
Image-editing behemoths such as Photoshop are clearly overpowered for this kind of grunt-work, especially when opening such programs involves launching it and then heading off for a three-course lunch, a stroll around the park and a quick dip into War and Peace. And when Crave escapes the office, reporting on the most interesting gadgets and gizmos from around the world, we have to perform such tasks on the go, with relatively underpowered laptops. The online image editor seems like a great solution to this problem, so we'll test each of these sites by resizing an image for the Web.
Follow us by clicking on the links as we head out across the Web to find out whether these online image editors are picture perfect. -Rich Trenholm
Picnik is a free program that allows you to edit and alter your photos by linking up with the places you store and share them, such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa's online albums, as well as those stored on your computer. You can then email the image to Snapfish, Tumblr, SmugMug, WalMart, and many more. Logging into Facebook through Picnik also allows you to edit your friends' pictures, although you can't re-upload them to your friends' profiles (phew!).
An ad-free premium account allows you to manage photos across all your photo-sharing sites, and has advanced options such as levels, curves and full-screen editing.
Edit: This allows you to rotate, crop and resize pictures, as well as altering the exposure. Exposure, sharpening, highlight and shadows can be adjusted with simple slider, with the aid of a histogram. There's an autofix button, white balance correction and a red-eye fix that distinguishes between human and animal eyes. One nifty feature is the ability to draw a line across the image that Picnik will then use to straighten the image.
Effects: There's a wide range of filters and effects, from the obvious black and white, sepia, saturated or softened, to retro camera styles such as Lomo and Holga, or cool neon and gooify effects -- pictured above. You can also frame images, doodle on them, and add text in an impressive array of fonts.
Blog image: Resizing by pixels or percentage is possible, but no resolution change.
CNET.co.uk verdict: Comprehensive compatibility with other sites, plenty of effects and impressive editing options make Picnik the one to beat. 8/10
Formerly Fauxto, Splashup looks very much like Photoshop. It's a layer-based, lightweight editor similar to offline editor Paint.net that can pull in images from Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket or any URL you specify.
Edit: Basic Photoshop-style image editing is the idea here, rather than specifically photo-related retouching. So there's no control over exposure or touch-up options such as red-eye removal. Splashup's biggest strength is its ability to edit multiple files, all with multiple layers, layer effects and blend modes. There's no history palette to go back through the edits you've made, but you can go back some way with the undo button.
Effects: There are a limited number of basic fonts, shapes, brushes and effects. Sliders control the effects, which are previewed in your image as you tinker with the sliders.
Blog image: You can resize and save your image to a lower quality, but strangely it doesn't tell you the new resolution, so you need to put in some guesswork.
CNET.co.uk verdict: Layers and effects are impressively powerful, but without photo-retouching controls this isn't the complete package. 5/10
Adobe's Photoshop Express is the lightweight online version of the image-editing leviathan that is Photoshop -- or rather some Photoshop-style menus on the grey background of Photoshop Elements. Despite being much lighter than Photoshop, Express is still one of the more ponderous online editors, taking its time to switch between modes, upload photos and preview changes. This may be because we're using it in Blighty, however: you'll have to say you live in the US to use the current beta version. It allows photo upload from Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa.
Edit: Exposure, white balance, saturation, sharpening and more can be adjusted. It will select the main colours for you to choose one to 'pop', while red-eye removal and a clone tool are also available.
Effects: Perhaps surprisingly, you don't get much in the way of filters and effects. The coolest trick available is a distort option, pictured above. Images are saved to your Photoshop online gallery, or downloaded at preset sizes to your computer.
Blog image: You can copy a snippet of HTML to the clipboard that will embed the image into a Web site, but without any way of altering the quality.
CNET.co.uk verdict: The Photoshop brand will make this popular, and the photo retouching options are certainly powerful, but it's still rather laborious. 6/10
If the first requirement of any Web 2.0 concern is a daft name, blame Flickr for the profusion of -r names. flauntR goes all out, with a suite of programs named stylR, editR, textR, mobilR, picasR, profilR and printR. flauntR and friends have a slick-looking interface, but we found that on our averagely specced Windows XP PC it could be slow, especially when previewing changes. Images can be uploaded and downloaded to Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Picasa and Flickr, or optimised for use with a host of specific social networking sites' profiles, or for mobile phones.
Edit: The basics are all here: resizing, cropping and the like. The most powerful feature is a curves editor. This allows you to alter the colour curves of the whole image or a selected area.
Effects: There are a limited number of effects, including nightvision, infrared and a Lomo-style effect. These can all be tweaked with sliders.
Blog image: Images can be resized, but yet again there's no resolution option, except for dropping the quality of the saved image. Disappointingly, the resizing box has to be dragged from the bottom right corner instead of from any point.
CNET.co.uk verdict: The profusion of programs gives you a wide range of options, but can be a mite confusing. One to watch, though. 7/10
Snipshot, formerly known as Pixoh, has just five options: resize, enhance, crop, rotate and adjust. The interface is equally clean and simple. It has an API for integrating photos with your own site, and a Firefox extension and bookmarklets that allow you to right-click on any online image and pull it into Snipshot for editing. For $9 (£4.50) a month you get some rather impressive pro features, such as special effects, face detection and, astonishingly, online editing of raw files.
Edit: As well as resizing, one-click enhancement, rotation and straightening, there is the option to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation and sharpness.
Effects: Effects are only available as part of the $9 per month pro package.
Blog image: Cropping and resizing is made easy by clickable handles on the image, complete with a pop-up that keeps you informed of the new size as you drag. There's no option to change the quality when saving, sadly. The API does allow for your users to edit photos and upload them to your site.
CNET.co.uk verdict: Despite the simplicity of the interface, there's an awful lot going on in Snipshot. If we didn't have to pay for the extra features, this would be our favourite. 8/10
In December of 2007, Picnik's functions were integrated into Flickr itself -- and three months later, MySpace -- so you don't need to switch between the two sites. Simply upload your pictures to Flickr and hit the edit button, and you'll switch to Picnik mode.
Edit: This is the same interface as Picnik, with the same features.
Effects: Again, mostly the same, but some of the features -- certain fonts, effects and so on -- that are free in Picnik itself require premium Picnik membership to use in Flickr. If you need them, you can just head over to the Picnik site and work for free.
Blog image: Again, resizing by pixels or percentage is possible, but there's no resolution change.
CNET.co.uk verdict: Snipshot gives Picnik a run for its money, but the seamless combination of Picnik's wide-ranging editing options with Flickr's elegant photo management makes this darn-near perfect. 9/10