My favorite types of Web apps are those that try to emulate the look and feel of software. Cutting-edge UI can be useful, but sometimes you just want something that feels familiar. In the case of Pixlr, a new browser-based photo-editing tool, the target is clearly Adobe's Photoshop.
Pixlr lets you grab photos from your hard drive and edit them in a software-like environment. Included are some advanced tools like customizable brushes and multiple layers. Most people won't need these features, but they're there--and free of charge. There's also a small collection of filters and adjustments. The results are a little more polished than other Web photo-editing tool offerings, but some are harder to tweak. I was able to create some truly brilliant looking effects on a bland photo without too much work. It helps if you've used Photoshop or something like Paint.net before, as some of the menu structure is the same.
After editing a shot the only way to get it off is to download it back to your hard drive as a JPEG or PNG file. There's no uploading to other services, nor does it yet have the capability to pull down shots from photo hosts you're already using--two things that have become a bit of a standard.
When stacked up to Fotoflexer, Picnik, or Photoshop Express, Pixlr shows some of its early age. It's a crowded market and these tools have been stacking on cool and useful features at a rapid clip. The inability to crop, add text, and redo anything you might have undone is a bit of a deal killer for me. Also missing is a history tool, something which, after having worked with Photoshop for a few years, I find to be an absolute necessity--especially when working with layers. Still, despite its shortcomings, I've got high hopes for this photo-editing app. It's very fast, free, and amazingly developed by just one person.