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PicLens: Instant photo galleries off the Web

Cooliris' PicLens lets Firefox and Safari generate instant slide shows off Flickr, Google Images, and many other photo Web sites.

Galleries of images set off against a black background have become common as software and Web sites try to help people show off their photos better. Cooliris' PicLens offers a clever way to do set up such galleries from many Web sites on the fly.

a view of PicLens in action
a view of PicLens in action Cooliris

The PicLens browser extension can convert a bunch of images from Google and Yahoo image search, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and RSS Media-based sites and other locations into a full-screen gallery of pictures. The photos slide by at a stately pace or advance when the user clicks the keyboard's arrow key, and a handy filmstrip across the bottom aids in jumping to the photo you'd like to see.

The first 1.0 beta version worked only on Apple's Safari browser on Mac OS X, but a new version 1.5 beta released this month now works on PicLens now works with Firefox on Windows. In addition, with the new Safari 1.5 release, PicLens for the Mac now is out of beta.

I found the software worked on Firefox, but imperfectly. The on-screen controls were missing the first time I used it, though they appeared after a reboot. I couldn't get it to work with Picasa Web albums. The interface could use a button to exit.

And alt-tabbing to switch between applications seemed to send PicLens into a zany limbo zone. Apparently the software won't yield control of the screen to other applications, but the mouse and keyboard interact with whatever software is hidden underneath. If you alt-tab back to PicLens/Firefox, though, you can resume using it or hit the escape key to exit.

One disappointment--and it's not really PicLens' fault--is that low-resolution previews such as the default Flickr photostreams look pretty coarse when scaled up to full screen, but the full-size images that can be found through Yahoo image search, for example, can take a long time to download. And because of the aforementioned screen-hogging issue, you don't have much choice but to wait or exit.

(Via John Nack)