Online Photo Editors 5 Years Later

In 2008  thePhotoFinishes did a popular review of the 5 best online Photo Editors. Having just taken a tour of the best online photo editors, some of the 5 best were rediscovered 5 years later. Here are their stories in a field that is frankly over-crowded with great online photo finishing tools. How well do these veteran online tools line up in a tough market that will likely see an  inevitable shakeout? To answer that question is the purpose of this review.

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2008 Version of Splashup

The 2008 Splashup was praised for being the closest to a full photo editor and for emulating the Photoshop toolbar and contol palletes for basic features as well as look and feel. Splashup was one of the few online photo editors that supported masking and selections, layers in a vigorous fashion including opacity+blend modes, and a number of useful filters and color corrections.


 2013 Version of Splashup

The latest version of Splashup has added the Photoshop dark color scheme and is able to handle multiple files at the same time. In addition, the layers command supports several blending options including the popular drop shadow, embossing, and outer glow used on text layers. Also there is webcam support as well as more storage and save file options including Facebook, SmugMug, Splashup Cloud,Photobucket added to Picasa, Flickr and your own desktop.

Splashup does not have the range of features that Pixlr Editor offers particularly in Color Correction tools and advanced layer support. But Splashup does have the same crisp response time for all its operations with the exception of initial file load. Also, unlike Pixlr, Splashup exhibited some reliability problems which disappeared on re-initializing the app. Like Pixlr, there also is a free Splashup Light version which provides a subset of fun features to work with and again is very fast and responsive.

Picnik Becomes PicMonkey

Picnik was bought by Google in 2010 and all of it was made free for online usage. Previously. Picnik charged users $25/year for some of its premium effects and no online advertising. In 2012, Google closed Picnik and some of the key developers left Google to start-up PicMonkey, a new basically free online photo editor with a much more intuitive and fun interface.

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 2008 Version of Picnik

Back in 2008 Picnik was one of the easiest to use of the online Photo Editors due to its fast speed of operations and its great pop-up documentation for every operation. You can see a help popup in the screenshot above. Picnik provided all the core photo edit operations: color corrections, crop, rotate, resize, plus blurs and sharpening. Unlike Splashup there were primitive layers and no masking capabilities. But Picnik was one of the first online editors to provide over two dozen special effects which are so popular in Instagram and other mobile apps. The only difference in many cases is the touchscreen operations and wizards in Instagram.

 2013 Version of PicMonkey

The new PicMonkey follows the older Picnik in having many special effects [even more than before], filters and new themes while supporting the same set of core editing operations. However, the user interface is different with all the control on the left with popup wizards to control some of the operations. There is also a new collage creation feature. In addition PicMonkey has apps for Chrome and facebook. Finally, PicMonkey has an public API like Aviary and Pixlr that allows developers to install PicMonkey on their websites for free

The biggest change in PicMonkey, besides the marriage and divorce from Google, is the new look and feel. Where as before, the software tried to instruct its users – now the use of the same type of control elements makes PicMonkey not only easy but fun to operate. It also helps that response time is quite good and detailed video and online help is still  available.

Phixr
One thing that has not changed since 2008 is that Phixr which is free throughout [no premium options or services] is still stocked full of advertising. This is necessary to play

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 2008 Version of Phixr

The 2008 version had one of the best set of input and output options which is still attractive because it means that you can get and the distribute your images with greater ease. Also like Picnik, Phixr could not match the photo editing commands and features of Splashup but had the core resize, crop, straighten, rotate, color correction and touch up commands essential for photo editing. Finally, Phixr response time was not the fastest but prompt enough to be effective.

 2013 Version of Phixr

The latest version of Phixr has added even more special, Instagram-like effects and features nearly doubling the options to 60 effects and 60 overlays and themes. Also you can create collages directly.

What makes Phixr attractive is that users can quickly create cards, posters, calendars, and fun images for distribution on 14 different outlets including Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and so on. The response time has improved for the color correction, and framing operations but is not quite as crisp as say Pixlr and Splashup. Many users, like myself keep coming back because one can create fun graphics and then distribute the resulting cards and imagery in so many places.

Snipshot

This is one photo editor that has barely changed over the past 5 years. But its virtues, ability to handle huge image files, yet fast uploads and downloads also remain.

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 2008 Version of Snipshot

In 2008, Snipshot provided a complete set of core features – rotation, crop, resize, horizontal and vertical flips, plus a one of the most complete set of color corrections. But that is it – no filters, special effects, or advanced edit features like masking or layering.

 2013 Version of Snipshot

As of 2013,Snipshot has made essentially no changes. But the competition has. There are at least a dozen online editors that now provide the same and many more editing features than Snipshot. Its sole advantage appears to be the ability to handle large files – but even that is being matched by both PC and Air based online photo editors like Pixlr and others.

Snipshot will have to watch out as the competition not just improves but goes well beyond its functionality.

FotoFlexer

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 2008 Version of Fotoflexer

Fotoflexer had the most advanced photo editing features 5 years ago – even more than Splashup. But Splashup, because of its emulation of the Photoshop interface along with fast response time, was the superior online photo editor of the day. Also the review then noted several speed bumps in FotoFlexer’s overall performance.

 2013 Version of Fotoflexer

5 years later, Fotoflexer has improved its speed of operations; however, it is still slow on program start up and image load times. However, Fotoflexer has nearly doubled its filter and special effects.And in a field that is cloning everybody else’s offerings FotoFlexer has some distinct and handy features and effects.

Fotoflexer is another example of how the Flash interface can be used online and across platforms except iOS very effectively. That is why this reviewer was surprised to see basically the same UI layout from 5 years ago. Now there are new features to be sure but take a look at what Pixlr-o-matic and PicMonkey have to offer. Making your online app not only powerful but also fun to use is important especially among mobile-using millennials.

Summary 

5 years feels like a decade or more in the online web development world. The popularity of cameras  and picture taking has soared with mobile devices starting with the Apple  iPhone and culminating in the camera phones like Nokia’s Lumia 1020 with its 41Mpixel  camera and the Samsung Galaxy NX which merges aSamsiung Galaxy smartphone on the back of  a top notch  Samsung NX DSLR. In short, the photography and photo editing , already upturning with compact and digital SLR and video units, took a hockey stick uptick with mobile phones and Facebook+Instagram+Pinterest+etcetc.

 

So these 5 year veterans of online photo editing continue to prosper. But they now have formidable competition from new and funky entrants like Aviary, BeFunky, Iccy, Pixlr, Psykopaint and a half dozen more. Splashup with Splashup Light and Webmonkey appear to have responded the best to these new fun & funky market demands. But only time, probably on a short leash, will tell.

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