Adobe made some news recently with their Photoshop Express beta announcement recently. Essentially, Photoshop Express aims to be a web application that has a lot of the Photoshop functionality. It’s free, offers 2GB of storage for your photos, and carries the Photoshop name. I took it for a test drive and found it to be functional for when you’re in a pinch but by no means a photo editor replacement. The delay between the uploading of your files and editing your photo can get to be pretty tedious. Frankly, it’s an impressive web app, but I wouldn’t want to use it regularly.
If the ‘free‘ and ‘Photoshop‘ was what originally striked your fancy in Photoshop Express, I’d recommend you not waste any more time with Photoshop Express because there are alternatives out there that can change your mind if you’re doing novice, non-professional image editing. I say non-professional because there are a few things that Photoshop has going for it that these free alternatives don’t offer. I am fully convinced that the majority of users only scratch the surface with Photoshop, using maybe 10% of its functionality, while still paying 100% of the price.
The traditional recommendation for a Photoshop alternative is GIMP or the tweaked Gimpshop (to give Gimp a more Photoshop-like interface). I’ve always found GIMP to be a bit cumbersome in its interface and just as slow as Photoshop in getting certain things going and done. What I would recommend instead of either of those two is Paint.NET.
I’ve used Paint.NET for all photo editing work that has come up during the past week and it has handled everything in stride and intuitively. In fact, it has worked so well that I am having a hard time coming up with a reason (for the work that I do) to go back to Photoshop. Not only is it comparable in function to Photoshop, but it installs in a fraction of the time and opens almost instantly.
Adobe Photoshop starts up, displays a little splash screen, and then starts loading plug-ins, engines, and etc. In short, it takes Photoshop quite a while to get up and running. Double-click Paint.NET’s shortcut on the desktop and just as fast as Notepad launches (almost instantly), you’ll have a fully functioned photo editor up and running.
Paint.NET doesn’t just immitate Photoshop well, it makes some inroads of its own with some cool features of its own. It, of course, has the abilities to crop, cut, copy, draw, fill, rotate, resize, add visual effects, zoom, and all around edit photos. One of the cool features that Paint.NET offers is a thumbnail toolbar in the top-right corner. It makes use of unused space on the interface and adds a toolbar to show thumbnails of any currently open images so that you can switch back and forth between active files quickly and easily. Another feature is the ‘Plugins’ extensibility of Paint.NET. Clicking on Help, Plugins will take you to a forum listing developed plug-ins that add file formats, visual effects, or other functionality. From JPEG2000 to ‘page curls’ to custom brushes, the plug-ins adds a lot to an already impressive program.
It’s free. I’d say it’s worth checking out before you purchase a license for Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro.