Loading up the Aviary Phoenix online image editor for the first time is a revelation. It's free, but unlike Picasa and other free editors, this one has features like layers and groups, blend modes, history and more sophisticated effects. It clearly wants to be seen as an alternative to big name software like Photoshop and free programs like the GIMP. And there's no software to install. The entire interface runs in your browser.
It's not just the fact Phoenix is free that makes it worth looking at. Some of the images created using it are so impressive - like a photo of a frog, edited to look as though most of the body is made from buffed pieces of chrome - that we wondered whether the makers really used some outside help. If they didn't, then Aviary has really achieved something here.
|It's not Photoshop, but it could be useful if you're after simple, free photo editing - Aviary Phoenix
Web apps like this aren't perfect - we encountered the odd browser crash, and you wouldn't want to do this on a slow connection (a similar site called Picnik
suggests a minimum 1200Kbits/sec download speed). And for commercial image editing, this isn't a substitute.
But for home users, especially if you're put off by spending upwards of $100 or more on software, this looks appealing. Using your broadband can actually save you hundreds of dollars in software, and it doesn't have to mean doing anything illegal.