A nifty web-based photo manipulation tool may be a look into the future of Mac applications.
Picnik is an online photo site which works remarkably like Apple’s iPhoto on the web. Is this the future of applications on the Mac? Yes.
In one of the most elegant and attractive and useful of the so-called web applications, Picnik manages to do, in a way, much of what you can do to photos in iPhoto.
While iPhoto will hold tens of thousands of photos and give you near instant access to any photo in any album, Picnik is a front end to the increasingly poplular photo site, Flickr.
In other words, you use a browser to upload photos to Picnik for enhancing, resizing, cropping, and so on. Once you get the photo looking the way you want, move it to your Flickr account.
No, it’s not iPhoto but much of the basic functionality of iPhoto is easy to get in Picnik.
The Edit tab has a list of tools which let you rotate, crop, adjust exposure, resize, adjust colors, sharpen, even remove red-eye, and auto-fix color in an image.
There’s a Creative Tools tab that includes a variety of special effects such as boosting the color, softening the image, applying various matte or vignette effects, even making a photo artistic looking in black and white or sepia.
I was able to get the photo to go full screen in Safari. One click brings it down to a manageable size again. All you do to get started is upload a photo to Picnik and edit, then download again. It’s simple, straightforward, and even comes with an undo button.
You can even email the finished photo to a friend or family member right from your browser. You’ll need a relatively recent Mac, a recent browser (I tried Safari, Firefox, and OmniWeb—all were fine), and Mac OS X. Picnik also requires Flash 9 plugin.
Picnik isn’t as fast or nimble as iPhoto or any other Mac or Windows photo manipulation application. The differences are obvious, but may portend a future generation of applications based on the web.
Wasn’t that one of Netscape’s original goals over a decade ago? Platform and operating system independence? Yes. Is it here? Not yet.
I’m impressed with Picnik, though it’s still in beta. Also impressive are a handful of web-based applications from Google and others that provide basic word processing, spreadsheets, addressbook and contacts, and many other useful utilities—all inside a browser.
Of course, browser-based applictions don’t do much good when you’re not connected, right? So, I don’t expect 100-percent adoption any time soon, especially in the US which lags behind many developed countries in broadband internet connection market penetration.
Still, Picnik and other nifty tools are a view to the not-so-distant future when many of our Mac applications may not reside on our Macs. I can see paying a modest monthly fee to access Google Office, or Mac Office, and even Microsoft Office—all of which may not have the same level of features as desktop applications, but they could be useful nevertheless.
What about you? Do you use online web-based applications? We do if we use Yahoo Mail, .Mac, Google and other tools. What would it take for you to ditch a few Mac desktop applications and move to a web application?
Share your concerns, fears, perspective, and opinion in the Comments section below.