Coming to a browser near you: image editors that look and feel just like desktop applications. These are Web 2.0 applications that you just have to see to believe. Today we’ll take a quick look at Phoenix, an online image editor. Phoenix is the first of a group of Rich Internet Applications (RIA) found at Aviary, which describes itself as “… a website for artists of all genres to create, edit and share their works directly in their favorite browser.” An RIA runs in a browser, but it looks just like a first-class desktop application. It’s likely that whatever you do today using Photoshop, for example, you will soon be able to do inside a browser window running an RIA. You won’t need to buy a “Mac version” or a “Windows version” of Photoshop; the operating system will no longer be an issue, since you are running the application in a browser. Adobe’s first foray in this direction is Photoshop Express.
Since you’re running an application on the Internet, and not on your local machine, the question arises “How can Phoenix access my image files?” The answer may surprise you. By clicking on the File menu item, you’ll get this drop down:
Notice anything odd? There’s no “Open” option. It’s replaced by the “Import Image” option. This is because an online application can’t access your hard drive. So you’ll need to either upload a file or get it from an online source. Clicking on Import Image, you’re presented with a nifty semi-transparent panel:
From here, you can upload a file from either your local computer, a specific image URL, My Aviary (which is your library of images on Aviary ), the main Aviary Library, Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook. These last three will require you to “authenticate”, or log in to your account on the respective service.
Fun with Phoenix
Once you’ve got your image open, the fun begins. Many of the tools here will be familiar to you if you know Photoshop or a similar program, which means you’ll be able to dive right in. Phoenix supports layers, just like the big boys. You may decide that Phoenix is just “Photoshop Lite,” but there’s more going on here than just image editing online. Phoenix is not a replacement for Photoshop, by any means, nor is it meant to be. The primary goal of the whole Aviary suite is to enable collaboration, which is something an online application is uniquely suited for.
Aviary is almost more a community than a set of tools. It’s a place to learn by seeing others’ works-in-progress. It encourages collaboration, sharing…it’s kind of a jam band approach to image creation. Eventually, Aviary will also be about selling, as a marketplace for selling designs is in the works.
Since Aviary is all about collaboration, by default your images are added to the community library. This means anyone can see your work, and anyone can work on it. I would recommend that, at least in the beginning, you turn off sharing. You do this by going into your profile. There are two navigation bars, one across the top, and one sort of below it. Look just below the image of the Phoenix, and click on the triangle next to Your Profile.
Once you’re in the Edit Profile panel, change the Default Viewing Permissions and the Default Editing Permissions to “No One.” Later, when your masterpiece is ready for public consumption, you can select “Everyone” while saving.
The Rest of the Flock
Phoenix is just one of a group of applications being developed within Aviary. They each have a bird-type name:
- Peacock – for creating patterns
- Toucan – color swatches and palettes creation
- Raven – a vector art editor
- Hummingbird – create 3D Models and skins
- Myna – audio editor
- Roc – music generator
- Horus – font editor
- Tern – terrain generator
- Pigeon – a painting simulator
- Owl – desktop publishing layout editor
- Woodpecker – image resizer
- and more
As of this writing, only Phoenix and Peacock are available. In order to give it a try, you’ll need to request beta access on the Aviary website. Once you get access, you’ll have five invites to share with friends. Aviary is free, during the beta phase. You can see some early screenshots from Aviary here.
The Future is Here
Aviary is an exciting new development in the world of image editing. We’ll keep you posted as more Aviary apps come on line. Stay tuned!