Picnik: Even Neater Than I Thought

By  |  Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 10:35 am

In my last Operation Foxbook post, I said that when I edited screen images in the browser, I cheated on my Web-only regimen and saved them in Windows Paint first to get them on my hard drive for uploading into Picnik. Turns out that I could have done it and remained true to the spirit of Operation Foxbook–the Picnik folks wrote to tell me about their Firefox extension, which lets you grab images, screens, and even whole Web pages (including regions that aren’t on screen) for editing with one click. I stand happily corrected.

And speaking of Picnik, the service rolled out Picnik Basket, a new set of features for combining multiple photos into one image, today. In the free version of Picnik, they’re pretty basic–you get a few template grids for placing multiple pictures on a page, and can tweak their “kookiness” (whether they’re not skewed on the page, skewed a little, or skewed a lot).

But the really cool Picnik Basket features are reserved for Picnik’s for-pay Premium version (which costs a reasonable $25 a year). You get more collage templates in Premium, but you also get free-form features for dragging photos on top of each other, layering them, rotating them, and making them semi-transparent, and you can easily combine these effects with text, borders, and other Picnik effects. (The collage features, by contrast, are in a stand-alone section of Picnik that’s isolated from the other functionality.)

Picnik Baskets could be even cooler: I’d love to be able to apply effects to any of the photos on a page directly, for instance. Suggestion to Picnik: It would be pretty neat if double-clicking on a photo in a composition brought it up for editing. (You can apply effects to any photo, but you need to do it before you drag it onto the page, then save it.)

And Picnik Baskets were slightly quirky when I tried them just now–I occasionally had to drag a photo into a collage or onto the page twice to get it to work.

Overall, though, I’m impressed with Picnik Baskets and even more impressed with Picnik in it’s entirety. It’s among the very best Web applications I know of, and it might be the single best one that’s done in Flash. The features are impressive; the user interface is both functional and fun; as I mentioned above, it’s not 100% reliable, but it comes much closer than most Web applications. Whenever I use it, I’m not frustrated by the limitations of Web apps–instead, I’m excited about their present and even more so about their future…

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