Adobe has been largely unopposed in the realm of professional photo editing for as long as computers have had color displays. Until recently, Adobe was resistant to making a cloud version of its most popular application, but this is slowly changing. Adobe now says its new web-based version of Photoshop is available to everyone for free, and it has enough tools now that it’s actually usable.
Before the modern era of always-on connectivity, Adobe sold Photoshop as a regular piece of expensive professional software. A license cost hundreds of dollars, and you didn’t get updates. That changed when it moved to the Creative Cloud model, which requires a monthly subscription to use Photoshop and other Adobe products. The company hopes that the free web version will get more people comfortable using the app, and they may eventually want to pay for the full version.
The online version, which anyone with an Adobe account can, started mainly as a collaboration tool late last year. With a limited feature set, it wasn’t a replacement for even the most basic image editing suites, let alone online competitors like Canva. Since then, Adobe has readied an expanded feature set, and you can now experience it. The company is officially testing Photoshop on the web in Canada, according to The Verge. However, I have been able to access it just fine in the US. Note that it only supports Chrome and Edge, and it’s also beta software.
Photoshop on the web doesn’t have all the main app’s tools, but it’s come a long way.
Photoshop on the web has a surprising number of image manipulation tools. These include brushes, layers, gradients, various smart selections, gaussian blur, cropping and rotation, curves, dodge and burn, clone stamp, content-aware fill, text layers, and more. Adobe says this will eventually morph into a freemium product in which some features are behind a paywall, presumably tied to a Creative Cloud subscription.
Having used the web version a little, I’m impressed with its basic functionality. It probably does 90 percent of what I need from Photoshop, and it theoretically works on anything with a web browser. I’ve tinkered with it on a few Android devices, where it’s usable but not optimized, but I’m more interested in what it will mean for editing photos on a Chromebook. The lack of a proper photo editing app on Chrome OS has long been a sticking point for me, but the web-based Photoshop could be the ticket.
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