Zeal and Activity now sports a new header image that reflects my new scenery. This was a very simple image to create: I took a snapshot, cropped it in Picasa, and used photo editing software to insert the floating text.
When I made the original header, I used Adobe’s popular Photoshop software ($649) at a university computer lab. This time, I used a pathbreaking online service called Splashup (formerly Fauxto). Like Google Docs and email sites like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, Splashup aims to perform the same functions as desktop software within a browser window.
This could be useful to bloggers, travelers, and members of the military, so I thought I would write up my impressions. Splashup will be best for users who want more than cropping and rotation, but who don’t use the advanced features of Photoshop or edit images every day. I think this is a pretty big and completely unserved market.
Splashup aims to closely emulate Photoshop, though of course the feature set is lighter. This review is based only on my experience in making the new header image. I needed to upload the file (already cropped) create layers and text, erase part of the Z to look like it’s behind the palm tree, and save the file as a jpg.
Verdict: Splashup is on the right path, but it has enough problems that you should only use it for light, occasional duty. I was able to create the image successfully, but had to start over twice. It took about 2.5 hours, most of which was figuring out how to use the tools.
- Layers worked as advertised – outstanding. (It’s a little too easy to create new layers with the text tool, though.)
- Account creation is super lightweight – screen name, email, and password only, and you are rolling.
- Speed is OK. The editor is Flash-based and loads in a reasonable time. Images load as fast as you could email them. For reference, my connection here is fast enough for blogs but too slow for YouTube or embedded mp3 players. (I’m running Firefox 126.96.36.199.) Using Splashup from an internet cafe would be tough.
- The Photoshop workspace is well-emulated, though it still took me 2 hours to figure out how to do everything. The color selection palettes are a work of love.
- The “Rasterize” command, which I think is supposed to turn editable text into bitmaps, didn’t seem to do anything. Eventually I worked around this by duplicating the background image and erasing it to reveal the text, instead of vice versa.
- Zooming out after zooming in is very buggy. I ended up starting over when I zoomed in to work on the palm tree and couldn’t zoom back out.
- I worked with a large image, about 1200 pixels wide. When I exported it from Splashup at 760 pixels, artifacts popped up: the edges of the letters turned all jagged. It worked much better to export the full-size file and reduce the size in Picasa. Also, the save dialog box sometimes gets confused about where to put the preview image.
- No native format. I didn’t see a way to save a Splashup file that I could return to and edit later. The only save-as option seemed to be jpg, so you have to do all your work in one sitting.
- Invisible brushes. When you are painting or erasing, you can choose from a large variety of brushes but on the screen all you see is a normal arrow pointer. You have to find the edges of your brush by trial.
- Limited fonts. There are about 10 fonts – I expected to use my system fonts. The real Zeal and Activity font is Bookman Old Style, but Georgia is pretty close. The largest size is 72 pt, but luckily you can stretch text with the free transform tool.
- Free transform tool. There is no way to force height and width to stay in the same ratio. I never realized how much I rely on the shift key when resizing.
- Help file. I couldn’t access Help from within the browser – it was grayed out – and I didn’t see any links to user forums or FAQs.
The bottom line: I did a creditable Photoshop job with a little headache, but without spending $700, from my trailer in Baghdad. Splashup isn’t ready for slow internet connections, sophisticated image manipulation, or everyday use. But if you just need to crop, resize, add some text and a little drop shadow, Splashup can do it today (if you don’t mind fighting a few bugs).
P.S.: I’m ready to be corrected on “bugs” and “features” that are user error. Not really a power user, here.