The Download Blog

Review: Adobe Photoshop Express beta

Adobe's VP of Hosted and Consumer Services refers to Photoshop Express as "the on-ramp to the Adobe digital-imaging franchise." Next exit Photoshop Elements? Construction delays? Slippery pavement ahead? The mind reels with metaphorical possibilities. With its familiar-looking organizational tools, slick Flash-based interface and robust retouching algorithms, Express embodies Adobe at its potential finest--this is a newborn beta, after all, and we should expect bugs. (If it should reach senior betahood, like Gmail, we will cease to forgive.) But there are also a few potholes in this on-ramp to beware.

Photoshop Express is two things: a photo-sharing site targeting the millions of snapshot photographers who think software such as Photoshop Elements is too difficult, too disconnected or just too much, and a platform from which Adobe will serve partner sites with editing tools. At beta launch, Facebook, Photobucket and Picasa comprise the short list of partners; Flickr will be next in line, though a date has not been announced.

As a sharing site it's simultaneously pretty and functional. And it succeeds as a proof-of-concept that Flash and Flex allow you to create robust online applications that look and feel like local ones. For sharing, the feature set is pretty typical: it lets you upload photos into albums (up to 2GB), organize them, make them public for sharing or share them privately via email links, and generate and email nice-looking self-contained Flash slideshows. There's lots of dragging and dropping to organize, and a free vanity URL.

For editing, it delivers a better-than-average experience. In addition to a more-than-sufficient set of tools for adjusting exposure, color and sharpness and touching up artifacts like red-eye and fixing blemishes, it also supplies a basic set of specifial effects that let you turn bad or boring pictures into something a bit more interesting. The application also displays a snapshot history of your edits, which is a nice touch missing even from Adobe's desktop products. Most of the tools operate relatively quickly; only Distort left me singing the not-so-realtime blues. (For a discussion of the interface, click through the slide show.)

Read more

Killer Download: The dark side of Firefox

We've looked at and reviewed Windows and Firefox themes before at CNET Download.com, but after getting a new computer at home, I figured it was time to revisit new themes. Though a Firefox theme is hardly a must-have Killer Download, I would argue a working (or nonworking) environment in which you feel comfortable makes all your computing more enjoyable. Once I got the new system online, along with my usual security downloads and other useful utilities, I decided a little browser customization was in order.

Most of my regular computing at home including e-mail, writing, and other work-related … Read more

Torrents strike back at ISPs

Vuze/Azureus is the first torrent client to launch a counter-attack against Internet service providers that have been dropping and forging data packets sent by end-users. This volley in what might become the torrent wars of 2008 is a plug-in for the Azureus torrent client called the Network Status Monitor.

Every 10 minutes, the plug-in detects the number of reset TCP connections from your computer. It shows the results to users and, if you've checked off the Share Results box, it sends the information to Vuze, which promises that although they might aggregate the data or disclose it publicly, … Read more

The 'other' antivirus apps

It's true. Some security apps get more fame and recognition than others. Why is Spybot Search & Destroy cited more often than BitDefender Free Edition, or McAfee's online virus scan better known than Trend Micro HouseCall, a tool that also removes what it detects?

In a stab at fairness, we've picked out five of the more overshadowed, but still reliable, antivirus software titles and highlighted their main points. Give them a whirl and let us know in the comments why you can't live without your favorite undersung security app.

Yet another Firefox update

Mozilla has released another security patch for the Firefox browser, available for Windows and Mac. The changes are minor enough so that users probably won't notice any differences, but the holes plugged were potentially serious exploits.

Four notable fixes address memory corruption leading to program crashes, JavaScript hacking, and two attempts to plug spoofing from HTTP referrers and XUL pop-ups. There's not much else to report for this update, but we can almost definitely expect more security patches before Firefox 3 leaves beta sometime this summer.

Golf.com app finds links for Windows phones

When it comes to mobile applications, simple can be good. Golf.com's new one for select Windows Mobile 5 and 6 phones makes it easy for links-lovers to find all the course location and details they could want while on the move--except for directions and hours of operation. They also won't be able to add personal course ratings or send a new favorite link to a friend from the application.

But never mind all that. Golf.com's free Course Finder beta, which heavily promotes its partnership with Microsoft, does what it needs to by providing a golf-themed … Read more

Add virtual desktops to Windows XP, Vista

It took all of about 20 minutes to get accustomed to Linux's virtual desktops, which let you switch between work environments with a single click. The problem is, I still spend most of my computing time on Windows machines that lack this handy productivity-boosting feature.

I tried using Microsoft's Virtual Desktop Manager, a PowerToy for Windows XP that lets you create as many as four separate desktops, but it's as buggy as an anthill, and offers no version for Vista. However, I did find three free virtual-desktop programs that work better and give you more options: VirtuaWin, … Read more

Analyze your daily workload with RescueTime

If you've ever wondered how many minutes a day you spend using Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Gmail; or how much of your day is "wasted" by community Web sites such as Digg, Slashdot, or MetaFilter, a free application called RescueTime (also available for Mac) can track that information for you, while providing several other valuable features to monitor your time.

Monitoring productivity in the Internet age has become more complicated than ever, especially if you work online. E-mail, instant messaging, and multitasking keep many of us switching constantly between projects or contacts. RescueTime combines a local applicationRead more

FindMe, an irritating GPS for Facebook friends

The new location-based service FindMe is a straightforward app that uses cell phone towers to broadcast your general whereabouts to Facebook friends, saving you from updating Facebook manually with places you frequently travel. In beta, FindMe installs on your cell phone and updates your Facebook status when it senses you've changed locations. For each new cell area FindMe detects, you'll be able to tag it "Work," "Home," and so on, and you'll only share addresses you manually enter yourself. As you change zones, FindMe updates your bearings, going "dark" when you … Read more

XP Service Pack 3 remains in testing

Microsoft on Tuesday released another version of Windows XP Service Pack 3, but the software remains in the testing phase.

Unlike Windows Vista Service Pack 1, which was finalized in February and made available broadly last week, Microsoft has yet to give the final go-ahead for XP SP3.

"Windows XP SP3 RC2 Refresh was made publicly available today via Microsoft Download Center," Microsoft said in a statement. "We've made this release candidate available in order to receive further user feedback prior to the release of Windows XP SP3."

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley states that … Read more