Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Picnik integrated into Picasa Web Albums

So, Google have integrated Picnik into Picasa Web Albums, following their purchase of the web app some months ago. Of course, it's long been possible to edit photos in your Picasa Web Albums from the Picnik interface, but it was always a bit fiddly, and this makes it far more accessible to the casual user. Picnik has long had a nice range of simple to use tools with which you can make real improvements to your photos, and while it may be no Photoshop, it allows for some casual playing about with photos that you might not otherwise bother with.

My only grumble, and it's not a major one, is that Google are pushing the "premium" features of Picnik quite hard. So as you edit your photo, you'll find that a number of features are labelled as "Premium", and you might even get the occasional pop-up asking if you want to upgrade. Google is usually more subtle than that, and it would be nice if the premium features weren't quite so "in your face". In addition, it would be nice if, in time, some of the editing features of Picnik made it into the Picasa app itself, and weren't just available for online editing. Whether Google has plans to go in this direction only they can know, of course.

As an example of what you can do with Picnik, I spent about 5 minutes turning this photo from my Drop Box:

into this:

OK, not much of a picture I know, but a definite improvement on the original, and a fun five minutes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Twitter's official iPhone app

I installed the brand new official Twitter client for the iPhone this morning, and I must say that so far I'm pretty impressed. Based on the iPhone app Tweetie, which Twitter Inc. bought a while back, as well as adding a number of new features, it comes with a much improved price: free. Of course, that's exactly what you'd expect in these days of free access to social networking wherever you happen to be, but it's nice to see nevertheless.

What I've seen so far of the new Twitter has impressed me. I never used Tweetie, being relatively new to the iPhone scene, but I have had some experience of TweetDeck on both the PC and the iPhone, and I have to say I prefer this. Never a great fan of the rather confusing TweetDeck user interface, I find the Twitter interface refreshingly simple and easy to use. Unlike TweetDeck, you don't have to spend ages adding columns to display the tweets you want to see; instead everything is just displayed in a single stream (which of course is true of the default TweetDeck setup as well, but somehow seems less confusing). However, you also have instant access to any of your Twitter lists (again, in TweetDeck you have to set these up for yourself) so it's very easy to filter out the tweets you don't want to see at any time. Because this is the official Twitter client, any customisation you've made to your account on the web - lists for instance - are immediately available in the iPhone client. No additional work required on your part.

Twitter has some great, even killer, features. You can install a bookmarklet for Safari so that you can quickly tweet any web page you're viewing. Strictly speaking I suppose this isn't part of the app itself, but it's a welcome addition. Twitter also has support for offline readers such as InstaPaper and Read It Later. This is a brilliant addition: with just a click you can add an interesting link in a tweet to your reading list for later offline perusal.

Another neat trick: swipe across any tweet in the timeline to display an online toolbar giving you access to common functions such as favouriting, retweeting, or the aforementioned offline browser links.

Twitter is pretty nippy as well. I hate to make the comparison again, but it's the only one I have: it's faster than TweetDeck, which always frustrates me with amount of time it takes to update.

Unlike TweetDeck, Twitter doesn't offer support for Facebook information, and you may see this as either a failing or a virtue, depending on your taste. Personally, I lean toward the latter opinion; Facebook has its own perfectly usable iPhone client. The only feature that you do lose is the ability to update both Twitter and your Facebook status with one tweet. A shame, but I can live with that.

In conclusion, then, I would definitely recommend the new Twitter client to any Twitter user with an iPhone. In fact, even those without Twitter accounts can use the app for searching and browsing, and of course there's a convenient sign-up form in the app for those who decide to take the plunge. I believe it makes Twitter less confusing to use than TweetDeck, it looks nice, and it's a joy to use. And you can't argue with the price.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reviving the blog

Well, I've long since given up hope that I can keep this blog going on the strength of my drawing and painting alone. I have neither the output nor the talent to be able to keep going on that score. However, I don't just want this blog (and my others) to languish in some forgotten corner of the blogosphere. (Hark at me: talking as if someone ever read this blog in the first place!) If nothing else, it's good for my soul to keep writing, and now that I have a convenient little app that lets me post from my iPhone, there's at least half a chance that I may be able to do this on a more regular basis. That's the theory anyway. At this stage I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to write about, and I'm certainly not convinced that I have anything that anyone will want to read, but let's give it a try, eh?

So, if you like, you can take this as formal notice to keep watching this blog. The odd thing or two might start appearing here ...