Adobe has been largely unopposed in the realm of professional photo editing since computers have had color screens. Until recently, Adobe was reluctant to build a cloud version of its most popular app, but that’s slowly changing. Adobe now claims that its new web version of Photoshop is available for free to everyone, and that it has enough tools now that it’s actually usable.
Before the modern age of always-on connectivity, Adobe sold Photoshop as expensive professional software. A license cost hundreds of dollars and you weren’t getting 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 the free web version will attract more people to use the app, and they may eventually want to pay for the full version.
The online version, available to anyone with an Adobe account, started out primarily 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 prepared an extended feature set, and now you can experience it. The company is officially testing Photoshop on the web in Canada, according to The Verge. However, I was able to access it just fine in the US. Note that it only supports Chrome and Edge, and it is also beta software.
Photoshop on the web offers a surprising number of image manipulation tools. These include brushes, layers, gradients, various smart selections, Gaussian blur, crop and rotate, curves, dodge and burn, clone stamp, content-aware fill, layers of text, etc. Adobe says this will eventually turn into a freemium product where some features are behind a paywall, presumably tied to a Creative Cloud subscription.
Having used the web version a bit, I’m impressed with its basic functionality. It probably does 90% of what I need Photoshop to do, 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 photo editing on a Chromebook. The lack of a proper photo-editing app on Chrome OS has long been a sticking point for me, but Photoshop on the web might be the ticket.