Thanks to the vaguely acceptable internet speeds most of us now enjoy, we increasingly rely on cloud services to store, back up and sync our data. But before long, it won’t just be our files that we will access remotely — it will be our apps. Google Docs and Pages for iCloud have already given us a glimpse of this future in terms of word processing. A startup named Pics.io wants to do the same for photo editing and management.
When I first encountered Pics.io, it was little more than a working prototype, but the beta version released this week truly resembles a browser-based Lightroom alternative. To get started, you’ll need a Google account — Pics.io uses Drive’s free storage space to store your photos. Other than that, though, this is an entirely self-contained environment, complete with all the basic sorting options you would expect (color tags, star ratings, collections, etc.). Clicking on a photo opens a lightbox preview, along with the one-click controls for rotating or flipping the picture.
However, the main attraction here is the full editing environment. In its current form, Pics.io won’t have Photoshop quaking in its boots, but some of the photography-specific adjustments here are virtually unheard of in a browser app, as is 32-bit quality. There are Curves, HSL sliders for individual colors, and auto-filters such as Sharpen and Blur, as well as the standard Brightness, Contrast and Saturation. There’s also a Crop tool, a Red-Eye Remover and Color Picker, among others. These adjustments are pretty smooth in operation, and they seem to avoid degrading image quality. Your inputs can be saved as a preset, too.
Unsurprisingly, there are issues. The beta tag makes a certain level of instability inevitable, and there are significant holes in the tool palette — the lack of any retouching is the most obvious miss. But I can’t help feeling that these are teething problems. Pics.io has been in development a long time to get this far, and it is now starting to show its true future potential. In some senses, it is actually waiting for browser technologies and web standards to catch up with its ambition.
Hey, there, shutterbugs…check out this deal: