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App Review: Photo Effects Pro
by Adam Marks on Sunday, May 15, 2011

One of the big shortfalls of webOS has been the inability to edit your photos, from simple tasks of rotating, cropping or resizing them to more complex tasks of applying color effects or changing the brightness (and this was only exacerbated by the complete lack of options in the camera app). For those simple tasks, you could do some "editing" by viewing the image in the Photos app, zooming in or rotating the screen, and then taking a screenshot, but that was more of a clever workaround than an actual feature, and then cut your image size down to a paltry screen-size resolution. Developers quickly realized that there was no way to perform these photo editing activities with the available Mojo APIs, some created apps that uploaded the picture to a server, performed the editing actions there, and then downloaded it back to a user's phone. Not ideal, especially since it required a data connection, but it worked. One of the first of these apps was Photo Effects Plus by Rusty Apps. It had a simple interface and worked quite well for the limitations imposed.

And then Palm released the PDK that could perform these photo editing tasks directly on the device, but a PDK solution for this type of app was a bit more complex since the developer had to create the entire user interface, including any functionality to access the camera or photos instead of relying on the standard webOS photo picker found is most apps. For that reason, it took a long time before any of those apps were released, but some eventually started to appear such as the recent Image Worker Pro. However, they clearly didn't have the look or feel of a native webOS app. This was where the long-awaited hybrid apps were supposed to shine, taking the expanded APIs and functionality of the PDK but incorporated into a standard webOS Mojo app. But for almost a year after the PDK was released, hybrid apps were not yet allowed into the App Catalog. That is, until recently. And as a result, the developer of Photo Effect Plus was able to develop Photo Effects Pro, a new $2.99 hybrid app (only available for webOS 2.1 and above) that is able to do virtually all that the previous Plus version was able to do, and then some, without the need to send your photos off to some server for editing.

On the left, the old Photo Effects Plus; Photo Effects Pro is on the right.

While Photo Effects Plus has a simple and intuitive interface where you loaded up a photo and were presented with a handful of editing options (see screenshot above on the left), Photo Effects Pro loads up a black screen with a single folder icon in the top-left (see screenshot above on the right). Yet just like its Mojo predecessor, tapping on that icon brings up your standard webOS photo-selector with the list of your existing folders or an option to take a new photo. Once you open your desired photo, the app shows a large thumbnail of your photo with 2 new icons on the top of the screen: an old-school floppy disc to save the photo and a green Plus sign to apply one of 17 different effects that includes crop, rotate, flip, contrast, brightness, black & white, sepia, negative, color tint, sketch, color sketch, blur, puzzle, pixelate and emboss (Note: this will be replaced in the next version of Photo Effects Pro with separate "Transform" and "Effects" menus to the left and right, respectively, of the photo)

While the list of effects seem almost identical to the Plus version of the app, there are a number of benefits to Photo Effects Pro above just applying the effects on the device. Instead of applying all effects at once, you are able to see how each individual change will affect your picture, and there is an Undo option if you are not happy with the change. In addition, while the Plus version only allowed you to increase the brightness or contract by a signle fixed amount, these effects now bring up an adjustable sliding bar in Photo Effects Pro so you can increase or decrease that effect by your desired amount, all while giving you a real-time preview.

Once you are happy with the changes you made to the picture, you tap the save icon. The app automatically sets the filename to "PEPro_" plus the original name, but you can change it to whatever you desire. You can also resize the picture to any size below the original resolution before saving the photo. Once you tap the "Save" button, you are then able to view your updated picture, set it as your wallpaper or share it within a text message or email address. As far as your phone is concerned, it's just another image stored on the device.

The developer is still working to optimize the app, as photo load times can be a bit slow and it's lacking in any kind of instructions for the user. He has other features that he plans to add in, such as a pre-defined list of dimensions to crop your photo to (to be included in the next update), as well as adding in new effects to apply to your photos. But even as it stands now, Photo Effects Pro is an easy-to-use app that gives you lot of photo-editing options without the need for any kind of network connection. It also shows how a developer can utilize the hybrid model for developing apps, as it provides a good mix of the easy-to-develop-for UI of Mojo with the powerful C++ processing of the PDK.

For those of you who already purchased Photo Effects Plus, the developer's original plan was to update that app with all this hybrid-goodness. Unfortunately, when HP announced that legacy devices would not be progressing beyond webOS 1.4.5, he ran into a problem where some users would not be able to run the new version of an app that they had already paid for. Lucky for you, though, Rusty Apps have provided us with a bucket of Promo Codes to give out to some random lucky few running webOS 2.1. Check out our latest App Giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Photo Effects Pro.