Picnik.com may well be the best online photo-editing website - as well as the newest. If you're in such a hurry to share photos online that you rarely edit them first, you're in luck.
The well-designed beta version of Picnik sets itself apart from the crowd by integrating with three photo-sharing websites: Flickr, Picasa Web Albums and Facebook.
Picnik can automatically display thumbnails of all your photos, and then you can edit or share them. (Alternatively, you can grab photos directly from your PC, a webcam or an online photo search - or even enter a URL.) If a photo exists online, Picnik can almost certainly open it for you.
There is no download to install, so setup is a breeze; and you don't have to do anything special to get Picnik working with your favourite photo site, either. After a first-time sign-in to a photo-sharing site via Picnik, you click a 'connect' button to access your photos for editing.
Picnik offers a slew of standard photo-editing tools, including cropping, resizing, exposure adjustments, colour fixes, sharpening and red-eye removal.
In many cases, you can auto-adjust or manually tweak your photo. When we explored the site, it offered almost two dozen special effects, including numerous colour effects and such add-ons as rounded borders, frames and darkened, vignette edges.
Also noteworthy in Picnik are several crazy sci-fi-like effects such as Heat Map, which makes your photo look as though you were seeing it through the eyes of the creature from the movie Predator, and Goofy, which invites you to push pixels around the photo like wet paint.
The colour and exposure auto-fixes are somewhat conservative, so we had to tweak photos manually to get the exact look required. But if you're willing to fiddle a bit, you can get great results, whether by adjusting the strength of boost control to increase colour saturation or by choosing a specific shade of yellow or brown to use when converting a photo to sepia tone. When you're done editing, you can save the photo to your PC, upload it to any of the compatible sharing sites, or email it.
While in beta, the entire Picnik site is free; but when Picnik officially launches, it will offer a premium account (the subscription fee has not yet been determined) that makes a dozen or so advanced effects and editing tools available, along with batch editing.
The Picnik interface is well organised and free of clutter. Four tabs across the top of the screen grant access to key activities, such as opening photos, editing, adding effects, and sharing your finished projects.
A full-screen button lets you switch between a browser window and the entire display. Picnik remembers what you were doing the last time you visited the site, too, and always asks whether you want to save your changes before opening a new photo in the editing page.
Picnik's full "undo history" permits you to undo any edit at any time, all the way back to the original photo - even long after you've uploaded the photo to a sharing site.