For an intriguing combination of image editing/organizing software and a Web service for sharing your images, Sharpcast Photos is the ticket. But what makes Sharpcast Photos special is the way it automatically updates your data wherever you access it. Any change you make to a designated photo collection gets shared between the various PCs and mobile devices that you use to access your account. Still, while this approach to syncing is impressive, Sharpcast’s photo editing and organizational tools are limited.
I tested a beta version of Sharpcast, which offers 5GB of online storage for free. (Company officials say that the final version, which should be available shortly after you read this, will offer free accounts, but the storage limit may change.) You sign up for the account online and then download the software component. The app works with Windows PCs and Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phones, and links back to your online account. Using the desktop software, you can organize photos in albums, share them with friends, and perform basic editing tasks such as cropping and red-eye reduction. Sharpcast’s site gives you the same sharing tools and a subset of the editing tools.
Any change you make to your photo collection–whether via the Web service or via the desktop or mobile software–gets shared all over. In my testing, when I rotated a photo through the Web service, the change showed up on my desktop and notebook even before it appeared in my browser window. That kind of ridiculously simple syncing, of course, would be powerful with lots of data beyond photos: office documents, video, and more. And Sharpcast executives acknowledge that they created the photo service in part to showcase this syncing technology. They have a project in development to extend the service to other files.
That’s not to say that Sharpcast doesn’t do a good job with photos, but the service does have some limitations. It’s great for sharing photos, especially with other subscribers to the service. If you share a photo album with other Sharpcast users, any changes you make will automatically show up in the album your friends see, even if they view the album through their desktop software. (If you share an album with someone who doesn’t use Sharpcast, that person will have to visit the Sharpcast site to see your photos.)
But Sharpcast’s photo-handling tools are somewhat limited. The editing tools in the desktop software are fairly basic, though the company says that it plans to add more. And while you can add comments to photos, there’s no simple tagging system to help you organize them.
Still, if you’re looking for a convenient way to sync and share photos among your many devices, friends, and family members, Sharpcast makes a great choice.
Edward N. Albro