A few years ago, e-mail was the quickest and easiest way to share photos with far-flung family. What a snap to attach digital images to an e-mail: Within seconds, kin across the country could enjoy graduation, vacation, holiday and vintage pics. Compared to printing duplicates and schlepping to the post office, the e-mail alternative was a dream.
Today, however, e-mail carries its own set of problems, particularly the risk of spreading computer-crippling viruses. In fact, most people think twice before opening e-mail attachments, even if they come from a trusted friend or have gone through a virus checker.
Does this spell the end of image sharing? Not a chance. In fact, computer viruses have inspired a whole new approach to swapping pics—software or online services that allow you to send files back and forth without the use of e-mail. And because these products were developed specifically for exchanging photos, most can transfer large files far more quickly than e-mail can. Here are our six favorites.
This package from Constant Time Software includes a photo-sharing application, a basic image editor and a picture organizer. Simply import photos from your digital camera or computer, then arrange the shots using drag-and-drop technology. Although you can send e-mail images stored in your shoebox, we recommend using the Album Sharing Wizard to upload your photos to the Web. Electric Shoebox provides to the Web. Electric Shoebox provides a free domain name for a year. The only downside to this user-friendly program is that it can’t receive photos. Electric Shoebox costs $29 and requires Windows 98 or higher.
Hello is the program for instant-messenger (IM) junkies. From the makers of the photo organizer Picasa (now owned by Google), this free application lets you not only send images instantly, but also chat with fellow Hello users. (As with most IM programs, you’ll need to set up a user name and invite friends and family to join your “network.”) Hello even lets you share images captured on your webcam. And you can send snapshots of Web pages by clicking the Hello icon that will appear on your Internet Explorer toolbar—a nifty feature for sharing genealogy pages you’ve found. If you keep a family Web log at Blogger.com, you can transfer photos to your blog using Hello’s BloggerBot feature. Hello requires Windows 98 or higher.
If your relatives don’t want to download a computer application, consider using OurPictures. To share your pics, just select a few images, enter the recipients’ e-mail addresses, then send. If the recipients use OurPictures, the images will go directly to their PCs. If not, they’ll receive an e-mail containing a link to a temporary Web page where they can view (or download) your photos for 30 days. OurPictures offers minor editing commands, including red-eye removal, rotation, and brightness and contrast adjustments. Plus, you can add captions to each photo—although you can’t specify font type, size or color. We found that swapping photos between OurPictures users works best; people without OurPictures didn’t always receive e-mail notifications. OurPictures costs $19.95 per year and requires Windows 98 or higher.
Although not the most intuitive of the lot, PiXPO is jam-packed with features. Once you download this How2Share Technologies program, it will organize all your digital images into albums, which you can designate as public, private or offline. Once you have an album ready for sharing, just send an e-mail to your family members. If they don’t have PiXPO, they’ll be ask to download a small, free application in order to view the album.
Download the free version of PiXPO, and you can post public albums for PiXPO users worldwide to view. To create private albums, you’ll need the $29.95 version (the free version offers a 30-day trial). PiXPO requires Windows 98 or higher.
Although Novatix’s SendPhotos uses e-mail as its delivery method, it doesn’t send images as attachements. Rather, it puts them in the body of an email, alleviating virus worry. And no matter how large your original file, SendPhotos automatically resizes it for sending—a real blessing if reconfiguring images gives you a headache. Plus, you can choose from a variety of stationery designs to make your e-mail look like a scrapbook page. Then save those photo e-mails in HTML format for posting to your Web site. SendPhotos requires Windows 98 or higher and Internet Explorer. It costs $19.95.
A little yellow camera named Snappy helps you exchange photos through this application. Just drag and drop your photos into Snappy, then set up a list of people you want to receive the pictures. ShareALot automatically will invite your contacts to download the application and view your pics. Once they accept, they’ll receive the images instantly. If some of your relaties already belong to ShareALot, but haev never shared with you, the program will ask them to accept your photos before sending them—a safeguard agains “photo spam.” ShareALot’s free and works on Windows and Mac OS X or higher. A Linux version’s in the works.