What are the main advantages of purchasing Photoshop (subscription or one off payment) over the free online version?

I am aware that:

  • Internet Access it required
  • The "heal" tool is not fully automatic (like CS5)

Personally i prefer the online heal tool, as it makes it easier to select a source area.

I am asking if anyone knows of any formats not supported, size limits (pixels or bytes), or any other deal breakers for you?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this be switched to ask about Photoshop Express compared to Photoshop Express Online? What is the original poster asking about? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 4, 2011 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think probably it's useful for the answers to explain that difference, since I imagine a lot of people won't realize that there's a distinction. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 4, 2011 at 3:20

4 Answers 4


The online free version of Photoshop Express really should go by a different name. Even with the "express" moniker, it does not do the desktop software justice. It does serve a purpose, but it is not for extensive use or a rigorous workflow full of hundreds of images.

I was pleasantly surprised by the speed and capabilities of the online suite. It is very nice to use for a quick edit if for example you were away from your computer or on a lower powered machine that does not handle the software well. It does have limitations. It is closer in line with the Photoshop Express for smartphones(iPhone, Android), then it is in line with the desktop Photoshop Express software.

Bottom Line

To directly answer your question, the advantages of the desktop Photoshop Express software are currently almost too broad to answer. It would read more like a list of what Photoshop Express does, and not what the differences of the two pieces of software are. The online version does very simple image manipulation that all photo editing software has done for years, and it does it in a online environment that will limit the speed and functionality of a photo workflow.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ha! You were writing this right as I was thinking the same thing. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Dec 4, 2011 at 3:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I remember learning Paintshop Pro 3/4 (?) years ago, then coming across Photoshop. I couldn't figure out what the deal was; it just didn't work! The difference was the workflow and the fit/finish, and years later I wonder what I was thinking back then. Paint.NET is not Photoshop, but lack of context makes it hard to evaluate for the uninitiated. \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2012 at 22:08

Well, first thing I saw when trying to upload an image is a dialog saying that it only supports JPEG images of at most 16 megapixels, so I guess it answers the most part of your question.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It says "For best results, choose a photo that is no larger than 16 megapixels.." Is this a limit? Apparently JPEG is currently supported, but they are adding PSD, PNG, and RAW formats soon. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2011 at 9:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Lewis yes, this is a limit - a 24MP image refuses to load. Also, maximum width supported is 8192 pixels. \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Dec 4, 2011 at 21:14

I tried it out, and I have to say I'm overwhelmingly against it. Photoshop is much more comfortable and stable to use. It also does a lot more things a lot quicker and cleaner. From a practical perspective here's what I noticed:

  • You can configure the environment to your liking in PS, but not online. The menus/etc are slower to use, and you wont have keyboard shortcuts to help you out

  • I imagine the online version wont save PSD's you can play with later.

  • You can't seem to open multiple files

  • You can't right click - for me when working with layers this is a must.

  • Many effects and tools seem to be missing; not sure about color/white balance, curves, etc, but I didn't see them.

  • It can't be nearly as fast at handling large files and tweaking as PS

  • Lag time working with the server/browser, as opposed to doing everything locally. Flash will probably not be able to keep up.

  • Much more likely to cause a crash, causing you to lose everything

Honestly the list goes on and on... Get the free Photoshop trial and see for yourself if you can get by without it.

Basically if you are working with one or two files every now and again and you just want some simple effects, the online version will work. If it were me and I just didn't want to spend the money, I would get GIMP.

You can of course get discounts if you are a student, or buy an older version of Photoshop. The newer versions are snazier, but frankly Photoshop 6 will still do the job.


I want to start off by saying I have not used the online editor but I have a few thoughts. I think you have to look at what you need photoshop for. If the online editor works for you then by all means use it if all you need is some JPEG editing. However, Photoshop has a lot of power in the desktop version. If you buy the extended version you can do 3D, video, and other cool things. You also must consider what comes with the creative suites when you purchase. Beyond the other programs in the suite lets just take Bridge and Camera Raw. Bridge is a great for managing your files. While Lightroom is specifically built for images bridge I have found can do a fantastic job. Also Camera Raw is a very powerful tool for photos, including JPEG not just RAW formats.

Also consider this, in the first part of 2012 Adobe will fully launch their Creative Cloud. The pricing for an individual will be $50 USD a month if purchasing a year subscription (roughly $600 a year) for access to the entire creative suite collection. And it is always the latest version right there on your desktop. It may be worth waiting for that vs paying for a suite now.

I think the bottom line is this, if the online editor works for you then save the money and enjoy what you can do. If you are not worried about spending the money and want/need the full power of Photoshop (and the other programs) get the Desktop Version.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget the middle way - if PS Express Online is too limited for your needs, there's always full power freeware software like the GIMP to use! \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Dec 4, 2011 at 1:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ysap - That is true => \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Dec 4, 2011 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ GIMP isn't for everyone. There's a reason Adobe can charge so much for Photoshop, even though GIMP (which is free) can do anything it can. It all has to do with professional vs advanced amateur, notwithstanding the advanced professionals who prefer GIMP's workflows. \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2012 at 22:11

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