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Photoshop may be coming to the web for free, but there’s a catch

Adobe plans to offer a scaled-down, web-based version of its popular Photoshop software to everyone for free, but right now it’s only available to people in Canada. The company is testing the Photoshop web version on the Canadian market and plans to roll it out to the rest of the world at a later date.

The catch? Well, this free version would include many of the bells and whistles people expect from Photoshop and would compete with many of the best free photo editors available. However, at least half of the tools are gated off. Adobe hopes this will be enough to entice you to sign up for the paid version.

Photoshop running on a MacBook Pro.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The company began offering a web-based version of Photoshop and Illustrator last year, albeit much more scaled-down than the full program. For example, web users could play around with layers and leave comments, but that was about it. Also, the web version was only available to Creative Cloud subscribers. This new free version of Photoshop web only requires a free Creative Cloud account. No subscription necessary.

“It’s essential that we make it easy for people to create and work together with their collaborators and stakeholders, no matter how they want to work,” said Eric Snowden, vice president of design, on a public blog post.

Adobe has been aggressively pivoting to be more cloud-based and to offer its products to regular consumers, rather than only a niche group of professionals with high-end computers. But the web-based versions of Photoshop and Illustrator have been significantly scaled down thus far.

The Photoshop being tested in Canada is different. It is significantly more powerful and has the potential to offer a full Photoshop experience for low-powered computers, such as Chromebooks. It comes with a slate of tools such as auto-masking, object selection, neural filters, color transfers, and the plug-in marketplace.

Many of the basic features from last year’s web-based Photoshop are also present. The Illustrator Interop was wildly popular, according to Adobe. This allows users to copy vector images from Illustrator directly over to a Photoshop project. The AI keeps the layers the same between the two web-based programs. However, this does not work between the full versions of the program and the web versions.

It’s unclear if Adobe plans to pivot more Creative Cloud apps to the web. It may not be possible with some of the heavier apps, such as Premiere Pro. The company has been tight-lipped about the specifics of its web plans.

Adobe hasn’t announced when this new version of Photoshop on the web will release to the rest of the world. Testing in Canada has just begun and it could be some time before it rolls out to everyone else. In the meantime, users outside of Canada can continue to use the basic Photoshop and Illustrator for web or try an alternative.

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Nathan Drescher
Nathan Drescher is a freelance journalist and writer from Ottawa, Canada. He's been writing about technology from around the…
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