There's surely no shortage of photo apps for your iOS mobile devices. Many of them, though, either apply special effects only or lack all but the most fundamental editing functions. While PhotoForge2 does offer an impressive collection of creative effects, the real strengths of this universal iOS app can be found in delivering a broad assortment of powerful image editing tools similar to those of PC editing applications like Adobe Photoshop. These tools include levels, curves, channel mixer, and much more. The app offers a wealth of sharing options, too.
PhotoForge2 and its less expensive sibling, PhotoForge Version 1.99, are similar in some ways. However, the user interface (UI) has been totally revamped for the newer app, and a number of a number of important features have been added, including layers, masking and IPTC and GPS support. The UI and amount of user control offered by PhotoForge2 is so much greater that spending the extra $2.00 ($2.99 vs. $0.99) is almost a no-brainer. This review focuses on PhotoForge2, although we also provide a quick comparison with v.1.99.
As we'll delve into more deeply below, other key features of PhotoForge2 encompass 16 adjustment tools, a range of resizing and cropping options, and abundant special effects.
PhotoForge2 is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 4.2 or later. Yet given the advanced functionality of the app, an iPad -- with its larger screen -- is the obvious best choice. PhotoForge v1.99 works with Apple iOS devices using iOS 3.2 or later. I tested both apps on 64GB, first generation, WiFi-enabled iPad with a couple of different iOS versions, including 5.1.1.
PhotoForge2's UI is attractive and highly intuitive. Anyone who is even slightly familiar with standard image editing tools will feel right at home with it after a quick exploration of the app's toolsets. Even those with limited software experience will easily find their way around, thanks to the tool-specific help within the app.
The Project Manager screen is plain and simple, which is no surprise since there's not much to do there. The clean and well-conceived Main Editor is where all the action happens -- and due to the design, there's plenty of room for the working image to be displayed almost edge-to-edge on the screen.
A set of icons located at the bottom of the screen is where you access all of PhotoForge2's tools. The first three of these toolsets (for adjustments, special effects, and basic functions like cropping and resizing) are designed like the Mac OS X dock, with a row of labeled icons that enlarge when they reach the center position as you're scrolling.
The latter three icons provide access to layers, history (showing the different edited iterations of the image), and an information icon that opens up the GPS and IPTC panel.
An icon on the upper right of the screen opens sharing options, again with a dock-like interface. The icon on the upper left takes you back to the Project Manager. Tap on the logo to get tool-specific help and other practical options such as contacting the software developer.
Everything is efficiently organized so you don't have more on screen than you need. Tool and effects panels are semi-transparent. You can move them around the screen to get the best view of the image you're working on. Better yet, the tool panel can be hidden/revealed with the simple tap of an icon in the upper right corner for a full-screen view.
Most adjustments and special effects can be implemented via well labeled slider bars. Although these are straightforward, I sometimes found it difficult to move the slider to an exact point with the pad of my finger. I found that I often overshot the exact adjustment I wanted, and that therefore, I had to work a little harder to pinpoint the slider position. Ultimately, I ended up using a stylus for more critical tasks.
Other, more complex features -- such as curves, levels and layers -- also benefit from a stylus. Overall, though, PhotoForge2's UI is fairly user friendly.
Page 2 of this review covers more of the features of PhotoForge2, discusses importing images, compares the two versions, and draws some conclusions.
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