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App Friday: Aviary for Android adds photo editing tools and retro grainy effects

App Friday has been away from Recombu for a while. While we’ve still been testing, playing with and writing about apps like before we found that there were so many great apps out there that singling out one for special App Friday treatment didn’t seem fair to the other apps we’d written about in the week.

Often it was the case that we’d get hold of or hear about an app or game long before it was Friday and we didn’t want to or simply couldn’t hold on to it ‘til then.

But seeing as many of you told us that you missed App Friday we’ve decided to bring it back, alongside some other new features that we’ll be launching soon.

Until then, here’s our pick for the week, Aviary for Android.

Aviary for Android – not actually an app

Aviary for Android is a comprehensive photo editing suite that’s an extention of the popular web-based image editor.

On your Android phone or tablet, Aviary lets you make some minor and major edits to pictures you take on your Android phone. Ahead of the Ice Cream Sandwich update, which comes with similar functions built in, this is one of the best tools for retouching photos on your Android phone. And it’s free.

Strictly speaking, our first article for the relaunch of App Friday isn’t a terribly accurate one. Because you see, Aviary isn’t an app. At least according to the developers.

It’s a ‘photo editing plugin’ which allows you to crop, flip and reorient pictures in your Android phone’s gallery as well as apply a brace of other effects.

It’s not an app per se – i.e. you don’t access it by tapping on an app icon from the launcher – but something you access from the gallery by tapping the menu button and hitting ‘Share’.

Alongside Picasa, DropBox, Evernote, Twitter, or whatever other picture-sharing services you’ve got on your phone, you ought to see an option for Aviary here. Open the picture you want to edit in the gallery, press Menu > Share > Aviary and you’re good to go.

Flip, mirror, rotate and adjust brightness and contrast – basic photo editing effects

Along the bottom of the screen you’ve got a scrolling toolbar of icons. These include basic photo editing options such as contrast and brightness, which are adjusted with slider bars. It’s not a precision method this – no messing around with light levels or anything – but for turning the brightness up a notch on gloomy pics, it’s perfect.

The orientation tool is useful if you’ve taken a shot in landscape or portrait and you just want to turn it ninety degrees.

Best of all though is the crop tool; really useful for trimming pics down that are destined for Facebook uploads or for use as a Twitter profile pic.


Enhance pictures with effects reels

Saturation and sharpness can also be turned up or down accordingly if you think a shot needs a little more life. Cranking the saturation all the way up makes for some interesting effects where the colours become exaggerated and any digital picture noise becomes distorted and brought to the fore.

Aviary comes with a standard ‘reel’ of effects which allow you to apply grainy instamatic-style filters to pictures. You get a handful included with the free Aviary app but if you want more there’s two additional reels that you can buy from within Aviary.

Links within the Effects folder take you off to relevant pages in the Android Market. Though you can view these pages in the Market on your phone or on the desktop, its recommended to purchase them via Aviary – the dev says if you purchase these directly without having first installed Aviary on your phone then they might not work.

The two reels currently available are called Grunge and Nostagia and they’re 65p each. Considering you get the main features and functions of Aviary for free, £1.20 for the full suite of effects isn’t too much of an ask. We also liked that some of the effects that you get with the Grunge reel are appropriately named ‘Kurt’, ‘Eddie’ and ‘Alice’. Shame there’s not one named after Tad.

Get up close, whiten teeth and take out blemishes and red eye

As well as making use of effects and settings that are applied to the whole of the picture, you can pinch to zoom in Aviary in order to get up close and nix any red eye nonsense that’s occurred when taking pictures with the flash on.

Any of your image conscious friends might also like to know that with Aviary you can also remove any blemishes from faces as well. So you can give friends a quick fashion magazine fix before you upload the results to Facebook. There’s a whiten tool which ostensibly is for whitening any smiles that are less than pearly. But you can use this to whiten any area of a picture. Being able to zoom in to pictures means you can really get up close and apply minor surgical edits before zooming out to admire your results.


Get up close and ruin your friend’s faces with stickers, text and paintbrushes

As well as being kind to friend’s faces you can also be cruel. There’s a separate patch of stickers available as a free download which you can use to add 3D glasses and other such hilarious accessories to mates’ faces.

You can also add captions with the text tool and colour their hair in green, yellow or magenta if you wish. We’ve taken the digital scalpel to our own Basil Kronfli and given him a makeover – an improvement no?

When editing a picture and you make a mistake, you can tap the menu button and hit back to correct an error. In the case of Basil’s facial abuse above we actually saved everything in stages; once you hit ‘Apply’ in the top right corner, a click of ‘Done’ will save your work as a new image in the gallery. From there you can just open up that new image and start from there.

So that, in a nutshell is Aviary. It’s very easy to use, works beautifully and bar the two optional reels of effects is totally free. We tested it out on a Samsung Galaxy S2 but it ought to work on all devices running Android 2.2 Froyo and above.

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