Digital shutterbugs have a new way to share photos online, a program called Photoleap that shrinks image files from 5 to 15 times to get around slow Internet connections and the size limits many e-mail services impose on attachments.
The hitch -- it's always something, right? -- is that your correspondents must download Photoleap's software (www.photoleap.com) and install it on their computers. Many friends may balk at adding yet another utility to their cluttered machines.
Installation is easy, however, and those who take the trouble are in for a treat. Photoleap (available for Windows 2000 and XP as well as Mac OS X) looks like most e-mail programs, inviting you to attach photos into a message area and hit the "send" button. It provides a special outbox for sending images and an inbox for receiving them, each showing thumbnails of the pictures.
The Photoleap software, however, doesn't take the place of your own e-mail system. It acts as a gateway between your machine and Photoleap's own computers, which in turn relay your messages to recipients' Photoleap inboxes.
When you send pictures to anyone who has not used Photoleap before, he gets a regular e-mail message with your note and a link to download the software. Once it's installed, photos start appearing in the program's inbox, showing up automatically as thumbnail previews that can be downloaded in their original size with a click.
Photoleap is designed to integrate with both Web browsers and photo programs -- Microsoft's Internet Explorer and My Pictures folder, plus Apple's Safari and iPhoto. In our test on a Windows XP machine, however, Photoleap's buttons and links didn't appear in these programs as intended.
But sending photos was fast, even over a dial-up Internet link -- eight three-megabyte photos required just 10 minutes to send.
Photoleap comes in three flavors. A free version (supported by ad links in messages) lets people send up to 25 photos per message, each no more than 3.5 megabytes in size, to up to 25 recipients. The "Plus" version costs $29 per year and allows 250 photos in a message that can be sent to 250 people, at resolutions up to 8.5 megapixels. A $499 per year professional version boosts the maximum resolution to 16 megapixels but has the same per-message limits.
Missing Links Found
Google released a new version of its browser toolbar on Wednesday with some interesting features. They include a spell-checker for text typed into Web forms and a tool to translate English into other languages. But the most novel change is an auto-link button that can turn a street address listed on a page into a link to a map on Google's new maps site. Google Toolbar 3, still in a beta test stage, requires Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser for Windows.
A free Web service called Browster launched last week, saying it can speed up Web searching with a sneak-peek feature. This plug-in for Microsoft's Internet Explorer adds tiny icons next to the results listed at such search engines as Google and Yahoo; mouse over one and a preview window will offer a glimpse of that page, supposedly saving you the time required to visit it.
But in our tests of the current test release, Browster actually slowed down our Web searching. We're not sure if it was the time it took to fetch these previews, the clumsiness of navigating its interface, or the ads appearing at the top of each preview window. Browster chief executive Scott Milener said the company is working to speed up the program.
E-mail Leslie Walker at email@example.com.