Featured RIA: Aviary Phoenix

Published Date
21 - Jan - 2011
| Last Updated
21 - Jan - 2011
Featured RIA: Aviary Phoenix

Aviary provides a suite of online tools that include an image editor, a vector editor, effects editor, and even audio and music editors. Aviary Phoenix is their image editor, and one of their oldest applications. Aviary makes the Phoenix image editor available to everyone without needing to sign up, however the application is much more convenient to use if you have an account on their site, since it allows for a more seamless saving experience.

Aviary is well known for its great community features wherein you can explore the artwork others have created and make derivatives. It is like exploring a large hard drive containing images created by thousands of users and being able to edit them all online.

It takes advantage of the power of the web by allowing you to make derivatives while still automatically crediting the source of the image. Browsing to a project created by someone else will now only let you see the original source of the artwork but also list it's derivatives, if any, and different versions of the same file. One can easily change the permission of their creations to ensure that only they can access and make derivatives of their creation.

Aviary makes it very simple to create an account by integrating with a number of social networks. You can sign up for an Aviary account using your Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Yahoo account. If you create you Aviary account using the normal registration procedure, you can still link it with these social networks and be able to share your creations.


Aviary Phoenix opens up to a familiar image editing interface that resembles that of a desktop application close enough that you can get to work right away. The application greets you with a welcome screen that gives you an option to create a new file from scratch or open an existing file.

Creating a new file will give you the option to pick a size and background colour. The width and height are limited to 2800 pixels each, which is nearly 8 MP, and will probably suffice for most people.


The application, as we said before, has a UI can conforms to most of the conventions of desktop image editors. It has a menu where a number of its advanced features are located, a vertical array of tools lies to the left, collapsible panels on the right expose the layer and history functionality and it uses a checkerboard pattern to denote transparency in images.

If you have used an image editing application you will find it easy to get into Aviary Phoenix to edit photos. Of course this means that the UI isn't as innovative, but it makes for a very functional RIA.

There isn't much you can change about the layout of the interface. The tool icons on the left of the interface are immovable; the layers panel and history panel on the right can collapse as icons, but are otherwise immovable. The panels take up as much space as they can on the right, and can both be opened at the same time, in which case they each expand to half height.

Toolbar on the leftCollapsed history and layers panelsLayers panel expandedBoth panels expanded


Aviary Phoenix offers a good number of tools that should give any desktop application a run for its money. Even advanced features such as a magic wand selection tool, burn, smudge, blur and sharpen tools are available in the toolbox.


The history panel is quite good considering it's a web application. Not only can it shows all the steps that have been performed on an image, but it can show previews of those steps as well!

The layers panel too is quite intuitive, and uses conventional icons for the various layer-management tasks rather than trying to force a new visual identity. The frequently-used layer tools such as opacity and blend mode are located conveniently at the top of the layer panel where they can be applied to the currently selected layer. While the layer panel supports selecting multiple layers, one cannot change the blend mode or alpha of multiple layers at once. Aviary Phoenix supports advanced Layer features such as masks and filters, in fact there are quite a lot of filters that can be applied to layers in addition to the blend modes available.


Aviary's many products are well integrated too. In Aviary Phoenix, you can send any layer to Peacock, which is Aviary's effects editor, and any changes you make in it will automatically be imported in Phoenix. Similarly, you can create new layers that are associated with different Aviary applications. You can create a vector layer that can be edited using Aviary's vector editor Raven, or an effects layer using Peacock. You can also conveniently edit a single layer in another instance of Phoenix.



When you save your creation on Aviary's servers, you get to pick a license for it; you can choose the Creative Commons license (optionally Non Commercial), which will allow free use with attribution, or you can choose to retain all rights. 

Once your file is saved, you are presented with a number of links, including links formatted for quick posting on forums. Until you publish your work, it is kept private, and is accessible only by you. If you have social networks connected to your account, you can publish your work to such accounts along with on Aviary's own network.

While editing images too you can access images from not only your computer and Aviary's network, but from Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa Web Albums as well, as long as you have those accounts linked to your Aviary account.

Aviary Phoenix manages to maintain a familiar UI and paradigm as desktop applications, making it more accessible to those used to conventional desktop image editing applications. Aviary also manages to integrate well with social networks, not only for sharing images, but also as a source, and makes good use of its own network. Their products feature a remarkable level of integration, allowing for inter-use of content created in one application in another. Aviary's adherence to desktop UI convention does make the interface feel a little out of place in a browser though. Overall, it is a good example of a well connected RIA that makes use of the power of social connectivity and the internet community.

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