Thursday, January 14, 2010

Trying out Free Smilebox – Flash Presentations from Your Photos and Videos

smilebox screenshot cropped I got an email from a friend today containing a family slideshow made at Smilebox. If you're not familiar with that site, it's an easy way to use your photos and videos to create a slideshow you can then email or post. The show is a self-contained Flash presentation that plays in any browser.

Since I just used Smilebox myself to make a little picture show, I thought might save you some time if I tell you more before you try it yourself. The most important point is that once you’ve assembled your show, you can’t change the style. Don’t spend a lot of time designing your show before you are sure which style you want to use.

The summary is that Smilebox is a good tool for a quick, simple slideshow. The results look professional. It probably isn’t the tool you want to use for your most important presentations both because it is inflexible.

I’ve created some samples with a few styles. They’re 2-8 MB each. See at

The Good

  • There is a free version.
  • You can email your show, post it on Facebook or a blog, etc.
  • There are many styles to choose from, from simple slideshows to “books” with interactive zooming to greeting cards and notes.


  • You need a reasonably good Internet connection to use this (not an issue in developed world).
  • Each style has its own methods for you to arrange and caption the photos. You have to experiment and learn each one. For example, the “Slide” style has a sorter view where you can drag and drop photos to reorder them, but most styles don’t. You may enter captions directly on the photo in some cases, or on the page in others, or have to click the enlarge button first.

Limitations on Free Version

For $3.00 you can avoid the following restrictions on a single presentation. You can also pay $6 per month or $40 per year to have the full version.
  • Supported by ads. As usual, you can’t know what ads might appear alongside your show.
  • Each style has its own music. You typically get three choices with each style. With the paid version, you can choose from hundreds of pieces of stock music or use your own.
  • The full version can play full-screen.

The Bad

  • The program does not use titles, captions, descriptions and so on that you may have already embedded in your pictures. You have to enter all captions whenever you start a new project.
  • Once you’ve committed to a style, you can’t change it without starting over. That is, you can choose a different style, but then you have to arrange and caption your photos all over again.
  • The styles are fixed in stone. That is, there is nothing you can modify, not fonts, position on page, layout of a given page, and so on. Of course, this is part of the reason that the program is simple.
  • The interface is rather slow. I think all the whole thing is written in Flash.
Let me know if you try it and have any further observations or comments.

1 comment:

  1. I'm trying to use the free version and I can't drag any photos or videos into the space that says, "Drag photo or video here." Am I missing something?