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Snapseed brings its iOS photo-editing tools to the Mac

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At a Glance
  • Nik Software Snapseed

I’ve loved Nik Software’s Snapseed iOS photo-editing app since its release last year, and it's clear that others shared the sentiment—Apple awarded Snapseed an iPad-app-of-the-year award for 2011. So when Nik Software announced Snapseed for Mac, I was eager to test it out. What I discovered was a Mac app with features that are almost identical to those of its iOS counterpart, but with quite a few advantages thanks to the Mac platform.

The biggest difference between the new Snapseed for Mac (Mac App Store link) and its iOS sibling is the use of image-editing sliders in the desktop version. And that’s a good thing. The Mac's mouse-pointer-focused interface is considerably different from working on a touchscreen, and Nik Software has adjusted Snapseed for Mac accordingly.

Still, Snapseed on the desktop sports the same simple interface as its iOS version. When you launch the app, you’ll find all of the editing tools in the tool bar to the left. To the right is a large space that instructs you to “Drag a photo here to get started.” You can drag and drop from the Finder or even straight from iPhoto. It’s also possible to open a photo using the File-menu command and navigating to the desired image.

Once you’ve got your photo in the app, you have access to all of Snapseed’s basic editing tools, filters, and more. The editing features are divided into Basic Adjustments, which includes the app’s Tune Image, Crow & Straighten, and Details tools; and Creative Adjustments, which includes various filters, frames, and special effects.

The editing features are organized in an intuitive order that's generally how you'd approach editing an image. You start with Tune Image, where you’ll find sliders for brightness, contrast, saturation, shadows, ambiance, and warmth. You can also choose from six presets: Automatic, Neutral, Dark, Bright, Balanced, and Moody—each gives the image a slightly different tone or coloring, and when you click one, you’ll see the sliders move accordingly. (You can still tweak the sliders manually to make adjustments.) This is also where you’ll find Nik Software’s signature Control Point feature, which lets you make selective edits to your photo. Once you’re done with the basic edits, you can crop and straighten your photo, as well as use the Details tools, which include Sharpness and Structure. After that, it’s all about the filters and special effects. (Of course, you aren’t restricted to editing your photos in this order.)

Snapseed’s forte is those filters and special effects. The app’s Creative Adjustments are organized into seven categories: Black & White, Drama, Grunge, Vintage, Frames, Center Focus, and Tilt-Shift. You’ll find filters in the first four categories; each has at least six preset filter options. The options in Vintage and Grunge are most similar to options available in other photo-filter apps such as Flare and Analog. But Snapseed gives you the power to make fine adjustments to each filter, so you won’t get that cookie-cutter feel. For example, you can change the texture of the filter and adjust texture strength, saturation, brightness, vignette, and filter strength. The filters names are more silly than descriptive—for instance, my favorite Vintage filter is Dexter, which gives a light green/gray tint to an image.

The Black & White editing tool lets you choose between five different color filters that alter the way the black and white image is rendered. But what I really love about Snapseed is its Center Focus and Tilt-Shift features. You can adjust for the transition, blur, brightness, contrast, and saturation, so you can make sure that the focus looks more natural than jarring. These filters are very easy to use, and once you’ve added one filter, you can always add another for an infinite number of results.

A useful addition to the desktop version of Snapseed is the capability to zoom in and out while you’re editing. This may not be the flashiest or most unique feature, but it was missing from the iOS app, and it certainly helps when you want to make more-detailed edits. Snapseed for Mac is also incredibly speedy—it takes the app only seconds to apply edits, filters, and special effects to an image. In my testing, the Mac version is about twice as fast as the iOS app.

When you're done editing, you can share your final image via email, Facebook, or Flickr; save it; or print it.

One flaw of Snapseed for Mac is that once you click the Apply button to finalize a filter or effect, you can’t undo it. You can undo and redo edits only while in one of the editing modes—for instance, if you’re adding a frame and you want to undo a size adjustment you just made. As soon as you click Apply, there’s no going back. Your only option is to discard all of your changes, restoring the original image, by clicking Revert on the program's home screen.

Apart from this shortcoming, Snapseed for Mac is an impressive photo-editing program that stays true to its successful iOS predecessor. The Mac version certainly won’t replace Photoshop, or even more-affordable options such as Pixelmator, but Snapseed is a strong competitor to filter-based editing apps such as the aforementioned Flare and Analog, along with FX Photo Studio Pro and Photo Effect Studio. I’m especially partial to Snapseed because of the options it provides for finer-tuned adjustments and its consistently high-quality results.

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At a Glance
  • Nik Software Snapseed

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