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Hands on with Acorn 3

28 April 2011 3,283 views 7 Comments

When it comes image editing, my needs and workflow are quite simple. Crop, rotate, size, knockout, combine images using layers, add text and save for web pretty much covers it. Acorn is a simply powerful image editor that gets all of that done and, in learning how to use it, I’ve had to relearn just one keyboard shortcut.

I’ve been looking for an image editor to replace my aging Photoshop CS2 installation for over a year. With the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, which won’t support PPC apps and drops Rosetta (Apple’s PPC emulation layer), the need to make a decision was getting stronger.

Happily, when Acorn 3 shipped for $30 ($50 SRP), I had a new and unused $50 iTunes Gift Card in my possession. Moreover, that this app runs on Mac OS X 10.6 and later was also an attraction.

After several weeks of using Acorn 3, here are some observations:

• Transition from Photoshop CS2 has been 99 percent seamless

• You can choose to create a new image directly from the Clipboard (yeah)

• Rotating and resizing an image is keyboard shortcut easy
— Command + Shift + T (different than Photoshop)

• Acorn 3′s “Save for Web” is adequate
— Command + Option + Shift + S (same as Photoshop)

• Commands for Image Size and Canvas Size are the same as Photoshop
— Command + Option + I, Command + Option + C

• Acorn uses standard Apple palettes for Colors and Fonts
— When you just use the basics, Adobe’s tools are overkill

Other features include: Custom brushes, Vector Tools, AppleScript and Automator compatibility, Filters, PSD import/export, gradients, QuickMask, multi-layer screen caps and more.

In addition to better “Save for Web” functionality, specifically better/stronger JPG and any PNG compression controls, I would really like to see FlyingMeat add a “Healing Brush” to Acorn’s toolkit. Whereas I’m doing just fine with Acorn’s “Clone” tool alone, having both would add fluency to my workflow.

Another small thing I’d like to see is the ability to add a Border to a selection.

A really good value

I tried and generally liked Seashore, an open-source editor based on GIMP, but development has petered out. GIMP, like Photoshop, is overkill and would have required relearning much.

Pixelmater is very similar in terms of functionality and pricing, but I just don’t care for the UI. Nothing wrong with it per se, yet not my style.

Acorn 3 meets my image editing and workflow needs. Moreover, the transition — one Command + Shift + T (Transform) keyboard shortcut aside — has been seamless. The factors that sealed the deal for me are Mac OS X 10.6 and higher compatibility (runs fine in Lion) and the $30 introductory price.

That said, Acorn 3′s $30 introductory price is going away on Saturday, April 30. Yes, you can buy and download via the Mac App Store, which gets you those wonderful automagical updates.

Or, if you just wanna try Acorn, there’s a 14-day trial.

Which image editor is your favorite? Still on Photoshop? Share your story and a link in the comments below…

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