Wednesday, June 5, 2013

[Mobile Cellphone Info] Review: Acorn 4 adds impressive features and a smart new look

Mobile Cellphone Info has posted a new item, 'Review: Acorn 4 adds impressive
features and a smart new look'

Im no graphic designer or image manipulation pro. I mean, I know my way around
Photoshop well enough to smudge out a birthmark or to create a graphic for a
Macworld story, but Im not a power user. Thats why Ive long preferred to leave
Photoshop sitting silently in my Applications folder, while Flying Meats Acorn
takes up residence in my Dock.

At its traditional price of $50, Acorn has never aimed to be a Photoshop
replacement. Instead, its a Photoshop alternative. The developer describes the
app as an image editor built for humans, and that description fits. Though
Photoshop offers far more features, Acorn is no slouch: It supports layers,
masks, alphas, and multistop gradients; it can import and export files in PSD
(Photoshop) format; and its fully optimized for Retina displays, too.

Acorn's new shape tools include a customizable arrow.
With the release of Acorn 4, the app gains nondestructive filters; faster and
smoother drawing tools; new shapes like curves, arrows, and stars; and some 150
other performance improvements and added features. These additions have the
interesting, double-faceted effect of making the app both impressively more
powerful and decidedly simpler for folks like me.

The basics

Acorns interface gets an overhaul in version 4. No longer are the drawing and
editing tools coupled in a squat palette with their options, your layers, and
everything else. Instead, theres a narrow palette with drawing tools, a separate
one with tool options and layers, and, of course, a stand-alone canvas.

Acorn's new interface uses separate palettes for tools and options.
Though the previous all-in-one palette was more compact, this new approach in
Acorn 4 makes a lot of sense. Its easier to organize, and everything actually
shows more than it used to: Where Acorn 3.x showed just one selection tool (upon
which you had to tap and hold to choose a different selection shape), the taller
tools palette in Acorn 4 shows four different selection options at all times.
Quicker access to those options, and to tools like Smudge and Dodgeall without
the click-and-hold requirementsaves a lot of time. Thats helpful.

Some other new Acorn features also have palettes, including the aforementioned
nondestructive filters, which well get to in a minute. The result is that you
can customize Acorns layout to your liking, and arrange the various palettes
just so.

The new shape tools availablethe arrow, star, and curve toolsall work well, with
nice customization options.

Special effects
The nondestructive filtersalong with the ability to adjust those filters right
on the canvasmake simple work of using Acorn's effects.
While Acorn 3.x introduced the ability to assign visual effects as Layer Styles,
Acorn 4 further simplifies adding such effects to layers with nondestructive
filters. When you add effects to a layer, a new Filters nonmodal window appears.
You can chain effects together, but continue to tweak their settings and remove
all or part of them as desired, even after saving your file.

The shape generator tool is pretty fun to use.
That essentially means you have infinite undo for your filters. Whats more,
adjusting filter effects is easier in Acorn 4 than ever before: You can click
and drag on the canvas to adjust filters and effects, instead of needing to
adjust the sometimes arcane settings directly. For example, when applying a
Depth of Field filter, you can click and drag specific points around the canvas
to control where and how that affect is applied.

When you want to lock down filter effects, you can flatten them.

Acorn 4 also gains a new, fun shapes generator. You can insert random
smatterings of circles, rectangles, or hexagons. Oddly, though, you access the
shapes generator only from the Shapes menu, and the generator doesnt behave like
a traditional generator filter with the nondestructive editing options those
filters have.

Achieving balance

Acorn 4 also gains some new options for adjusting your images levels and curves.
When adjusting levels, you can optionally see a live histogram for your image.
That levels tool also gains a midtone (gamma) slider. The new curves tool offers
serious tonal control over red, green, and blue levels in your image.

Pros will know precisely what to do with those tools. Those like me will muck
about with them half-randomly, seeing when our images look better or worse. The
tools should work for both sets of users.

Acorn 4 is on sale for $30 both at Flying Meats website and the Mac App Store
for all of May. After that, the app will return to its normal $50 price. A free
trial is available, too.

Bottom line

Acorn is a very, very good image editor, and has become a part of my daily
workflow for Macworld, along with my photo editor of choice when were going to
print some digital shots.

Acorn 4 makes marked improvements to the apps feature set and usability alike.
The new filter options and layout are excellent additions. The apps permanent
residence in my Dock is a testament to its powerful editing options and its
impressive ease of use.

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Mobile Cellphone Info