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Digital Photo Software

Acorn 3 review

Article comments

There’s some very good engineering behind Acorn, and many effective interface ideas, such as the ability to create a chain of filters that can be saved as a preset. Unfortunately, the target audience for the program isn't clear. Acorn's got advanced features that most novice users won't use, but not all the simpler tools that novice users need.

It’s an extremely effects-heavy application. Acorn provides well over a hundred Filter effects. So, on the one hand, the program has a very simple set of editing tools, on the other hand it provides filters for such things as circular and lozenge-shaped distortions, halftone effects and Sixfold Rotated Tiling. Whether any of these are useful or not is up to your particular needs and tastes. Similarly, it offers multiple layers, with blending modes, but lacks a Curves tool or Fill Light.

I would imagine that the user who’s shopping for a cheap image editor is not out to create an effects-laden masterpiece, they probably just want to improve their photos, and in that regard, Acorn offers about the same level of power as iPhoto. You get levels and filters for exposure, gamma, saturation, brightness, contrast and white point. There are no controls for brightening and darkening only shadows.

The price is impressive, but for only a little more you could get Photoshop Elements 9, and have a more streamlined interface, far more powerful raw conversion and image editing, and better performance, or for more pick up Pixelmator and get a speedier application. But, for the user who wants quick and easy access to the types of effects Acorn provides, or for masking and compositing with the QuickMask feature, it’s hard to beat the price.

Acorn 3 works on Macs running OS X 10.6.6 or higher. It is available through the Mac App Store or directly from the Flying Meat site. Acorn 2 users who wish to upgrade cannot go through the Mac App Store. To upgrade, open Acorn 2 and go to Acorn -> Check for Upgrades.


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