Pixelmator says a thousand words

Pixelmator‘s been making in-roads into designers/programmers toolboxes on the mac for a year or so now. You may have read or heard about it on the various Mac news sites, it’s a light-weight image editor, built on Cocoa, passing graphics tasks off to your graphics chip, challenging Photoshop etc.

Some of it’s hype, some of it hyperbole, but what can’t be ignored is that Pixelmator’s a great app that’s turning heads. And it’s $59. No, that’s not a typo.

I grabbed a beta of Pixelmator when it first launched and was mildly impressed. On a recent MacHeist bundle, Pixelmator was one of the apps, to which I thought, bonus, I’ll try it out more.

One to watch, I thought, a feeling echoed by long time friend and graphics man, Mark Coleran. He felt that while Photoshop was such a bohemoth, and with a prohibitive cost as a major entry barrier for casual users or coders needing a solid graphcis app, there was a market area for someone to sneak in, steal a user base and make in-roads, all for about 40quid.

So as a long time Photoshop user and beta tester, where would Pixelmator fit in my workflow?

I usually have Photoshop open at any given time of the day, so when I’m working away coding/debugging HTML and CSS I might not use an image editor much, but if the need arises, and I see Photoshop isn’t open for any reason (as I look in my dock, the icon’s there and lit alright) I’m almost frustrated as I know it’ll take a set amount of time to open, and if I’ve got Parallels, 4 browsers, Transmit, Coda, Textmate, CSSEdit, Adium and iTunes (natch) then opening Photoshop can start the old disk swap shuffle.

Enter Pixelmator. It opens in a flash, provides pretty much everything I’ll need at hand in an image editor, and looks very tidy. Small memory footprint and great handling of many varied graphic formats is a big plus, so you can see where, in a pinch if I’m mid-code/task/mental thread and don’t want to lose a thought, why I might pitch for Pixelmator over Photoshop.

Pixelmator also integrates into the Mac OS very well, providing access to the iSight camera, iPhoto libraries and hooking into Automator. This means it’s excellent for streamlining repetitive tasks and going one further with file manipulations or other Automator related cleverness.

In the last week, I received an email from the Pixelmator team inviting me to try the 1.3 beta, better known as Tempo. The new beta boasts massive improvements when handling big images, which is great, as I deal with a lot of images from print designers, plus some very powerful tools like the Instant Alpha selector and colour wheel tools. Pixelmator is bringing back the enjoyment of exploration in a graphics package, something I’ve not had since Photoshop 3 introduced layers…

So, there’s gotta be something bad, yeah?

Yes, there most definitely is. Pixelmator is crying out for some “Save for web…” options.

There are none. You can save as a JPEG or GIF, with very little control over either. The omission in today’s software world of such obvious feature sets leaves me scratching my head. Pixelmator is a beautiful app. It ticks boxes for the “delicious generation” of mac users, and would nestle nicely in a coders tool set. The Tempo beta I tried may not be feature complete yet, and these things may be on the way, but as it stands, it’s a glaring omission.

But would I recommend Pixelmator?

Of course! If you’re a student or begrudge spending a lot on a tool you’ll use seldomly, try Pixelmator (free 30 day demo!) and see if you like it. If you like the sound of some of the benefits I’ve listed here, give it a go. In fact, give it a go simply to challenge the dominance of Photoshop.

The more I use Pixelmator (and the more they update it), the more I like it.

But please lads, sort out the save for web options!