Ever wanted to quickly crop or edit a photograph? Perhaps you wanted to blur out the face of your ex or brighten up a dark landscape scene? iPhoto won't do all of these things, but shelling out the money for Photoshop isn't a practical option. Thankfully, there's now a middle ground--Pixelmator ($29.99 in the Mac App Store). This program has similar functionality to Photoshop but is $669 cheaper.
When you first open Pixelmator, a welcome screen gives you the option of creating a new image, opening an existing one, or opening a recent one. Regardless of what you choose, Pixelmator opens with windows containing tools and tool options on the left side of the screen and color swatches, brushes, and layers to the right. The bar along the top has drop-down menus for edit, image, layer, filter, and view controls. Within these menus you'll find color corrections, image transformation, and resizing options. All of these options are complemented by readily available icon tools. If you've used Photoshop in the past, this will look very familiar.
Perhaps to differentiate itself from Photoshop, Pixelmator defaults to a black background behind the canvas and windows. We were able to change the canvas background to gray or white by right-clicking on it, but we were unable to change the colors of the tool windows. We found ourselves pumping up the brightness on our MacBook Pro in order to clearly see the tool icons. On the plus side, all of those icons have clear labels that appear when you mouse over them, and the tool currently in use appears larger than the others.
Pixelmator uses layers extensively and, unlike SketchBook Express, there's no restriction on the number of layers you can create. However, it's not possible to cut, copy, or drag a layer from one image to another as it is in Photoshop. Instead, we had to drag the icon for the layer in the Layers window to the desired image.
When it comes time to save your work, Pixelmator creates its own proprietary file with a .pxm extension. There's also the option of saving as a Photoshop file (PSD), JPEG, PDF, PNG, or TIFF. For creating small, web-friendly images, the program also has an "Export for Web" option. If you use Photoshop at work and Pixelmator at home, you'll want to save your layered files in Photoshop's format. Pixelmator will open Photoshop files, but Photoshop doesn't return the favor.
For amateur photographers and Internet meme creators, Pixelmator is an excellent alternative to more expensive photo-editing software. It has most of the same capabilities which casual users want, but skips the high price tag and occasionally confusing tools. While Photoshop's color scheme is more aesthetically pleasing, Pixelmator gets the job done.