Mac doesn’t count nearly as many free image editors as Windows. This is something you won’t notice if you’re using Adobe Photoshop, Pixelmator or Apple’s own Preview application. But you’ll need a second mortgage to afford Photoshop, and Preview doesn’t do much more than annotating and cropping.
Looking for freeware clears the stage of all but a few players, most famously GIMP and Acorn. We decided to take Seashore for a spin. It takes the middle ground between the advanced, but overly cluttered and complicated GIMP, and the beautiful simplicity of Preview.
The Seahorse project has been out and about for quite a while, and aggregated a notable followership, but it was discontinued for the last three years. Only a couple of months ago, Seashore pushed out a working 0.5 preview, featuring drastic changes to the interface and functionality.
Seashore is based on GIMP and developed with the Cocoa framework, and proves once and for all that GIMP-based applications don’t have to be awkward. As an intermediate to advanced image editor, Seashore hasn’t ported all the available features, but enough for the average user.
All these can be found in the default application view, with a layer overview on the left and a feature-ridden ribbon on the top which, together with the pop-ups, allows immediate access to all features. These cover selection tools, brushes, filling, effects, nudge, stamp, color picker, crop tool, and more.
Now here’s where Seashore shows itself as an old-fashioned image-editor, but not in a particularly good way. The application misses tools for creating shapes, both free-form and basic squares and arrows. Typesetting is included, but rasterizes itself after creation – which, in human language, means that the text, font type and color can’t be changed later on.
This can be circumvented by using the selection tool to select part of an empty layer, and coloring it with the fill tool. It shouldn’t be necessary, but it allows you to create a quick square, rectangle, circle, ellipse and free-form shape. This can be made easier by ticking off the aspect ratio checkbox.
The effects menu, mentioned above, looks like a blurred dot and arrow. This feature makes up for the lack of freeform shapes, and is again focused around image manipulation. These effects cover a goodly number of things, both fun and practical. You can use the blur and distort tools, 11 total, and the generate and tile tools to create great backgrounds or warp your photographs. The transform tools are especially useful for manipulating multiple layers, including perspective, scale and rotation.
Compared to GIMP, using Seashore is an incredibly fluid and intuitive experience. It’s obvious, though, that Seashore isn’t intended for seasoned graphic editors, and it isn’t a match for the likes of Photoshop and Pixelmator. Seashore is also an old-school free image editor. Although the effects pane offers an incredible array of features, the absence of simple shapes makes this application mostly appropriate for working with ‘real’ photographs.