Pixelmator – An incredible value and better replacement for Photoshop

Yes, I said it — Pixelmator is a better replacement for Photoshop.  I don’t say this without some experience to back me up either – I’ve used Photoshop for 15 years and even taught classes on it for UC Santa Barbara.

When upgrading my Macintosh recently from Leopard to Snow Leopard, I needed to consider the upgrading of Photoshop, too.  (I’ll likely post about the nightmare of this upgrade in Mac OS X software soon, too.  Yikes!)  Photoshop is a great program — but at a cost that is overwhelming for most people (i.e. the 99%), and frankly it is now extremely bloated.  I just couldn’t see shelling out the money for yet another upgrade to this app.  It’s not that it isn’t a power and really useful program – Photoshop is truly all that.  However, the cost is an upgrade is more than all of my other apps combined.  Is it seriously worth that much?  I searched for a replacement and didn’t expect to find something that would manage PSDs, work in Lion and be so feature rich.

I first looked at the open source app GIMP.  While feature rich, the interface feels very… PC? 1990s?  clunky?  It also requires running in an X11 environment further dimensioning it’s desirability for me.  There may be many reasons to love GIMP, and I do appreciate that it’s open source, but the interface has gotten more difficult to use with each upgrade that I’ve tried over the years and it always turns me off.

Some research led me to checkout Pixelmator.  It’s a design winning application, including one by Apple and was named App of the Year in the Apple App Store in December of 2011.  That’s pretty impressive right there.

I thought I might have to spend a fair amount of money to purchase it.  By fair, I mean reasonable, too — something in the range of $100 to $150.  I was shocked – at $30 a license, it was really too good to believe at first.  (There is currently a special sale price at 50% off too!)

Pixelmator is also light in both file size and resource consumption.  Pixelmator does all I need it to do and for me, completely replaces my dependence on Phototoshop.   I’m sold and highly recommend this application to everyone.

NOTE: Images were downloaded from the Pixelmator website and then resized for display.

RocketTheme – Templates for Developers

I’m not a web designer, I’m a web developer.  Sometimes one can be both a designer and a developer, but while I know I understand design and know design sensibilities, I’m simply never going to be a designer.  It’s just not my skill set.  My efforts at design tend to be utilitarian and spartan, at best.  (For those of you in a similar boat, check out The Non-Designer’s Design Book.)

Thankfully, there is a resource available to me at a very reasonable cost to fill the need I have for high quality designs; RocketTheme.  The founders of RocketTheme are some of the original team that worked on Joomla! and have been building templates for it for several years.  In the past year or so, they’ve also expanded their template offerings to include WordPress, Magento, phpBB3 and Drupal.

What started out as nice looking, varied styled templates has now become highly customizable, extendable, full featured nice looking templates.  Their designs are now built on their own open source template platform called  the Gantry Framework.  Gantry allows for a great deal of customization including a custom view for mobile browsers.  For $50, you get three months of access to the templates of one of these platforms, support, and the ability to use a template on a business site.  (Please check their licensing agreement for full details.)  Even more generous is the offer to use these templates on any number of non-profit websites.  Note, you still must purchase access to the templates even if you are using it on a non-profit’s site.  The offer is extremely generous, especially given the number of templates and styles within these templates that are available to you.  They also provide the source art files for you to use to customize the look and feel to your needs.  I know of no other template service or offer that matches this for quality and features.

This website has had a RocketTheme based design for the past 5 years.  This is the fourth template, and the first from their WordPress work.  (For more on why I have switched from the extremely versatile Joomla! platform to WordPress, read this early post.)  While still finding my way about the Gantry Framework’s features for WordPress, I’m quite thrilled with the capabilities and features.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book

The Non-Designer's Design Book People who know me, know I do not profess to be a ‘web designer,’ nor even a ‘designer’ at all. I’m a web developer.  (And please, I beg you, do not call me a webmaster as that is such a hokey and ego-centric title.)

For most of us in this profession, the skill sets are divided up along the lines of either being a designer or a developer.  There are some areas of cross over, obviously, but by and large a designer is not a good developer, and a developer is not a good designer; rarely do you find both in one package.

As a developer, I need to at a minimum though understand design principles and be able to recognize good design from bad.  I expect that the designers I work with understand development limitations and capabilities, too.  This book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams, is my lifeline when it comes to understanding design principles.  She writes clearly and effectively and provides excellent examples for learning.  If I were to be teaching a web design and development course again, it would be a required text for the class.