Why I Don’t Recommend...

Today I posted a set of software I can recommend in the Reviews/Books section of this site. However, in doing so, I know my InBox is going to explode with “why didn’t you recommend X” emails, so let’s nip that in the bud right up front, shall we?

First and foremost, I can’t recommend something I don’t have any experience with. I also can’t recommend future products ;~). This is the category into which ON1 and Skylum now fall for me these days. I tried earlier versions of ON1 RAW and Skylum Luminar, didn’t find they added anything to my workflow, then at some point where the two companies kept pinging me for update fees or buying their new product which sounded a lot like their old one—I’m looking Skylum-ward as I write that—I just stopped sending them money. They keep announcing new products that you can get a discount on before you know what they are, too. I don’t like that, either. 

Funny thing is, I still use the old MacPhun Intensify plug-in. MacPhun renamed itself to Skylum and then stopped making the Creative Kit plug-ins, such as Intensify. So obviously I like what their engineers can do for my images, I just don’t like the way they’ve handled breaking my workflow over and over. I can tell a similar story for ON1.

I don’t do Windows any more, so products like ACDSee I no longer have any experience with. There was a time when I had to be OS Agnostic, but I couldn’t sustain that with a one-person shop, so when I cut back the staff to just me, Windows had to go. So if a product is Windows only, I can’t recommend it because I haven’t used it, am not using it, and won’t be using it. 

Another category that I've tended to avoid over the years is open source freeware. While a few examples—GIMP comes to mind—have managed a long, extended life, what I find happens with a lot of open source software is that it eventually gets sporadically updated, or gets updates that are problematic, or eventually dies a lingering death. With no income to support it, open source freeware is updated at the whim of the (usually unpaid) development team. That development team may be one person, or it may be a group of people who came together online at some point, but the developers' interests peak and wane. Thus it's tough to rely upon open source products as a pro. Even for-profit products have a difficult time retaining money streams to fuel development (witness ON1 and Skylum asking for money in advance).

I can’t stay on top of every product, either, even if it does strap onto macOS just fine. Alien Skin Exposure, which is now named Exposure Software Exposure, was a really nice raw converter and photo style editor that I’ve used at times because it has some very quick ways to get to unique looks. I can’t remember what the last version I used was (I think 5), but they’re up to 7 now. 

There's another recent trend that’s apparently taken full root. Towards the end of each year, all the Adobe-wannabees start campaigning their upcoming “major” changes and selling their current product with a “free” update when they actually finish the next version. They make this sound like it’s something special to do that, but it really isn’t. ON1, Skylum, Exposure, and CaptureOne all had such offers as I originally wrote this article (note: I often write articles well before the posted date, so most have shipped as I edit and post this). This complicates the issue of recommendations. I can’t review future versions, but that’s what these companies want you to buy. Moreover, in some cases they appear to be dangling better offers to new customers than they are to existing customers. 

I’m a working professional who has to produce images for a living. I sample software from time to time to see if it lets me do something faster, uniquely, or better. If it doesn’t, it won’t make the cut because changing my workflow costs me time, and time is money (“show me the time!”). But sampling software isn’t enough for me to make recommendations on. My recommendations have always been and will continue to be based on actual use, not an afternoon’s tinkering. 

So if your favorite isn’t in my recommended list, don’t get upset. That doesn’t mean it isn’t any good, it probably means I haven’t used it enough to be able verify that. 

Update: Someone pointed out that the Adobe products have a lot of cruft in them, and questioned my support of them. Yes, once you install an Adobe product you get daemons and a number of Adobe-related processes "running" in the background. For years with the Creative Suite and early Creative Cloud versions this got worse and worse until there were so many Adobe-related processes running I couldn't track them all. For example, with Photoshop currently running in the background, I count nine Adobe processes beyond Photoshop, though most of them are idle most of the time. My recommendation to anyone using Adobe Creative Cloud is this: completely uninstall it. Use Adobe's supplied tools to completely remove all traces of Adobe. Then reinstall. What I've discovered is that some of Adobe's cruft just lingers after new updates are installed, even when those processes are no longer used.

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