Pixelmator Pro wants to be the Photoshop killer on macOS

The team behind Pixelmator is releasing a brand new app today called Pixelmator Pro. As the name suggests, it is a more powerful, refreshed version of the company’s original image-editing app. You can buy it today for $60 on the Mac App Store or try it for free.

I’ve been using the app for a couple of days, and it excels where the original Pixelmator used to excel. It is a fully native app that takes advantage of most of Apple’s native APIs. While Adobe is still struggling to release Photoshop patches for macOS High Sierra, Pixelmator Pro is already using Apple’s latest APIs.

Pixelmator Pro has all the tools you’d expect from an image processor, such as a smart selection tool, retouching tools, painting tools, all sorts of color adjustment effects and more.

The app has been developed in Apple’s own programming language Swift 4 and is optimized for your GPU thanks to Metal 2, Core Image and OpenGL. Photo editing is non-destructive, which means that you can open a photo again and revert to the original photo if you’re not happy with your color adjustments — you can also go back and revert individual changes without undoing all your work.

If you want to edit multiple images with the same adjustments and effects, you can now save a preset and apply this preset to multiple images. You can also share presets with others by drag-and-dropping this preset into another app.

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Pixelmator Pro also leverages the Core ML framework for a couple of smart features. Just like Apple’s Photos app, the app can now automatically detect the horizon to adjust your photo. More interestingly, the app tries to understand the content of your layers to automatically name your layers — if you’re adding a clock, Pixelmator Pro is going to name your layer “clock”. I tried it with a few photos of objects on the web, and it worked as expected. It’s not a life-changing feature, but it’s nice.

The app now supports more file formats, such as RAW files with multiple layers, HEIF photos and improved support for Photoshop images. It supports iCloud, tabs, sharing extensions, wide color and everything you’d expect from a modern macOS app.

The user interface is much cleaner than it used to be. Everything happens in a single, unified window. You can see your layers on the left and your tools on the right. If you hide those columns, Pixelmator Pro looks like a simple image viewer. As an existing Pixelmator user, it’s harder to find what you’re looking for. I hope it gets easier with time.

Pixelmator 1.0 was originally released ten years ago. If you consider today’s news as Pixelmator’s first paid upgrade, the app has evolved quite a lot since 2007.

So is it a Photoshop killer? I don’t think Photoshop users are going to switch to Pixelmator Pro because Pixelmator Pro doesn’t have all of Photoshop’s features. It’s hard to compete with a company that has thousands of employees.

But it doesn’t mean that Pixelmator Pro is useless. If you don’t want to pay for a monthly subscription and aren’t editing images for a living, Pixelmator Pro is a solid alternative. Many people could ditch Photoshop for Pixelmator Pro without having to look back.