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Theft is Bad Karma: Stop Pirating Photoshop!

I understand that Photoshop is a great program. I'm willing to concede that there's really no comparable software for the professional user. What I just don't get is why the average user thinks 1) they need Photoshop and 2) they need to pirate it.

A few years ago, no one came in and asked me "Can you put Photoshop on my computer?" Most users hadn't even heard of the program. Now the perception from the public seems to be that if you want to edit photos at all, you've got to have Photoshop to do it - and that you might as well just steal it.

But why? Most users don't need even half of the functionality in Photoshop, and there are plenty of great editors that are easy to use, less hard on computer resources, and completely free.

Clear your conscience and try one of these alternatives!

The GIMP: it's the one most people know, and it's also the one with the weirdest interface. GIMP's multi-pane layout is offputting to many users, and is no doubt keeps many people from giving it a fair shake. It supports some pretty amazing features, like assigning actions to midi devices (yes, really) and can work with compressed files (.zip, .gz., or .bz2) on the fly.

Basics for photo editing are all there: cropping, rotating, red-eye removal, airbrushing, layers, you name it. GIMP, too, has way more features than the average user will ever need. GIMP is cross-platform, and can be installed or run as a portable app on a flash drive (Windows).

Paint.NET: the other "big name" alternative. Paint.NET is capable of some amazing things as well and has an interface much closer to Photoshop's than the default GIMP layout. Apart from the other usual features - layers, history, a wide array of filters - Paint.NET features a tabbed, thumbnailed workspace.

Instead of looking at filenames, you actually get a visual heads-up of all your open images. Development is very active, and the community is extremely passionate and provides tons of support and more plugins than you can shake a stick at. It's totally open source, and requires the .NET 2.0 runtimes.

ArtWeaver: I just read about this one on Cybernet and gave it a try, and it's impressive. It's interface should be comfortable for anyone who's been using Photoshop, as many of the tools and menus are laid out the same way. Within a few minutes of using it, I was able to handle all my usual image editing tasks.

It supports layers and editable text, maintains editing history, is extensible via plugins, and will run on very minimal hardware (Pentium 3 600 with 128mb of memory). Artweaver is Windows only, and is also available as a portable or installable application.

Photofiltre: by far the smallest of these five, Photofiltre packs a lot of functionality into a 1.6mb download. While it doesn't support layers, it still does an excellent job at most everyday photo editing tasks. The text tool is a bit clunky, but it's more than adequate for quick jobs.

The integrated image browser (along the bottom) is a very welcome addition and makes multiple edits a snap, and the developer even managed to cram in automation/batch support. Photofiltre is an awesome, lightweight alternative that will make short work of most photo chores.

VicMan's Photo Editor: again, it doesn't have layer support, but it's still very a very capable editor. One feature I really like is the straight line paintbrush: pick your starting point, move to your end point

VicMan's straight line paintbrush

VicMan also comes with an assortment of photo enhancement filters, a fun "charicature" distortion tool, and even an animated tutorial to help you get started.

Maybe you've got another suggestion that our karmically-challenged brethren need to hear about. Comment it, and let us know!

Tags: alternatives, commercial, free, freeware, opensource, photo editing, photo editors, PhotoEditing, PhotoEditors, photoshop