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ImageWell and the Low Cost Image Editor

ImageWell, a lightweight image editor for the Mac, is no longer offered as a free download. With today’s launch of version 3.5, the developers now offer only one choice: a paid full-feature version for $19.95. Prior to 3.5, a limited version of the app was offered for free with an upgrade option to unlock more powerful features.

ImageWell excels at quick and simple processing (aimed primarily for images heading for the web). It specializes in watermarking, adding annotations, creating shaped borders, taking screenshots, and batch processing. It’s not a bad option for a fast, easy to use, tiny little app if your image editing needs are light.

ImageWell offers a lot of what you will find with Skitch. In fact, you may find that the free Skitch beta serves up more choice, flexibility and options if your main interests are capturing screenshots, marking them up, and sharing them online. However, you’ll get more image editing functionality with ImageWell. In this respect, it’s most similar to Flying Meat’s Acorn in that both emphasize lightness, low cost, and simplicity and strive to meet most of your basic image editing and image sharing needs.

Perhaps the developers of ImageWell are making a smart move by staking out the low end of the Mac image editing field. The feature set and the price are not bad. I think the developers are trying to head for that sweet spot between Skitch and Acorn: not as much power as Acorn, but more features than Skitch, for the relatively low price of $19.95. Sure, the user interface is not as elegant as Acorn’s and it’s not free like Skitch (and who knows if Skitch will be free once it leaves Beta status) but it’s cheap and it offers a lot of tools. Acorn offers more image editing possibilities and is easier to use. Of course, it costs $30 more than ImageWell, too ā€” a pretty big price gap.

I’ll be curious to see how this change in strategy pans out for the ImageWell developers.

If you’re looking for a cheap, simple editor (cheaper and simpler than, say, Photoshop) but think your image editing needs may grow over time, take a look at some of the other low cost desktop apps out there like Pixelmator ($60) and GraphicConvertor ($35) before you make a decision. Of course, you could also see if the various free online editors meet your needs. If all you want is a quick drag-and-drop tool to create nice thumbnail images for your blog or website, you may also want to try Thumbscrew (free).