Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Google Gives Away Its Nik Collection Photo-editing Apps

Google has made a freebie of its Nik Collection, a set of advanced Mac and PC photo editing tools that, until last week, cost $150, and at one time went for $500. The company is issuing refunds to those who purchased the suite in 2016.

The seven Nik Collection editing tools, a part of Google’s 2012 acquisition of Nik Software, work both as standalone apps and as plug-ins for Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop programs, as well as for Apple’s now-defunct Aperture, which some still use. The full download is 590 MB.

The Nik Collection tools are:

Google has not said whether it will continue to update the Nik Collection, but it seems to be signaling that the suite has now become abandonware.

In a Google+ post, the company wrote, “As we continue to focus our long-term investments in building incredible photo editing tools for mobile ... we’ve decided to make the Nik Collection desktop suite available for free, so that now anyone can use it.”

Mac and iOS users should probably not wait for the collection to spawn Apple Photos extensions any time soon.

Google’s Nik Software buyout has been a mixed blessing for photography enthusiasts in recent years. The acquisition included Snapseed picture-editing apps for iOS and Mac. But in 2013 Google killed the Mac version (along with a PC version) even though Nik had announced the product only about a year earlier, just before being acquired. Google has said it will continue upgrading its Snapseed iOS app (a universal app with full iPad compatibility) along with an Android version, though.

Google also used the Nik technology to turbocharge the photo editing controls that were a part of its Google+ social network. But those advanced tools later vanished, replaced with far simpler ones when Google+ Photos transformed into the standalone Google Photos service.

In a semi-related development, Google in February 2016 announced that it’s shutting down its Mac- and PC-based Picasa photo organizing apps, which it acquired when it bought out Picasa, Inc. in 2004.

It now appears that Google is focusing on the Google Photos service, with frequent updates to the service’s mobile apps and Web app. Just last week, it unveiled a smart album feature along with interface tweaks. Google Photos also now supports Apple’s Live Photos feature.

Unfortunately, the Nik Collection is entirely disconnected from Google Photos and Snapseed, making it awkward for Google fans wanting to use all of the above.

Still, free is free, and there’s no reason not to get the app suite while it’s there for the taking — and it might not be in the future if, indeed, Google has no further plans to upgrade this product.

But casual photo editing buffs beware: the Nik Collection is not entry-level stuff, like Google Photos and Apple’s Photos. The Nik apps have daunting interfaces and steep learning curves. For the average user, the suite may be overkill.

Nor is the Nik Collection a single, integrated product, meaning that you have to open and close these tools sequentially if you are doing heavy surgery on an image. This is true regardless of whether the tools are being used in a standalone capacity, or as Lightroom and Photoshop plug-ins.

And the suite’s total lack of integration with Apple Photos may be a deal-breaker for many Mac-based picture enthusiasts.

But for those who like experimenting with a wide range of editing tools on their Macs, the Nik Collection is now an amazing bargain.


Make friends and influence people by sponsoring TidBITS!
Put your company and products in front of tens of thousands of
savvy, committed Apple users who actually buy stuff.
More information: <>

Comments about Google Gives Away Its Nik Collection Photo-editing Apps
(Comments are closed.)

gastropod  2016-03-31 18:37
Sad to see great software bought and killed off by neglect. Once Google bought it, I stopped upgrading.

But some/many of the NIK developers moved to (started?) MacPhun, which is even better than Nik, though not free, or very cheap. The individual components are available on the App Store, but they have limited features compared to the full Creative Kit (e.g. no raw, IIRC). Some have been updated to act as extensions in Photos. The two parts I like best are Noiseless and Tonality, the others are less appealing for my uses, or maybe I just haven't used them enough yet to become attached.
Seth Anderson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-04-04 17:30
I’m sad about this; I use the Color Efex Pro (part of NIK) daily, and some of the other tools frequently. I paid before Google purchased NIK, so I guess I got my money’s worth, but still, I am disappointed in Google’s decision
gastropod  2016-04-04 21:41
Google wanted to buy Snapseed to get it on Android, and never did care about the good stuff. They bought the whole company because they could afford to.

Unfortunately, Nik already hasn't had an update since July 2015, so it's anyone's guess how long it will live. I don't think any of the original developers are still with Google.

(Not that I don't understand hanging on to good tools well past their sell-by date--I'm still using Aperture and intend to stay there for at least another year...)
Art Levit  2016-04-04 19:18
My go-to app for B&W conversion has been Silver Efex Pro. I use it as a plug-in in Photoshop. I, too, have been willing to pay for the software. I'm worried about upgrade path in future, but while it's free, I'll take advantage of making sure I have the latest version
Jane Carter  2016-04-04 20:09
Its pretty wonderful, and its free.
Takes some practice, but thats part of the fun.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-04-05 10:15
From your description of Google's history with photo editing apps, it sounds like they've been pretty confused about it all. That said, Apple has done no better, moving from iPhoto and Aperture to Apple Photos too abruptly. The transition has been anything but smooth. Nor has Apple's iCloud integration of it's photo services been trouble-free. Neither company seems to have a clear idea of where it's going or how to get there. The competition with other cloud based photo services is intense and the goal posts are moving constantly.

I'm no expert with Nik, but it seems to me that most of what the suite does can be done far more easily in Adobe LIghtroom. Indeed, Lightroom's ongoing improvement may have something to do with Nic's decline. Whether LIghtroom does things as well as Nik, I'll leave to the experts to say. But as Lightroom plug-ins, they are murder on your workflow. The fact is, though you can call them from Lightroom, they don't actually work "in" Lightroom, any more than, say, Photoshop works in Lightroom. Like Photoshop, they are integrated to a degree. But they still stand alone. If you use Photoshop extensively you are probably used to complex workflows—and the use of plug-ins. But Lightroom is more straightforward. And the non-distructive workflow is far more flexible. Using plug-ins in Lightroom can, therefore, be disruptive and harder to justify.

When Nik was created, plug-ins were a popular way to add functionality to Adobe Photoshop. Over the years, though, Photoshop has grown substantially in size and capability, so that plug-ins are not as necessary as they once seemed to be. Then Lightroom (and Aperture) redefined photo editing workflow, along with the use of digital cameras and the camera raw image format, making non-destructive editing the go-to standard. In that context, Nik is a dinosaur. Though the apps may still be great at what they do, they are slow and ponderous to use. If you already know how to use them, getting them for free is no doubt a great opportunity. If you don't yet know how to use them, learning them may be more trouble than it's worth. For myself, I downloaded the free Nik apps but have only dabbled with them briefly, to get the gist of how they work with Lightroom. It remains to be seen how much time I will invest in them in the future. But, hey, who can turn down free software, particularly software with Nik's reputation for power and quality?
gastropod  2016-04-05 19:04
Nik's decline started the day Google bought it more than 3 years ago; it's no wonder it didn't keep up, in either features or interface improvements.

A big point you're missing is that Nik and similar software isn't locked in to Adobe. You obviously like Lightroom and Photoshop, and that's fine. But not everyone wants to use Adobe software, for a variety of excellent reasons. Packages such as Nik and more modern ones add choice and features to software that may be great at some things such as DAM, but less good at others such as noise reduction. The round trip workflow that you hate doesn't bother everyone. It also makes it easier to use a wider variety of host software--people using Nik in Aperture can move a little more easily to e.g. Capture One, because at least some of the workflow will still be similar while they get used to the C1 way of doing things.