In every category of the App Store, there are one or two top-of-the-range apps which attempt to elevate themselves above their competitors. They are usually a joy to use, both because of their feature set and because they are pleasing on the eye. This quality and exclusivity often brings with it an inflated price, but often enough, users are happy to pay more.
At $14.99, image editor Process is clearly attempting to fall into the category of apps mentioned above. In fact, the App Store profile of Process tells customers directly that this app is different from its competitors — providing a large selection of presets and editing tools as well as rapid processing.
I’m not sure whether you can describe the look and feel of Process as elegant, but it is certainly quite polished. All of the app’s controls are tidied away into a few, neatly placed icons. Unfortunately, these beautiful icons are rather small, and some of them are rather tightly packed, even for my delicate fingers. The worst area for this is where the sharing, preset and adjustments icons meet – there is literally an eighth of an inch between each of them.
To the right of the main photo editing area is a sidebar containing two panels. The higher panel displays the adjustments to be applied to your image, and the lower panel provides easy, side-scrolling access to the images in your iPad’s library.
Overall, the editing workspace feels clutter-free and reasonably navigable, but I’m not sure I would place it in the same class of beauty and usability as, say, Paper.
Of course, functionality is more important in an image editor than good looks, and Process does have a lot to offer. There is a selection of 18 style presets, most of which are tasteful and useful, and for those who want more control, there are 28 individual adjustments which can be applied to your image.
It must be said, however, that Process is not a do-it-all editor. If you are looking to give an image some style, or you want to nudge the saturation up a bit, Process fits the bill perfectly. Just don’t go looking for a cloning tool or any way of reducing noise, because you won’t find it.
One interesting concept which Process has to offer is the ability to make one-touch manual adjustments. Select contrast, for example, and you are taken through to a sub-menu with five preset amounts of adjustment, alongside the option to make the adjustment manually. I’m not sure whether, personally, I like this system or not; at times, it may speed up the editing process, but as a side-effect, having to go through two menus to reach some manual controls is somewhat irritating.
Once you actually get to the manual controls, though, you find that they’re really rather nice. Rather than using sliders, Process allows you to make adjustments, using an on-screen thumb-wheel which mimics the look of a retro camera’s film counter.
With the more specialized adjustments, Process‘s controls really come into their own. The tilt-shift effect, for example, is controlled by tapping on the area in which the “sweet-spot” of sharpness should remain – an incredibly intuitive action.
Equally, the curves function is easy to operate, and it includes the option to adjust the red, green and blue curves separately.
When I initially started testing Process, I was somewhat disappointed by its poor stability and with the speed at which it operated. Midway through my testing period, however, Alaric Cole, the developer, released version 3.9, and this update seems to have fixed Process‘s previous performance weaknesses.
With the update in place, images load very quickly, and in reasonably high definition. Additionally, I found Process to be completely stable, even when making multiple adjustments, which is, of course, when crashes are least wanted.
I should also point out that the making of adjustments in Process is aided by what can only be described as “live” updates to the image you are working on – there is no discernible processing time between moving the controls and seeing the results.
Finally, we come to the most important test – does editing with Process produce good results? I would have to say that it does.
Process allows for quite subtle adjustments to be made, aided by a preview which updates itself as you move the controls, and this means that producing the required look is relatively straightforward. Additionally, given that Process lacks heavyweight adjustments, images don’t tend to come out looking heavily processed. With this in mind, I would describe Process as more of an image tweaker than a full-blown editor.
Use of the preset styles requires some caution, though; many of them are quite harsh, so you’d be well advised to adjust them manually to your own personal taste. Handily, you can save any of your own editing mixes as a preset for future easy access.
It seems to me that Process was built to be the best looking and most usable photo editor in the App Store. In reality, it is a polished and highly competent product, but I am unable to find an overwhelming reason to put it above other apps in this genre.
As a result, I feel unable to recommend Process at its current lofty price-point of $14.99. It seems a shame, because Process has all the ingredients to be a genuine, if unremarkable, alternative to a product like Snapseed – the problem is, though, that Snapseed is free. If, however, money is not a consideration, and you choose to purchase Process, it won’t let you down.