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Google’s advanced desktop photo editing software are now free downloads

Google is known for its useful software services, the majority of which are free. When the company acquired Nik’s advanced photo editing software in 2012, however, it left a price tag on (although it bundled them for one lower price). Now, Google has made the Nik Collection completely free, which will open the highly regarded tools to more photographers.

The suite consists of seven plug-ins for the desktop versions of Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom, and Apple’s defunct Aperture. The tools include Analog Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, and Dfine. Anyone who purchased the suite this year will see an automatic refund.

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The Nik Collection of software gives photographers extra tools for easily enhancing photos. Analog Efex Pro, for example, can help create the look of film, while Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro are for tuning color and black-and-white images, respectively. Viveza lets you adjust color and tonality, HDR Efex Pro creates vivid photos, Sharpener Pro helps sharpen images, and Dfine reduces noise.

Now that they free, pro and enthusiast photographers should add them to their Photoshop and Lightroom workflows. General consumers may find the software offering more than what they need, but they’re free to experiment with provided you have the required applications (Google provides online tutorials on how to use the tools).

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With this change, some photographers wonder about the future of Nik plug-ins, where they fit in Google’s photo software roadmap. Google has shown that it isn’t afraid of killing off popular programs (remember Picasa?), and with growth coming from mobile, Google is pouring resources into Google Photos and Snapseed, the latter of which is developed by Nik. Time will tell if Google will continue developing these pro-centric plug-ins for the desktop.