One of the nice things to come out of the “boutique” app ecosystem is that apps as a whole feel less…corporate. Nothing crushes creativity more than a corporation’s tendency to try and
appease everyone not offend anyone (evidence: office art). If a one-person software company wants to make someone smile, they don’t have to go through Legal. Not a lot of smiles in Legal. Lots of hand-wringing and Xanex. There are, however, lots of smiles in HR. But HR smiles are mandated by the people in Legal. It’s a vicious circle.
This screenshot of a progress bar from Acorn (an image editor I use often) is a great example of the kind of thing you can pull off if your approach to products is driven first and foremost by a desire to delight humans:
For what it’s worth, I now probably only spend about 25% of my image editing time (both professionally and personally) in Photoshop. That 25% is largely dedicated to print pre-production and advanced image compositing. Photographically, I try to get everything right in the camera, so Aperture’s relatively modest image editing toolset suits me just fine. For everything else, and especially non-photographic imagemaking work, it’s small(ish) Mac apps like Acorn. PixelMator‘s another good one (though for me a little over-designed). Hell, lots of what needs to be done can actually be done in OS X’s Preview these days.
It’s not that Photoshop is a bad tool. It’s the only game in town for that 25%. The other 75%, though, can easily be done in other smaller, cheaper, faster, and more delightful tools. Tools that make me smile. Tools that don’t take an hour to install and six hours to remove. Tools that still have a single-minded sense of purpose, that still work as if doing one thing really, really well is orders of magnitude better than taking a mediocre approach to everything. Tools whose creators or product managers have enough conviction in their product’s longer-term vision (as well as the requisite backbone) to know how to say “no” to feature requests, even if it costs them a sale. Tools whose creators take PayPal and trust you even before that. It’s just like the shareware days but with a real checkout counter.
Don’t even ask me what I use for wireframing. It’s sacrilege.