Saturday, January 9, 2010

64-bit versus 32-bit Photoshop CS4 Plug-ins for Nik Software (and others)

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64-bit Nik Selective Tool

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32-bit Nik Selective Tool

I’ve received a few emails and blog comments from frustrated buyers of the Nik Software Complete Collection who have 64-bit Photoshop CS4 installed and were surprised when they only saw Viveza 2.0 loaded in the Nik Selective Tool (as shown above) when they started Photoshop. In case you missed it, Nik Software has a FAQ about their current and future 64-bit plans here as well as the system requirements for the complete collection here.

With that said, I apologize for not pointing out in my reviews that I am using the 32-bit versions of the products (most were written before I was using a 64-bit OS). I’d also like to point out that Adobe is aware that the transition period to move from 32 to 64-bit will take some time, so they have included both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of Photoshop (and both are installed by default). Personally I use the 32-bit version most of the time as a majority of my plug-ins (not just from Nik Software) are still 32-bit only, but if I have a big file I might do some initial processing in 32-bit and then do non plug-in related work in 64-bit Photoshop CS4 later.

Adobe Lightroom isn’t impacted by this problem as its plug-in model doesn’t allow for direct (in-process) integration, so it doesn’t care if your plug-in is 32-bit or 64-bit. This is why it is required to create separate TIF files (which most people hate) instead of working seamlessly in the history palette like the built-in features of Lightroom. Both models have their advantages and draw-backs, but personally I prefer the Photoshop CS4 model (despite its interim drawback).

In short, please be patient as the transition is being made by Nik Software and others to move their products to 64-bit as soon as possible. Some updates from select companies will come free as part of their current release, and others will require you to purchase a future version to get 64-bit support as there is development / testing cost involved with the transition. This policy will differ from company to company, so be sure to check the system requirements and ask if you are impacted.

I’m using 32-bit now, should I care about 64-bit?

For those who don’t know, I actually work in the Windows Server division at Microsoft so I’m very familiar with this topic. The same issues occurred in the past when we moved from 16-bit (Windows 3.x) to Windows 95 (which was part 16-bit and part 32-bit) or Windows NT 3.x+, and much worse problems occurred moving from DOS to Windows. As a result, there’s a good reason why I didn’t bother caring about 64-bit systems until December 2009 – it’s better to be on the legacy platform for as long as possible. My ONLY reason for upgrading was a hard drive crash, so I finally made the switch – but it also required me to toss out my existing RAM and buy all new RAM so I could get the minimum 8GB of RAM that I personally feel is necessary for a pleasant 64-bit experience (marketing and selected geeks will argue otherwise).

In short, I ONLY recommend you move to 64-bit Windows 7 (don’t bother with 64-bit Vista) if you are rebuilding your system (fresh OS install – for whatever reason) or if you are purchasing a new system. Recognize that the OS has a lot of great features to make the transition better now than in the past, but there will still be pain points (i.e., Canon & Nikon don’t have free drivers that allows me to see thumbnails of my RAW files like I could do in 32-bit). You may also find that some of your old hardware needs new 64-bit drivers, and because it is old they simply don’t (and probably won’t) exist.

But isn’t 64-bit Faster?

Install a fresh 32-bit OS (not from your computer manufacturer's disc, but from a Microsoft OS disc) and a clean install of Photoshop CS4 without any plug-ins and you’ll be amazed at how fast it is – without doing anything (same exact hardware). This occurs because all of those plug-ins that load when you start Photoshop slow it down (including its start time) and there’s lots of stuff that gets installed on your OS over time that slow it down as well. This coupled with disk fragmentation results in a slow performing, constipated-like, computer. A fresh install clears all of that up, so frequently those moving to 64-bit (which has a LOT less crap that runs on it) will sing its praises about how fast it is. The reality is that the biggest benefit is that you’ll have more addressable memory (if you install more – and again I say 8GB minimum), which helps Photoshop a bit. However, it won’t have all of your add-ins so you’ll find yourself back in 32-bit Photoshop like me in which case the performance is actually marginally slower in my opinion. This is the price of progress (i.e., no longer being limited to 4GB of RAM), so my two cents is that you shouldn’t expect miracles (again 64-bit lovers will send me hate mail about this). 64-bit will be great – in time – but for now the transition period is in place, so be patient. I think the holiday season of 2010 will be the time where the world fully embraces 64-bit, so it will rock then.

Fortunately RAM prices are coming down so I was able to pick up 8GB of RAM for about $250 for my Dell XPS 420 (which cost about $500 when I bought it). This will help with the transition, so as more users embrace it then expect to see a lot more native 64-bit products rolling out. In the meantime, don’t sweat having to run your 32-bit products in Windows 7 as it does a great job of handling them for most people (with a billion Windows users out there, there will always be some who have horrible experiences and who squeak loudly).

I don’t care, I want a refund

I know some people will just be pissed off that there is no native 64-bit support, and will insist on a refund. I contacted Nik Software about this subject and they reminded me that they have a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you aren’t satisfied they’ll be happy to work with you. However, I would encourage you to try the 32-bit support before you reach this conclusion as I think you may find that the experience is very good (after all, it wasn’t long ago where there were very few people running 64-bit with virtually no native 64-bit apps). Even for products that have native 64-bit support, I find myself rarely using that version as many of my favorite plug-ins are 32-bit only anyway, so there’s little point.

Again, my apologies for the confusion and moving forward I will try to note 64-bit support in my articles.

DISCLAIMER

The comments in this article are MY PERSONAL OPINION alone and do not represent the official opinion, policy, position, etc… of Microsoft Corporation, Nik Software, or any other company. Please contact the appropriate third parties directly as their policies may change without notice and their position may differ from what I’ve stated in the future.

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This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

6 comments:

Jim Eastman said...

Thank you for the thorough review of the 64 bit issue with Nik Software. I am very impressed with their software; however, I have a big problem with their customer interactions. It begins with their advertising, which is too clever by half. Few people understand what “64-bit operating systems with 32-bit host application” means. I have been in the computer business for a long time and I didn’t understand what that phrase meant. How about just saying Photoshop 7 through CS4 (32 bit version only)?

Then there was the post sales misstep. I offered to keep the software on the condition that I was provided a free upgrade when the 64 bit version came out. They responded that they would not “in part due to we don't have the dates of these future releases.” What do the dates of release have to do with the offer I made?

Nik could have turned this customer satisfaction problem into a win-win, they would keep my money and I would keep their fine software. Instead, they have chosen a lose-lose policy, as I will be returning the software.

Ron Martinsen said...

Without going into specifics, I know that it isn't as simple for them to move to 64-bit as it is for some others, so I don't think you'll see a quick "dot release" (i.e., a simple update to the current product that has 64-bit support).

I suspect (and I don't work for Nik Software, so dn't quote me) that you'll get 64-bit updates with new product releases as we've seen with Viveza 2, so to honor your request they would have to give all Viveza 1 owners a free copy of Viveza 2, etc... (for all products). While that would be awesome, I don't think that makes for a very sustainable business model.

I don't know for a fact if this is indeed the case, but if it is then they wouldn't be the first (or the last) to adopt this model. It's kinda like Photoshop requiring you to move from CS3 -> CS4 because you bought a new camera and the RAW format support isn't included in CS3 (i.e., Canon 5D Mark II). The funny thing though is that moving to 64-bit is a tough problem for some, but the RAW camera format problem is definitely marketing driven (i.e., Photoshop, Lightroom, ACR can handle updates technically speaking).

Jim Eastman said...

It is ironic that you would use the 5D Mark II/ Photoshop example, since those products are what got me to the point where I am now bloging about Nik software. I bought a 5D (I love it), which forced me to upgrade to CS4 (good stuff). It was entirely reasonable that Adobe not retrofit older releases of their software to accommodate my new camera.

The 5D/CS4 combination soon demonstrated that I needed a bigger, faster computer. So, I bought a 64 bit machine, knowing that Photoshop supported the 64 bit architecture. Photo processing will only continue to demand more memory and more cpu cycles, so the 64 bit machine made sense. (Vista sucks, but that’s another matter.)

Then, a friend turned me on to your terrific blog, where I learned about Nik Software.I downloaded Viveza 2 and was thrilled with what it could do. So far, so good. My previous post described what happened next.

There is no equivalence between the situation I faced with Photoshop and the one I now have with Nik. I obsoleted my CS3 when I bought a new camera. Adobe never advertised that they would support any and all raw formats. On the other hand, Nik sold me software that their advertising said was compatible with CS4, which was only partially true, at best.

Please note that I do not believe that anyone did anything deliberately to conceal the truth or to deceive. This is probably just a matter of ill considered advertising copy. Be that as it may, Nik has cost me time and aggravation.

I disagree that offering those of us who got stuck with this problem a free upgrade to the 64 bit version of the software would require Nik to make the same offer to all purchasers of Viveza 1. If I were Nik I would do the following:

1. Immediately change my advertising copy to make it abundantly clear that not all of my products run under 64 bit Photoshop so that there are no more misunderstandings.
2. Issue free upgrade coupons to those people who were inconvenienced by the problem. They have already identified themselves. Or, take back the product, as they now do -- customer choice. As I understand it, only a handful of people have been affected.

Nik has great products. Their tech support has been courteous and efficient. The company just needs to work on their marketing literature and customer care policies a bit. I wish them well. They make great products.

Ron Martinsen said...

Thanks for your feedback Jim.

I've passed your feedback on to Nik Software (both articles as they've come to me) and I've also made some suggestions.

This article was in response to a few other people who had comments similar to yours.

Thanks for supporting the blog!

I'd encourage you to hang in there, because even with the 32-bit limitations - I think you'll fall in love with the Nik suite (especially Color Efex and Sharpener Pro 32-bit only editions) very quickly. I wouldn't enjoy photography as much without them.

Ron

Jim Eastman said...

Thanks Ron. I appreciate you passing on my comments. I have used the 32 bit versions of the products and I am in love with them. I just don't see any reason to pay for them twice. I will wait until Nik has the products that fit my needs.

Ron Martinsen said...

Jim,

Oh, I missed your point that you already had the current suite. My mistake. Now I understand where you are coming from better.

Take care,
Ron