If your work – or pleasure – involves robotic repetitive actions on images, Retrobatch can put the automation in your workflow and give you time to do more creative tasks. The app, which has been in development for 20 years, lets you create processing workflows from simple operations, such as adding a border and changing the resolution, to massive arrays of transformations using rules that let you choose one or more paths for A picture.
That flow is controlled by visual connections, creating a flowchart-like series of connected nodes. Nodes are specialized, such as applying an effect or resizing an image. Each node can have multiple inputs or outputs. A typical flow reads images from a source (a folder, a selection dialog, the Photos library, etc.), walks them through processing and decision-making steps, and then writes the images to the same or different locations. That middle part is where the action takes place.
To build a workflow, create a new Retrobatch document and drag elements from a list on the left, divided into categories. For example, if you want to process a bunch of vacation photos that you’ve already put in an album in Photos to upload to a social network or photo-sharing service, and make sure you don’t run huge files, you can create a workflow that looks like:
Read the photo album for your holiday trip
Scale files above two megapixels up to two megapixels
Delete GPS data
Apply an unsharp mask (a typical act of punching out an image)
Save to a new folder
As you work, Retrobatch runs “preflighting” in the background, which tests operations and calculates the number of images that will be processed by each step, giving a count in the node. This allows you to preview how your rules apply to your source images.
Retrobatch includes nodes for adding watermarks, changing color spaces, producing multiple versions of images with different size factors for websites, exporting to a different file format, creating the equivalent of contact sheets, adding borders and effects, and use of criteria to create an “instant alpha”, or mask usually used for background transparency. This frame just scratches the surface.
As with many apps that use a graphical approach to building sequencing, you may become frustrated when links between nodes are not created as you expect. Fortunately, I can give a simple tip to remedy that: In Retrobatch > Preferences > Generalcheck “Manual connections with control drag”.
While Retrobatch comes with several methods for selecting images to process, you can also use folder actions to trigger workflows using a simple AppleScript recipe. Then drag and drop images onto a Finder folder icon to perform common edits.
There are only two notable missing pieces in Retrobatch. First, the app provides granular control over adding and removing image metadata using the Remove Specific Metadata and Set Specific Metadata options, but only for individual fields or, with Set General Metadata, Title, Author, Description, and Copyright. It would be useful to apply a global location or delete, set or transform a list of metadata fields at once.
Second, the workflow nodes always have the same titles. While you can add a Workflow Notes node in the Retrobatch document to note what the sequence does, I’d prefer to have a way to rename or annotate nodes so that labels appear in the main view to remind me what I have built.
Retrobatch comes in regular and pro version, the latter including scripting, PDF, image classification using machine learning, and other more advanced features. However, the price difference is only $20: Retrobatch is $29.99; Retrobatch Pro costs $49.99. Both versions offer a 14-day free trial. The apps support macOS 10.12 and later.
For anyone who spends more than an hour a week massaging images into some form, Retrobatch will pay for itself almost instantly.
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