In my ongoing search to finish the process of making my Mac the only object I need to do anything at all – a can opener is in development – I’ve been on the lookout for a good piece of software to manage microscopy photos.

Most microscopes come with software to do this, to be honest, but the big flaw with a lot of that software is that it’s either Windows-only, requiring Mac-using scientists to run some kind of virtualization or get a cheap Windows box to run it, or it simply doesn’t do all the things you need it to.

Enter Macnification, from Orbicule. With a whole host of features that I’ve been wishing for in current scope apps, and others I hadn’t even hoped were possible, Macnification is about to be a complete revolution in the way I work.

The most amazing part of Macnification is its support for stacks. In microscopy parlance, a stack is a group of images arranged vertically to either show different focal depths or time phases. A stacked image lets the viewer see the object in as close to 3D as flat photography is going to get. Macnification really highlights this, treating the stacks as if they were physical objects.

Z-slices through a stack are cake, with a realtime preview of what the section is going to look like that lets you rotate and angle the slice line to get the ideal cut. Extended focal imaging, or EFI, is also a breeze – a matter of two clicks – and fast, compressing a stack into a single image that features the sharpest parts of each component image.

All this image editing is also non-destructive, a huge plus in today’s increasingly-suspicious scientific imaging scene, with more and more journals requiring originals for analysis or forbidding image editing outright.

Another nifty bit is the ease of creation of time-lapse movies. I have a series of photos of the calcium flare across some neurons, and I’d been looking for a decent way to make this a time-lapse movie for presentations. Macnification did it in about fifteen seconds with only a couple of clicks. Brilliant – and everyone’s been asking how I did it. (Now I get to smile enigmatically again and point to my Mac.)

I do wish that this would run on anything besides 10.5, though – I’ve got some older computers in the lab that just are never going to cut it for Leopard. While I know it’s a sacrifice for all of the fancy features that require Leopard’s strengths, it’s still a drag.

Macnification is available in a free trial and for purchase starting at around $400 USD.


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