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XnRetro for Windows and Mac

Free Retro Photo App for Desktop Computers

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


XnRetro Icon


© XnView
This review takes a look at the desktop computer version of XnRetro, a free to download software application that makes it easy to apply a variety of retro and vintage effects to your photos. Such effects have become very popular of late, no doubt helped by the huge popularity of Instagram, so there's no shortage of competition for XnRetro.

Many users prefer to edit and share their photos on the move and if you're one of those, you maybe interested in our review of the Android version of XnRetro. However personal computers boast greater power and XnRetro takes advantage to offer additional features that are not available on the Android app.

By the end of this article, I hope you'll be able to judge whether this is an app that you should download for yourself.

User Interface

XnRetro is available for Windows and OS X and I've taken a look at the Windows version. Frequently in the past, software used to look a bit clunky and dated on Windows, compared to when running on Apple computers, but thankfully that is changing more and more and so XnRetro provides quite a clean and friendly user interface.

The workspace is intelligently laid out and the icons, while not ultra slick, are easily understood and unlikely to date too quickly.

In common with the Android version of the app, there is a carousel towards the bottom of the screen that displays the various options. Also shared with the Android app, you can view different filter effects and frames in this area, selected by tabbed buttons immediately below the carousel.

Where the desktop version of XnRetro departs from the mobile version is in offering additional options for selecting different types of vignettes and also a new feature for overlaying various light effects onto your photos.

Furthermore, the app takes advantage of the greater space available on computer monitors to permanently display the image adjustment tools.

Image Adjustments

Having all of the image adjustment tools in view all the time makes it very easy to tweak and adjust your images as you apply different effects and lights. There's also a wider range of tools on offer here which opens up plenty of options for adjusting the appearance of the default effects, such as editing the color balance of the individual red, green and blue channels. The Noise slider makes it easy to replicate the appearance of grain that is a common feature of old photos taken with film cameras.

If you reach the point where you've made too many adjustments, you can just click the Reset button and start again.


XnRetro for Windows Screen Shot

XnRetro for Windows Screen Shot

© Ian Pullen
You don't actually see filters referred to within XnRetro, but you can essentially roll your own by combining the effects from the Retro, Light and Vignette tabs.

There are 20 separate retro effects that you can see applied to thumbnails of your photo in the carousel. Clicking on a thumbnail quickly applies it to the main photo and if it doesn't look right, just click on another thumbnail or tweak it with the image adjustment tools.

The Light tab displays graphics that show the different effects independent of your photo, so you have to click to apply them if you want to get any idea of how they will look. You can always click the Original thumbnail to the left to remove Light effects or reduce the opacity using the Light opacity slider.

The next tab is for vignettes and this offers a small range of different vignette styles. The Vignetting slider in the image adjustment tools allows you to vary the intensity of the vignette to your taste.

This ability to combine three different types of effect and to tweak them independently is a very powerful feature that opens up a huge range of different effects. Unfortunately, if you find a combination of effects and image adjustments that you really like, there is no way to save the settings so that you can apply them to other photos.

When you've got the photo styled just as you want it, you can add a finishing touch by applying a frame to the image. There's a reasonable range of framing options covering several different styles which should keep all but the most demanding users happy.


Once you've finished creating your work of art, you'll obviously want to generously share your artistic genius with the world and you can do this directly from XnRetro. The three main options are to share your picture to Flickr, Picasa and Facebook, but there are also a number of other image sharing websites included in the list. You can also go to email and send your image to friends that way.


There is very little to dislike about XnRetro and plenty to rave about. It comes with an extremely clear and easy to use user interface that should entice even inexperienced users in. It positively encourages experimentation and it's very easy to produce some great looking results from your digital photos. Add to that the fact that it is entirely free to download and it does become a very compelling piece of software.

I think that the only fault I can pick with the app is the inability to save your own effects so that you can reuse them in the future. That is all that stops me giving XnRetro full marks and so it gets 4.5 out of 5 stars. However, if the option were to be added to save your own filters, then I'd have to give this app full marks.

You can download your own copy of XnRetro for Windows or OS X from the XnView Forum.

XnView Free Image Viewer
XnRetro Android App

XnSketch Android App
XnSketch Desktop App for Windows and Mac

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