Nik Software – History Browser

The Greatest Idea since Sliced Bread

The best Undo/Redo/Reset/Compare tool on the Planet

and many users haven’t a clue what it can do

Nik introduced the History Browser with Silver Efex Pro 2 in 2010. It next appeared in Color Efex Pro’s next upgrade, v4. Any bets on what we’ll see new in the next upgrade to HDR Efex Pro? (I have no inside info – it’s just logical.)
In spite of this being the best image processing idea of 2010, many users have little idea of its potential. I make this statement based on questions asked by testers in 2011, who after months using products that include the HB still ask questions where the simple answer is “just use the History browser to do XYZ….“.

This post is about all you’ve missin’. πŸ˜‰

Click images to enlarge to readable size.
“Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology….”

Sam Cooke song, circa 1959

And Villanova still gave me a BE in ’59 πŸ˜‰

Accessing the History Browser
Access to the HB is found in the left sidebar of both SEP2 & CEP4, but in different locations.

SEP2 – not labeled, just a symbol at top of left sidebar


CEP4 – Label & symbol at bottom of left sidebar


HDR Efex Pro, et. al. – They’ll be coming you can be sure πŸ˜‰
Opening the History Browser
Yeah, you click – but then what do you see? πŸ˜‰

  • It depends on how you have the interface’s main image view area set
  • Image view has the following options (and resulting HB display)
  • First – screen shots of the image views, followed by HB display difference details

Single Image View

Split Image View

Side-by Side View

So – What’s the difference in the above captures?

The only HB difference among the three image display options is the small orange symbol shown above – but it’s an important difference. Read on.

Default Opening Display
As shown below, both programs use different opening schemes.

  • These opening schemes, in turn, effect what’s shown in the HB
  • SEP2 always opens by applying the same B&W conversion preset, the Neutral conversion
  • CEP4 always opens by applying the last filter used (caveat)
  • If you leave CEP4 by “Cancel” instead of “OK” or “Brush” this doesn’t count as “Used”
  • The last filter used is applied with whatever settings were used last
  • If you last used a stack of filters (recipe or not) the “last filter” in this case is whatever filter was at the top of the stack

NOTE WELL – SEP2 does not start by comparing the Neutral preset with the original color image.

The two SEP2 “compare images” are identical at the start.
CEP4, on the other hand, shows the original image in comparison to the “filtered” image.
We’ll show how to see the color vs. B&W in SEP2 below.

Cool! But so what?

The above shows how to get at the HB and what you will see when it opens, but what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that the HB allows you to –

1. Compare your image at ANY two stages of its history – not just the original vs. the current. ANY!

2. You can revert back to any point in the image’s history prior to the current stage

3. You can see any & every adjustment made from start to end

In plain English (or whatever language you’re using)

This even includes things like turning a filter on/off and

Every adjustment of every control

Controlling dual image comparison displays
This claim was made – Compare your image at ANY two stages of its history – not just the original vs. the current. ANY! How do you do that?

  1. First of all, comparing “two stages” doesn’t apply to the Single Image View. Duh!
  2. The secret to the “before” image is that little Orange Symbol noted earlier – in the left margin of the HB.
  3. Whichever row in the HB display contains that symbol, the before image shows what your image looked like at the point.
  4. Whichever row is colored is displayed in the after image
  5. The next section will show how to change the before & after

This is how the HB looks after three filters (Contrast Color, Tonal Contrast & Subtle Red) have been added but no changes made to the HB before/after comparison as yet.

  1. The original image’s HB entry will always be in the first row & the image on the top (or left)
  2. The current image’s HB entry will always be in the last row & the image on the bottom (or right)
  3. There is no practical limit to the number of rows – scrolling may be needed
  4. Do not confuse the terms Original Image & Before image – they aren’t necessarily the same
  5. Ditto Current & After
  6. There is always only one Original & one Current but you can compare ANY two (& these latter two are the B4/After)

Suppose we want to compare the current image, not with the original, but with the way it looked after applying the 1st filter?

Simple – Drag the orange symbol next to the 1st filter
NOTE – Since SEP2 starts with the B&W default preset for the before, guess how you change the before to the color version? You got it, drag the orange thingy up to where it says original.

Cool. That covers setting the before image. How about the after?

Also simple – Click on the HB entry you want to use.

Although these screen captures didn’t include the filter stack in the right sidebar, know this –

The filter stack & its filters & each filter’s settings were being changed automatically to keep in sync with the HB’s after image.
If you want to revert to the after (thus discarding all changes made since then) just start working on the stack – “undo magic”

Final before/after comparison notes –

  1. The orange symbol (before image marker) can never be moved below the colored line that marks the current image
  2. Similarly, you can never click a line above the orange symbol to make it the after line
  3. Common sense – before must always precede (or be the same as) after
  4. Making both before & after the same image can be very useful. Assume you’ve reached a good point with your current (bottom HB row) stage and you want to test some ideas past that point. Simple, move the orange symbol to the current row (making both the before & after images the same) and be on your way.

HB information detail
Previously I noted that the HB recorded any & everything. Here’s an example.
In the illustration below, I started by switching from the current CEP4 default filter to my custom recipe (look for NX2 Basic) which does the basic processing steps needed by almost all images.

Beyond switching to the recipe, I won’t attempt to explain what else was done or why. Suffice it to say that if you enlarge this to full screen you’ll see the detail that’s captured. You literally cannot click/slide/dropdown/whatever anything in any filter without it being recorded. That said, anything that is recorded is a potential point for either a before or after (or both) comparison image. So, as some were prone to do – don’t complain that you can’t compare the effect of any two sequential steps – one against the other – or anything else for that matter. πŸ˜‰

This gives you more than enough to move out on your own. Less than five minutes of experimentation and you’ll be a pro.
Although the HB was demonstrated using CEP4, the SEP2 version is identical except for the two very minor differences noted (start up location & start up display). One size fits all.
‘Nuf said. More than ‘nuf, in fact.
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