How to Use the Nik Collection Standalone

by Feb 24, 2021Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How to Use the Nik Collection Standalone

You probably already know that the Nik Collection is a great Photoshop plugin and that you can use it in other tools like Affinity Photo. But what about trying to use the Nik Collection standalone? Is it possible?

The simple answer to this question is yes.

In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to use the Nik Collection as a standalone photo editor. I’ll be explaining how to find and launch the Nik Collection executables on both a Mac and Windows Computer. Most importantly we look at how to open an image for editing because the Nik Collection doesn’t have an obvious way to do this.

But before we can do that, we need to look at what happens when you install the Nik Collection to your computer. Please don’t skip this section. It’s important in helping you understand how to find the executable files to launch Nik standalone.

When You Install the Nik Collection

When you install the Nik Collection, the installer guides you through the process. On a Mac, you will reach the Compatible Host Applications screen after accepting the License terms. The order of the screens is slightly different on a Windows PC, but the principles are the same.

Installing the Nik Collection to Compatible Hosts

This screen lists compatible applications that the Nik Collection has detected on your computer and to which it will be installed. Some of these applications require only the Nik Collection plugin files whilst others like Lightroom require the application files.

When you install the Nik Collection you are really installing two different sets of files. The plugins and the application executables.

The compatible application list also isn’t a complete list. For example, Affinity Photo isn’t listed but it is compatible. If you find an application is missing from the list, you can add it using the + icon at the bottom of the list. There’s also a – icon which you can use to remove an item from the list, so that the Nik Collection doesn’t install to it.

Installing the Nik Application Files

When you are happy with the list of applications, click the Continue button to move to the next screen. This is the most important screen if you want to use the Nik Collection standalone. When installing to a Windows PC, this screen comes before the Application Host screen mentioned above.

Installing the Nik Application files

In the centre of the dialog, you can see the location the Nik Collection application files or executables will install to. By default, on a Mac, this is “/Applications/Nik Collection” but you can change this by clicking the button to the bottom right.

On a Windows PC the default location for the executable files is likely to be “C:\Program Files\DxO\Nik Collection”. As with the Mac installation you can also change this location. Here is an example from my Windows computer where I’ve installed the Nik Collection to my “K:\” hard drive.

Installing the Nik Collection applications on a Windows PC

My K:\ drive is just another hard drive in the computer. Most Windows computers come with only one hard drive which is the C:\ disk drive. Where there are multiple hard drives, each one has a different letter to distinguish it.

Important Points

There are three important points to understand from all of this:

  1. When you install the Nik Collection to your computer, two versions of the applications are installed. There are the Plugins files which are required by the likes of Photoshop and there are the application files which may be required by other applications.
  2. You can’t execute a Nik Plugin file other than inside a host application like Photoshop. These files won’t help us to run the Nik Collection standalone. We need to use the Nik Collection application files for that.
  3. There is a default location for the Nik Collection application files but it’s possible to change this.

Finding Your Application Files

As mentioned, to run the Nik Collection standalone, you need to find the Nik application files. If you haven’t yet installed the Nik Collection, or made a note of where you installed them, you need to find them.

Assuming you need to find the files, let’s look at how to do this.

The first place to check is the default installation folder location. On a Mac this is the “\Application\ Nik Collection\” folder whilst on a PC its “C:\Program Files\DxO\Nik Collection”. When you look in these folders on your computer you should see the Nik Collection application files on Mac. On a Windows PC you see a series of folders as each application has its own folder.

Nik standalone application files on a mac

In this screenshot you can see the Nik Collection folder on my Mac which contains all the Nik Collection application files. Double clicking one of these application files will launch that application as a standalone editor. This is a good way to check that you have found the correct Nik Collection files.

Searching Folders

If you can’t find the default folder or it doesn’t contain the application files, you will need to search for the files manually. The best way to do this is in the Mac Finder which has a search box, or if you are using a Windows PC, the File Explorer which also has a search box.

When searching, it’s good to use a short file name like “Viveza 2”. Searching for a short name means there is less chance of mistyping it.

Another tip when searching for the application files is to also include the extension. The extension is at the end of the file name and indicates the type of file. This is often hidden in the computer file browser so you may not always see it. The reason to include the file extension is because there are multiple “Viveza 2” files but only one of these is the standalone version of Viveza.

If you are searching on a Mac computer, look for “Viveza” and on a Windows PC use “Viveza 2.exe”.

When you find the location of the Viveza 2 application file you should also find the other Nik Collection applications in the same location. Check that you can launch these as standalone editors and then make a note of the location.

Opening Images in the Nik Collection

When you launched the Nik applications as standalone editors, you probably noticed the interface was empty as you aren’t editing an image. You may also have realised that there isn’t a menu or any way of opening an image for editing. It’s even possible you tried dragging an image and dropping it onto the Nik application. With many applications this works as a way of loading the image but unfortunately, not with the Nik Collection.

If we want to use the Nik Collection standalone, we need a way to open the images to edit. Here’s how to do it on both a Mac and Windows PC although there are slight differences.

On a Mac

The first way you can use on a Mac is with the Mac Finder to select a file. You can use this to drag the image file you want to edit, dropping it onto the Nik application file you want to edit it with. This launches the Nik application as a standalone editor and loads the image for editing. After applying your changes click the OK button and the changes are automatically saved back to the file.

The downside to this method is that you will need to use two Finder windows. One is used to select the image file you want to edit whilst the other displays the Nik applications files. This allows you to drop the file onto the Nik application files.

An alternative to this is to place the image files you want to edit onto your desktop. You can then drag and drop them from the desktop onto the Nik application files in a Finder window.

Another alternative to this approach is to launch the Nik Collection application you want to use first. This opens Nik as a standalone editor but without an image for editing. When the Nik application launches, it appears in the Mac Dock bar running along the bottom of your screen. Now you can drag and drop the file onto the icon in the Dock and it opens for editing.

You can further improve on this if you have room in your Dock bar is to add the Nik Collection applications. Once you add an application to the Dock it appears as an icon I the bar. You can then drag and drop image files onto these icons to open that application in the Nik Collection.

Ona Windows PC

On a Windows PC you can also use the drag and drop method to open an image for standalone editing. Using the Windows File explorer, select the file, dragging and dropping it on the Nik Collection executable you want to use.

As with the Mac, this can be awkward as you need two File Explorers open. Use one to drag the file and the other to show the Nik Collection executables where you will drop the image. When doing this be sure to drop the image file onto the executable file or you could end up moving the image file.

On a Windows PC the alternative to the Mac Dock bar is the Taskbar. This also runs along the bottom of the screen, but it works differently. You can add the Nik Collection applications and then launch them as standalone editors. Unfortunately, if you try to drag an image file for editing onto the icon in the Taskbar, it’s just added as a pinned list item as shown here.

Item pinned in Windows Tasklist for editing with Nik Viveza

It is possible to click on the pinned task item to open it for editing in the application it’s pinned to. The downside is that after editing you would need to remove it from the Taskbar. If you don’t you would end up with an exceedingly long list. This all takes time and fortunately, there is a better option.

The simple solution is to create a shortcut for the Nik Collection applications you want to use as standalone editors. You can do this by right-clicking on the executable file in the Windows File Explorer and selecting “Create Shortcut” in the popup menu. Windows will then probably display a message saying that it can’t create the shortcut in that location and suggest adding it to the desktop (which is where it needs to be).

After adding your application shortcut to your computer desktop, you should see a new icon. You could double click this to launch the application, but you can also drop the image you want to edit onto the icon. This opens the application as a standalone editor and loads the image for editing.

Compatible File Format

An important point when using the Nik Collection standalone is that the image files you are editing need to be compatible. This means using either a JPEG image or a TIFF image (either 8-bit or 16-bit). You can’t use other file formats because the Nik editor needs to save your changes back to the image file when you click the OK button.

It is possible that the Nik application will load other file types, for example, RAW files, but it can’t save changes to these when you finish editing. Nik currently only supports the JPEG and TIFF file formats so you must use one of these.

If you have a choice, I recommend using the TIFF format and where possible a 16-bit TIFF. A 16-bit file withstands editing better than an 8-bit file. But the real benefit of using a TIFF file if you have the Nik Collection 3 or later is that it supports a non-destructive workflow. When you are editing a JPEG file you don’t have access to this.

Nik Collection 3 Enhancements

Now I have misled you a little in this tutorial because Nik Collection applications do now have a feature to open image files for editing. I think this was introduced in the Nik Collection 3 so you probably won’t find it in earlier versions.

On a Mac, I now have a menu bar at the top of the screen with a “File | Open” command. On a Windows PC, a new Open button appears in the top left of the screen when I’m using one of the applications stand alone.

Options to open images in Nik Viveza when using Nik Standalone

I don’t know quite when DxO introduced these features, but it’s most welcome.

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Summary of Using the Nik Collection Standalone

We have covered a lot in this tutorial about using the Nik Collection standalone. Here is a summary of the most important points:

  • To use the Nik Collection standalone, you must use the Nik application files. You can’t launch a plugin file as a standalone editor.
  • You need to find where the Nik application files are on your computer. On a Mac they are probably in the “\Application\Nik Collection\” folder. On a Windows PC they are probably in the “\Program Files\DxO\Nik Collection” folder. If they are installed to other locations, you need to search for them.
  • You can’t launch the application and then drag image files onto the open application for editing. This doesn’t open the image.
  • On a Mac and Windows PC, drag and drop image files for editing onto the Nik Collection application files. If this is time consuming, consider creating icons shortcuts to these as outlined in this tutorial.
  • If possible, edit your images as 16-bit TIFF file and consider using the non-destructive workflow that’s new in the Nik Collection 3. If you don’t have the Nik Collection 3, you can download a trial version here (affiliate link).

Follow these tips and you will be able to easily use the Nik Collection standalone.

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