|Adobe Photoshop CS Review|
Review of the latest version of this artistic expression powerhouse
Adobe Photoshop earns
its position as the number one paint program for three reasons. First,
PhotoShop is cross platform - supporting the two most popular desktops
- MacIntosh and Windows. Second, Photoshop often takes on some of the toughest
problems in graphics and digital photo editing and solves them first and/or
more comprehensively than any other vendor.
Take Color management (helping
to match the different color gamuts of the many different color devices
such as a display, scanner, printer etc). Photoshop was the pioneer and
set the standard. Also consider layering (allowing an artist to paint on
successively higher layers and
the transparency and interactions
between the layers). Photoshop was not the leader but has added a whole
series of innovations such as layer masks, custom blending, support
for hundreds of layers, and now conditional layer comps in the new Photoshop
CS. Quite simply, Photoshop tends to out-innovate its competitors.
Another example is the built-in image browser mode as shown in the screenshot above. The browser shows thumbnails of all the images in a folder or directory. Jasc's Paint Shop Pro was the lone graphics program to support such a browser until Adobe finally added one in Photoshop 6.5. The Adobe browser was much slower than Jasc's, had less functionality, but did add two features not available in Jasc's browser. First, each thumbnail was highlighted in a larger preview thumbnail and the EXIF exposure data associated with the image if available was displayed just below the preview. Since then Photoshop, has steadily improved its image browser making it a lot faster (but still slower than Jasc's) but more importantly adding ever more functions and features. Now the image browser has its own small little menu line -> File Edit Automate Sort View, each with about a half dozen commands underneath. For Photoshop, the browser has become the command Centrex whenever multiple image tasks have to be performed. Result - Photoshop now steps ahead of Jasc in browser features and in a unique way.
A third example is scripting. Adobe has had from its early versions the Actions capability - think of actions as Photoshop's simple macros. Actions record all the info associated with each action or Photoshop command executed by the user. These actions then can be edited including merging together other Actions, saved and then used over again to modify a completely different image. Not as powerful as Microsoft Excel's spreadsheet macros but a definite time saver. Corel PhotoPaint then responded by implementing a complete scripting language, CorelScript (it looks much like Microsoft's VBScript)that could not only record all the commands but allowed users to program the scripts - test the status of the image and do if-then logic, even complete loops to repeat the same operations over a group of image files (like cropping and then adding a ©Logo). Adobe quickly followed by implementing Microsoft's VBA-Visual Basic for Applications as its super scripting language. Corel followed and did the same replacing CorelScript with VBA.
So Adobe takes the long view and is relentless in improving its products, including complimenting its competitors by copying and improving on their best features. With that in mind lets take a look at some of the new features to be found in Photoshop CS.
What's New in Photoshop CS
Adobe itself clusters Photoshop's features around topic areas - what's new for graphic designers, web developers, photographers, video filmmakers and all users. Lets follow the same order. For graphic designers Photoshop CS provides a number of improvements including the ability to handle huge image sizes upto 360,000 by 360,000 pixels with 56 channels and an unlimited number of layers. Another new feature, Layer Comps are a convenience for photo finishers. Layer comps allow a user to label the stack of layers with different names. Big deal ?! Yes, if each of those layer comps also remember which layers are visible and which are not. This allows a photo finisher or designer to show many different design options at a single mouse click by making some layers visible and some not by clicking on one layer comp from a list. Very nifty for design reviews.
own personal favorite is the new Text-to-Path feature shown in the
screenshot just above. Its dead simple to use. Select any of the four Text
tools and then make sure they hover above a shapes edge or path. The cursor
changes to an I-bar with a wiggle path through it. Then just type. To change
the position or above/below the path of the text switch to either the Direct
Selection or the Path Selection tools and then just select and drag the
text appropriately. Its that simple.
In colors, the improvements have been doubled to four. The new
Match Color command is absolutely wonderful for arriving
at a consistent Hue-Saturation-Lightness set for a group of images. Using
a source image
one imports the HSL levels to a target - giving a consistent color look
and feel(HSL histogram profile) to the two images. The new Histogram
palette helps in many manual color corrections because
users can see the before and after histogram shifts for a color correction
it tells you "yep, you
are putting in too much of a red hue cast", etc. The third color improvement.
the new Image | Adjustment | Highlight/Shadow command
will be a boon for digital camera users. In many outdoor shots the shadow
are too dark relative
to sky or other natural highlights. This command adjusts the highlights
or just the shadows as if the photographer had a massive fill flash - images
literally pop out of the shadows. See the screenshot at the left - sky
retains is gray troubling tones; but foreground trees and lake - lost in
shadow areas have been brightened up by using the Shadow/Highlight command.
Also note the Histogram palette indicates the shift due to the pending
color changes. The fourth new color tool is Color Replacement
tool - which
unlike other brushes only changes the hue not the saturation and lightness
already on the image. This makes the color replacement tool a much smarter
"color" paintbrush. In sum these are 4 substantial new color
features along with the other photographic improvements.
Photoshop is becoming more video and film format aware. Nowhere is this
seen better than in the ability to export with appropriate pixel aspect-ratio
corrections for NTSC, PAL and HDTV. In addition, there are new video
document presets with automatic guides which considerably simplifies
going to and from video and film formats. And Image Ready, Photoshop's
free companion program is loaded with new and improved features.
The Image Ready interface has been enhanced to make selection and grouping of of objects easier. This includes the improvements to the Animation palette noted above plus many other UI improvements. In addition the new Web Content palette consolidates and simplifies creation and updating/modifying rollovers, menus and other Web artifacts. Now there is one palette to go to to control all the graphics UI elements in Image Ready.
In addition, Image Ready has coding enhancements with new controls for nested tables, XHTML, and other coding elements. The HTML code is cleaner and simpler and interfaces with Adobe GoLive web development program more efficiently. Perhaps one of the niftiest add ons is the new templates for using data driven graphics - the parameters passed to these routines determine what image is displayed, where, and in what format. This is certainly not SVG - with its detailed image control plus drawing capabilities but it does give DHTML developers more facilities and features to work graphics effectively into their websites.
New Tools for All Users
Again the improvements come in twos. For utilizes there is a new set of keyboard shortcuts. Just like being able to create workspace layouts, now keyboard shortcuts can be configured and saved. And the new Edit History Log features allows users to set more options in the Preferences dialogs for retaining metadata and other info in the history logs.
Besides the new Image Ready SWF Flash file output, Photoshop has two new output formats - Slideshows to PDF files and enhanced and additional templates for creating Web photo galleries. Both are welcome output improvements and are part of the new Image Browser's Automate command (they are also accessible through the main menu File | Automate command). But when accessed through the Image Browser Automate menu - then the current selection of files in the Image Browser is used initially to fill the list of images to be used in creating a PDF slideshow. The PDF slide show can have transition effects and user set timing between images changes.
The new options for the Web gallery templates are more conveniently accessed and the system of creating Web Galleries is smoothed. But what is striking is the wealth of commands available in Photoshop for delivering images as output in customizable ways. Users now have the choice of 1)PDF sideshows, 2)enhanced Web Galleries, 3)Contact Sheets with many layout options, 4)a print picture package with multiple options (see the screen shot at the left), 5)online service bureau automatic upload for printing, and 6)Panorama Picture merge option with very clever automatic picture fitting for merge (but user control over final positioning and cropping). This is a formidable list of automated output options that few if any Paint programs can match for the options and customization details provided by Photoshop. And Adobe continues to dominate the high quality, color fidelity supporting more color models and providing more color profile options.
If we examine the new features and compare them to the portfolio of features that Photoshop has there have been some impressive additions. Photoshop continues to dominate the high end of bitmap image and photo processing because of its strengths in 4 areas:
1)Color management and processing options. Photoshop CS added very useful
Histogram palette, Shadow/Highlight and Color Replacement commands and
So the best got better in features and hence the very high rating for PhotoShop CS. It would have been higher by 0.5 if not for three sticky wickets. For the first time, I had reliability problems with the program in Windows. PhotoShop CS crashed four times during over 30 hours of testing. At first I thought it was huge overload of large programs in memory on my system - Photoshop, Dreamweaver, 6 Firefox browser windows, Star Office Word, etc. So I cutout everything but Dreamweaver where I am writing this review. Yikes - it crashed again. So now I rebooted, and only ran Photoshop CS. 3 hours later, to my dismay, Photoshop CS crashed again. Unfortunately, it bombed on different operations - the only common thread was heavy use of the Brush Creator, Filter Browser, and Actions. So suddenly as Corel Painter IX gets born-again stability religion - Photoshop CS has an infrequent but notable case of the dropsies.
Second and perhaps stickiest because it is a completely preventable shortcoming.
I can copy to the clipboard huge multi-megabyte files from any other program.
But images from Photoshop that are bigger
than 1MB are told:
Third shortcoming, I can point to the Corel PhotoPaint, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, or ULead Photo Impact plugins and use them in Photoshop with one major shortfall - they don't work in the new Filter Browser. Just Adobe-built plugins are apparently allowed. Now one of the attractions of the Photoshop product has been the very large 3rd party plugin market that has built up around Photoshop. Many are geared exclusively to work with Photoshop. As a thank you to all their third party ISV supporters, Adobe appears to be cutting them out of the Filter Browser spoils.
However, to add isnult to injury, Adobe does not allow its plugins to work in any other Paint program.Trying to do the reverse - use an Adobe Photoshop plugin with Jasc or Corel Paint programs simply gets cutoff by Adobe - the plugin refuses to work even though most other 3rd party plugins do function properly. Now, this is the kind of narrow-minded, lack of interoperability and respect for other programs that has gotten Microsoft such a nasty reputation for arrogance and disregard for customers needs to work with a range of programs to get the tasks done. Unfortunately, this is a continuing bad PR practice for Adobe because these three problems have persisted through at least two versions of Photoshop. So we deduct 0.5 ratings points from Photoshop CS for the ill inconsideration it is showing to its "partners", clients and customers. And Adobe can not afford to create ill-will towards its product because as a value proposition, Paint Shop Pro is improving relentlessly as well - and with its new Art Media layers and brushes its taking photofinishing and its users to new outstanding ratings.
Jacques Surveyer also has a website full of Photoshop enhanced images, see Photozack.