A Quick Overview of Photoshop CS
All right, first things first: I know you're a bit freaked out about this upgrade being named "Photoshop CS" rather than Photoshop 8. Don't feel bad -- we're all a little freaked out, but once you see how the whole "CS" works together, it makes more sense (I didn't say I liked the name, I just said "it makes more sense").
Once you get past the weird naming thing, you're going to love Photoshop 8. I mean, Photoshop CS. Honestly, it kicks butt. Major butt. In fact, it is without a doubt the biggest, baddest, absolute best version of Photoshop there's ever been, and after using it just a short time, you can't even think of going back to Photoshop 7. I don't think you're going to find just one or two things you really like in CS, because this is a very broad-based upgrade. In fact, it's easily the most broad-based upgrade since Photoshop 6, and arguably since as far back as Photoshop 3, because there's really something for everyone.
In this quick look at CS, I'm going to dip my toe in all the pools this new version touches (that's a weird metaphor, but I'm going to go with it anyway) and give you a glimpse of what this puppy can do. For our quick look, we'll start with the new goodies for photographers (because honestly, they got the biggest piece of the Photoshop CS pie).
First, there's the updated File Brower. This is really more "File Browser Extreme" because it's so much better than the one in Photoshop 7. In fact, the CS File Browser is pretty much everything you wish the old file browser was. It now lets you click and drag thumbnails around within the browser (like a lightbox), which saves a ton of time (and the frustration of having to rank everything). Sorting is now (get this) intuitive and trying this one feature is enough to keep you from launching Photoshop 7 ever again.
Sorting is vastly better; thanks to "Flags" which let you flag the images you want to keep, and you can view just flagged images, just unflagged images, or both. This is how sorting is supposed to be.
The File Browser now has its own "mini menu" right within the browser, making it easier to work within the browser, and giving you direct access to automations like Web Photo Gallery, Picture Package, and other automations.
One of my favorite new File Browser features is that you can now view your thumbnails at much larger sizes (in fact, you can choose your own custom size) and that alone makes the browser more usable. You can make the Preview Pane much larger as well, and the interface has been enhanced so you can nest panes together (just like you'd nest palettes).
Also, now you can assign keywords to photos (or groups of photos) and use the new built-in search function to find tagged photos you're looking for, and you can now edit the metadata of photos from right within the Browser. You'll find lots of tweaks and improvements here, enough to make this definitely one of the killer features of CS.
The built-in automations for photographers have all been enhanced and improved, with Picture Package getting its own built-in editor for creating your own custom layouts; Web Gallery getting some much needed new templates (with added functionality); and Contact Sheet II which now enables you to add custom spacing between photos, rotate images to fit automatically, and it gives you much more info about the final product.
Besides refining the built-in automations, they added some new ones, including Photomerge, which helps you stitch together panoramic photos; PDF Presentation, which lets you create Acrobat slide shows of Photoshop images right from within Photoshop; and Crop and Straighten Photos, which lets you gang scan photos and then Photoshop will crop, straighten, and put them into their own separate documents automatically.
The professional digital photographers will be high-fiving about the seamless built-in support for acquiring and edit Raw images from high-end digital cameras. Not only is getting these images into Photoshop a direct process (you can even open them right from within the File Browser), but now Layers, Shapes, Text, etc. are all available while in 16-bit mode as well.
Adobe added a new Adjustment Layer that traditional photographers will feel right at home with, because they replicated those screw-on lens filters we used to use to compensate for bad lighting, fluorescent lighting, and other nasty realities (remember those 81A, 81B filters?). They're called Photo Filters and because they're Adjustment Layers, they offer a lot of flexibility and make cooling down (or warming up) a photo a 30-second quick trick instead of a color correction nightmare.
So in short, photographers may be willing to sell their soul (or at least their traditional film cameras) to get this upgrade.
OK, beside the fact that "graphics people" isn't the greatest term, what "they" got in this upgrade is pretty substantial. Are you ready for this? I don't think you are. That's because although you didn't think you'd live long enough to see real Type on a Path come to Photoshop, you made it. You outlasted Adobe and type on a path is here -- just draw a path, get the type tool, click on the path and start a-typin'. This has been at the top of most every Photoshop designer's wish list, and this is the kind of feature that has us (freaky designer types) toasting champagne (or at the very least, tossing back a few Mountain Dews).
Another cool feature for designers is "Layer Comps" which gives designers the freedom to try different layouts, and each time they come up with a layout they like, they can save it as a comp and return to it anytime with just one click. It's not just a screen capture; your entire Layers palette reverts to the currently selected comp so if you decide to go with the currently displayed layout, you can pick up right there. It may sound a little clunky, but once you try it you'll be hooked.
There's also a new tool, a brush called the Color Replacement Brush which lets you sample the color from one image and replace an area of color in that image, or another image just by painting over it (it's kind of like a "background eraser" tool, but instead of erasing, it paints in a new color, if that makes any sense).
If you're into creative features, you'll be into the Filter Gallery. It lets you combine, stack, reorder, and generally experiment with many of the artsy filters within Photoshop, including many of the brush stroke, texture, artistic, sketch, and distort filters, all within one dialog, which features a huge preview window where you can see your creation unfold. You don't actually get any new filters here --just a new way to combine them in an interesting way -- and you'll be surprised (as least I was) how much easier it is to develop certain looks by being able to stack and reorder filters in this fashion.
It's hard to say whether this will wind up being a feature that falls more within the prepress crowd or the photographer crowd, but the new Shadow/Highlight tonal adjustment control is pretty slick (especially if you choose "Show more options"). It looks like it was designed for photographers, but I've seen some prepress people already drooling over it (not that prepress people generally drool, mind you) because it offers a somewhat more intuitive way to correct images, and lets you tweak your images in a different way that will appeal to many users.
Adding some new features for the video crowd is so long overdue, I'm not sure there's anyone still alive that remembers the last time Adobe added a video feature of any kind. Well, video people (you know who you are) you're in luck. You can cross off the #1 most requested Photoshop feature off your list:Photoshop CS supports non-square pixels (yippee, yahoo!, etc.). This makes creating layered Photoshop images that will be used in video applications (like After Effects, Final Cut Pro, etc.) vastly easier and more intuitive.
Another nice feature for the video crew are new document presets (in most popular video sizes) with NTSC title safe and action safe guides already in place. It sounds like a little thing (at least to non-video folks) but believe me -- it's big.
Also, if you wind up editing freeze-frame video images in Photoshop, you can remove the distortion (from using square pixels in Photoshop) by choosing the proper Pixel Aspect Ratio from the Pixel Aspect Ratio submenu found under the Image menu. Finally, the video crew gets their props (that's a nautical term, of course).
Photoshop version 5.5 was the last big upgrade for Web designers, but Photoshop CS might challenge that distinction, but not for what's right within Photoshop, but what Adobe has done with ImageReady, the bundled Web tool that's part of (and automatically installed with) a standard Photoshop CS install. In fact, ImageReady got such an overhaul, if you haven't used it in a while; it's time to give it another good look. First off, overall it seems much faster, but besides sheer speed, there's lot of little tweaks and enhancements that make working in it faster and easier all the way around.
There are a number of enhancements that will make ImageReady more appealing not only to Web designers (who can now export animations directly to the Flash SWF) but to Video designers as well, because ImageReady can import QuickTime movies as individual images, and then re-export these files back out as a single file (so you can import it back into QuickTime as a movie). Rollovers have been tweaked as well, and creating remote rollovers is easier and more intuitive than ever.
The whole interface has been streamlined, with a reworked slice palette (with expanded slicing power), better guides, built-in automation, and perhaps most importantly (to many pro Web designers anyway) is the better HTML control of the Web pages ImageReady creates.
For Everybody Else
It's hard to pigeonhole these next features because everybody (photographers, Web designers, video designers, graphic designers) will make big use of these two (the first of which is probably the least flashy, yet most important feature in this entire upgrade). Ready for this? Now you can make your own keyboard shortcuts. That's right, you can finally assign a keyboard shortcut for things like (gasp!) the Image Size dialog! Or the Unsharp Mask Filter, or the Gaussian Blur filter, or just about anything that appears under a menu (which is just about everything). This is mondo crazy big and will save you time each and every day. The mind whirls.
The other feature just about everyone will be totally into is the ability to create your own custom New Document presets sizes, and save them to your preset pop-up list with just one click. Best of all -- your custom presets appear at the TOP of the pop-up list (not buried at the bottom if you figured out how to hack the Photoshop 7 preferences file).
There's also a new floating Histogram palette that lets you view histograms of all your channels (in color if you like) with before and after graphs, and you can even have it floating right along while you work in Curves. Oh happy day.
Plus, if you buy Photoshop CS as part of the Creative Suite (in a bundle with new versions of Illustrator and InDesign, or with a Premium suite that includes GoLive and Acrobat 6 Pro), you'll also get Version Cue, a pretty darn amazing tool for situations when multiple people work on the same Photoshop file (people at ad agencies, publications, design studios, etc. will eat this up).
There are dozens of other fixes, enhancements, new features, and other hidden goodies, but that's a pretty good overview of what's new.
OK, Is It Perfect?
I love Photoshop CS, and in my opinion it is without a doubt the best Photoshop ever, and it does a fantastic job of building on the new features (and vision) of Photoshop 7. But if you know me, you know I can't help but whine a little about some things I wish were different (hey, it's the magazine editor in me). So, if I may, let me get some things off my chest -- let me purge a little of my pain -- then I promise to not whine about it all year. Here we go.
First, the name. Photoshop CS. I don't like it. I know, I know, it's just a name, but it's weak. I have yet to meet a single Photoshop user that likes the new name, and as best I can tell, the only people that like the name CS are found in a paid focus group, somewhere in California (and as you know, focus groups are people who do their best to give you the answer they think you want to hear, even if they totally disagree with the answer). Now, I know Adobe was following the path forged by Macromedia, who added MX to end of their product names, but the difference is Flash MX sounds cool. Photoshop CS doesn't. OK, there. I said it (I feel much better).
As far as features go, I have two gripes about the Filter Gallery. The thumbnails used in the Filter Gallery are the same thumbnails used in Adobe's consumer version of Photoshop (Photoshop Elements) and in my opinion it gives this feature a "dumbed down" feel. It feels so "Elements," which isn't a bad thing, unless you paid for Photoshop CS. Every time I use it, I see those thumbnails and cringe a little. OK, a lot.
Also, I was a bit disappointed that ImageReady got all the Web improvements and Photoshop CS itself got virtually nothing new in the Web department. I would've liked to see more robust slicing (at the very least) within Photoshop CS, and a migration of some of ImageReady's other nice little features over to Photoshop. I don't need rollovers or animations in Photoshop, but ImageReady has lots of other Web features I'd love to have access to without having to actually work in ImageReady.
One of my biggest gripes is bad default settings. Photoshop CS is packed with some pretty lame defaults for many of the filters, dialogs, Layer Styles, etc. and I keep thinking that at some point, they'll get better, but they never do. My other complaint is with the default sets of gradients, Layer Styles, shapes, etc. Seriously, have you ever looked at the default styles in the Styles palette? Scary. No wonder so few people use Styles.
I also hoped to get more new filters. Oh there are a couple -- Lens blur, Average, Fibers -- but I want more. Much more. Ya know what I'd like? Some of the best Kai's PowerTools filters, reworked with a normal interface, and included in the Filter menu by default. Some of those KPT filters are absolutely amazing, and the only bad thing about them was the interface (while cool) was too hard to learn. They're floating around out there (I'm not even sure who owns them now) and I'd love to see Adobe license them, put a consistent interface on them, and make them part of Photoshop (just like they did with Aldus' Gallery Effects, which have been a part of Photoshop for years). You know what else I'd like? A 3D filter that really works (along the lines of Andromeda's 3D-Luxe).
I could go on, but I don't want you to get the impression that Photoshop CS doesn't rock -- it totally does. It's the best Photoshop ever. I think, as Photoshop users, all we really want from Adobe is a better version of Photoshop each time they upgrade the product, and I believe this truly is a much better product (even if it's not perfect. Yet.)
All in all, I think that no matter what you use your Photoshop for, you'll find that Photoshop CS is a blast. There's so many improvements, so many tweaks, so many new features, that like me, after a few weeks with it, you'll find it nearly impossible to go back to Photoshop 7 for anything. It's that big a move forward.
Scott Kelby is editor of "Photoshop User" magazine, President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and is the author of such best-selling books as "Photoshop 7 Down & Dirty Tricks" and "The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers" (New Riders Publishing).
This story brought to you by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). Copyright 2003 KW Media Group. Photoshop is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems, Inc.