Adobe PhotoShop CS

by Joe Gillespie — Nov 1, 2003

Photoshop just gets better. At a casual glance, it hasn't changed much since version 7 but then how do you improve a program that is just about as perfect as they get? Well, unlike some programs that add features for the sake of adding features, Photoshop adds very little by way of new features, what it does is to improve on ones that it already has.

I have loads of photos from various digital cameras on my hard disk and I have always valued Photoshops 'File Browser' facility. In the past, I didn't have much to complain about except that it would take a few seconds for all the thumbnails to render. Now, it's virtually instant. File Browser is now like a program within a program with its own menu choc-a-block with useful ways to sort and organise image files.

One of the most user-friendly features of Photoshop's baby sister 'Elements' was the pictorial representation of effects filters. Photoshop CS has taken that and improved it even further with not only the icons but a separate preview window and parameter sliders for every effect. This certainly saves a lot of time with trial and error.

Of particular interest to designers is the new 'Layer Comps' feature. In creating a new design and trying out various permutations of colours, type and sizes, it has always been a matter of making alternative layers and switching their visibility on and off to see different versions of the design. The Layer Comp palette remembers the visibility state of multiple layers and once you have taken a snapshot of a particular combination of layers, you can flick backwards and forwards through all your alternative designs with ease.

Photoshop CS has a host of other improvements which will appeal more to users in print and video. It now supports 16-bits per channel. 8-bits per channel gives 256 steps of each color – red, green and blue or, for print, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Sometimes, subtle gradients show a degree of banding and detail in very light or dark areas gets lost. With 16-bits per channel, you get 65536 steps of each color, which may seem like gross overkill. It's not if you are working with high-end print but admitedly, won't make much difference to Web designers.

Videographic designers will appreciate the new pixel aspect ratios. We are all used to pixels being square on our computers but for digital video this is not the case. Pixels in the NTSC and PAL system are squashed or stretched horizontally and wide screen images even more so. Photoshop now allows you to compensate for different television aspect ratios so that videographics don't look anamorphically distorted.

In the help menu, you will now find useful tips on how to do just about anything. What's more, you can write your own, they are just HTML files and provided that you put them in the right place and put an appropriate link in a menu index file, they will show up in the help menu - even if they are on a remote web site. There's a whole new industry there!

Finally, Photoshop CS is now optimised for G5 processors. If you have a new G5 Mac or are thinking of getting one, the difference in speed is breathtaking. Buy it!

Adobe Photoshop CS
Features red bar95%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar95%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar90%
Manufacturer Adobe
Price $649 - Upgrades $169
Summary Photoshop just goes from strength to strength.
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