Photoshop 7.0

This is the one software upgrade that OS X devotees have been waiting for. Refusing to budge from its planned release date, Adobe even had Apple biting its nails in the knowledge that, without Photoshop, OS X may never really take off. Now it’s here, Photoshop 7.0 is everything Adobe promised – but the aftermath of the long wait may leave you disappointed. The operating system overhaul isn’t accompanied by major changes to the package, but by a long list of little improvements and minor additions. Interface refresh Photoshop 7.0 is designed to run natively under OS X 10.1 and OS 9.1 from the same installation. Adobe hasn’t altered the look-&-feel of the program much from version 6.0, so upgrading users will be able to continue working without having to relearn any significant functions. That said, the OS X edition has been produced exceptionally well: it looks good, of course, but also runs fast. Our tests suggest that this final-release edition performs a good deal better than the press beta that did the rounds earlier this year. One handy addition to the interface is a Dock to Palette Well command in every palette menu. This sends the current floating palette up to the docking area on the Options bar introduced with Photoshop 6.0, saving you the trouble of dragging it across the screen and missing the target en route. You can set-up and save palette layouts as named ‘workspaces’, letting you switch between tasks (Web-editing, freehand art, and photo-retouching, for example), and have the perfect tool-layout ready for each task in a couple of clicks. But the biggest interface addition is the File Browser, which will be familiar to users of Adobe’s entry-level Photoshop Elements package. This is a floating, resizeable window that lets you navigate your storage-devices and preview accurate thumbnails of image-files. It supports simple sorting-arrangements, and lets you read and assign basic catalogue information, as well as letting you rotate individual thumbnails if necessary. This can certainly be useful for photos captured with a digital camera. On that note, the File Browser retains EXIF data recorded with digital-camera shots for improved archiving and retrieval. Another key enhancement is support for AppleScript and JavaScript. This makes it possible to automate Actions – and the entire application in conjunction with others, which presents some interesting possibilities. For some reason, however, Adobe has left the scripting plug-in off the installation CD. If you want it, you’ll have to download it from the Adobe Web site (www.adobe.com/support/downloads/main.html). Talking of plug-ins, there’s an important disadvantage to upgrading for the sake of OS X. Plug-ins written for Photoshop 6.0 and earlier will simply not work with Photoshop 7.0 running under the new OS. If you rely on third-party and bespoke plug-ins, don’t upgrade Photoshop until all your plug-ins have been updated first. Art tools
Photoshop has never offered great art tools, instead concentrating on smooth and functional brushes for tasks such as retouching and masking. Version 7.0 introduces an expanded set of brush-attributes that make it a proper paint-package for the first time. Brushes can be more than ovals of a particular size and opacity; now they feature dynamic shape and colour, textures, and random-scatter effects. Strokes can also be given special-effects such as ‘wet edges’ to help create the illusion of crayons, oils, and so on. Before you get too excited, we’d better put these brush features in context. Compared with Procreate Painter 7, they are basic, restrictive, and lack variety. Nor can they compete with the built-in real-media tools available within Corel Photo-Paint 10. The important thing is that they make custom brushes possible within Photoshop for the first time, letting fine-artists start using the program in earnest. It does mean, however, that setting-up brushes can be rather complicated. To solve this issue, Adobe has brought the Brushes palette back (it was sacrificed in Photoshop 6.0) where you can browse presets, and create and save your own. This way, you can apply basic brush-attributes from the Options bar, or access the full range within the Brushes palette when necessary. Associated with this is another new palette called Tool Presets. While you can use the Options bar and various other palettes and dialogs to customize each tool – whether a brush, lasso, pen-nib, or text-entry function – the program would previously only remember the last setting you applied for each. The Tool Presets palette lets you view all attributes for the current tool, and adjust them conveniently in one place and – perhaps more importantly – save them for immediate recall. This means you can save a variety of Burn and Dodge tools, multiple Magic Wand settings, or a standard house-style for the appearance of a corporate font. Two fresh tools make their appearance in the main tools palette. The Healing Brush works like the Clone Stamp tool, while the Patch tool has generally the same effect on lasso areas, rather than being applied with a brush. In both cases, they score highly over regular cloners by intelligently comparing the affected area with its surrounding pixels, and maintaining the overall pixel-texture. In other words, you don’t see the join. Now, anyone can remove specks and imperfections in photos with almost no effort. Re-touching has never been so effective, nor as easy, as this. Commanding features
A number of other main features and commands have been improved or added to in the upgrade. For example, there’s now an Auto Colour command under the Image‹Adjustments menu, which accompanies the existing Auto Levels and Auto Contrast commands. The difference between Auto Colour and the other two is subtle, but in many cases produces a superior result when you know there’s a key-colour or caste problem in an image. The Filter menu now features a Pattern Maker for generating seamless tiled patterns from selected areas of an image. Usefully, it allows you to try-out several shifted-tile alternatives before you commit yourself and save the result. This is hardly a compelling feature if, like many people, you already own a third-party pattern-maker plug-in such as the one included with KPT Effects – but it does the job neatly, and could be welcome to many other users. Under the File‹Automate menu, you’ll find a Picture Package command for preparing multi-shot layouts for printing. More than just a fit-to-page feature, Picture Package presents a long list of layout alternatives – so you can print multiple sizes of the same or different images on each sheet, with or without labels. Best of all, you get to see a large thumbnail preview, and the customization process is surprisingly intuitive. Needless to say, this is an excellent feature for digital-photo processing shops. The Liquify plug-in under the Filter menu has been enhanced to a limited degree. Its distortion tools now include a Turbulence tool that produces a more random pixel-motion under the mouse, compared with the existing Twirl, Pucker and Bloat. With careful application, it can create organic wave or curve effects on brush strokes, such as fire licking or smoke swirling. Additionally, Photoshop 7.0’s Liquify window lets you save distortion meshes, so you can carry on working with an image from a previous session without ever having to commit yourself. If you were hoping for full-on envelope tools, though, you’ll be disappointed – try Adobe Illustrator 10 instead. The update also sports a multilingual spell-checker; you choose from 17 languages in a pop-up list in the floating Character palette Web design
Inevitably, Adobe has tackled the Web-design functionality of the program and come up with some attractive improvements. As before, the full set of Web features is provided in Photoshop’s sister program: ImageReady. The first change to hit you is the new Rollover palette – a single place where all your interactive elements are listed: hyperlinked slices, JavaScript rollovers, image-maps, and so on. It’s a simple-enough idea, but it makes managing hierarchical relationships and ‘selected states’ much easier. Those who use ImageReady on a daily basis will appreciate the tweaks in the latest version. For example, to make a particular index-colour transparent, just click on it in the image. You can even dither GIF-transparency to produce something akin to anti-aliased edges. Perhaps best of all, it’s now possible to mark-up parts of an image for visual quality-protection when subsequently assigning compression values. When using text with a photo background, say, you could tell ImageReady to maintain crisp outlines for the text while allowing more lossy compression for the photo areas. If you’ve tried Illustrator 10, you may be familiar with the Variables feature for linking text and images to an external data-source. This has been built into ImageReady 7.0, too. You could use this function to generate a large number of different Web-images based on the same template, without having to slave over every instance manually. Here’s an example: ImageReady, with the help of a script-programmer and a product such as Adobe AlterCast, could be set-up to link with a Web-server database, feeding information back to update a banner-graphic as required. The package can generate better Web-gallery pages with more templates, and supports additional online-related file formats. You can export images to the WBMP format (as used in certain mobile devices), and embed XMP metadata into all your Web pictures. You can even export to Acrobat PDF – complete with security protection – in just one pass.

OUR VERDICT

There’s a lot to play with in Photoshop 7.0 – and it’s all good stuff. The Healing Brush and Patch tools are excellent; the art-brush features welcome; and the Web enhancements very handy. Yet it’s more a collection of small improvements than what we’d call major feature-upgrade fare; the new features are ‘very nice’ rather than ‘must-have’. Ultimately, the only upgrade feature that’s going to matter to a lot of people is that the program is OS X-native. If this doesn’t concern you, it’s no great sacrifice to stick with Photoshop 6.0.

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