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Since its debut in 1990, Photoshop has received major revisions over a dozen times, but David Howe, Adobe director of engineering for Photoshop, insists the update process hasn't become a rote activity.
"While there are aspects of each release that are the same, such as hitting key milestones, every version brings with it something new," he observed in a blog post. "The technology, industry, and our customers' needs are always changing, and so we try to approach things with a fresh perspective."
Howe characterizes Photoshop CS6 as an effort to refocus attention on application UI and design, and to lay the foundation for a future in which graphics processing chips are more widely used.
The future that's probably of more concern to Adobe is one in which software is sold through platform-owner portals, such as Apple's iTunes App Store. In February, Adobe released Photoshop Touch, a $10 version of its $700 image-editing app for Apple's iPad that is now competing with Apple's $5 iPhoto app for iPhone and iPad. That kind of price pressure explains why Adobe has been pushing so hard to build up its digital marketing business.
Still, Photoshop remains one of the few must-have applications for digital media professionals. And it might be able to retain that status by adding tools for dealing with video, text layout, and vector graphics. Photoshop CS6 won't replace After Effects, Premiere, InDesign, or Illustrator, but its new capabilities will allow more work to be done entirely in Photoshop.
There are dozens of new features in Photoshop CS6. Here are our favorites:
1. New interface. Photoshop CS6 comes with a new darkened user interface. It's less cluttered and more streamlined. Some might prefer the new look and others might reject it, but it is more contemporary. And because you can control how dark the UI appears and can choose between four different UI color schemes, there's probably a setting that will suit everyone.
2. Adobe Camera Raw 7.0. Raw image files contain the unaltered data captured by digital cameras, before the processing that turns them into viewable images. Photoshop CS6 adds support for Adobe Camera Raw 7.0, a plug-in for editing raw image files. The settings panel has been redone, making it easier to control settings such as Highlights and Shadows.
3. Content-Aware Move. Ever wanted to remove someone from a photo? That's what the Content Aware Fill tool, introduced in Photoshop CS5, can do. In CS6, we have a variation on that theme: Content-Aware Move, which lets you select an object in a single-layer image and move it somewhere else in the picture. Photoshop will fill in the gap created by moving the object, and does so pretty well.
4. Type styles. Dealing with large blocks of text in Photoshop is a pain, or at least it was. Photoshop CS6 is starting to have some of the type styling flexibility of InDesign. New character and paragraph styles make type formatting much easier.
5. Blur Gallery. Tilt-shift is the new HDR. The tilt-shift effect--which emphasizes a small in-focus area and blurs the surrounding area to make objects and people look like miniatures--can be accomplished using previous versions of Photoshop, but CS6 makes it even easier with a Blur Gallery that includes Tilt-Shift, Iris, and Field Blur tools.
6. Adaptive Wide Angle. This lens correction filter gives you the ability to control the areas in your image that will be subject to adjustment. All you have to do is draw along a curved line of distortion and you can straighten it, making the image look as if it was taken with a different lens.
7. New crop tool. It's non-destructive, making it easier to play around with cropping variations.
To judge by those posting comments in Adobe's support forum, Photoshop CS6 Beta is receiving polite applause, with some grousing about Adobe's activation process, its upgrade policy, and the lack of new killer features. On Facebook, the comments are more effusive and appreciative.
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