Upgrade a must for serious Photoshop jockeys

by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #659  dJune 11-17, 2002: High Tech Office  column 

A few computer programs have their market niches locked down, and define an entire industry. Perhaps the best example is Adobe Photoshop. Whole industries have sprung into existence just to cater to the needs of Photoshop jockeys.

So a new version of Photoshop is news to anyone who works with graphics, Web design, or print publishing. Like most other Adobe products, the new Photoshop 7.0 (about $1,000, upgrade about $250) has equivalent versions for Windows and Mac users, but the big news is a vote of confidence in Apple 's year-old operating system: Mac OS X. By rewriting the Mac version to run natively under OS X, Adobe is telling graphics and publishing professionals that it's OK to migrate to the new operating system.

Adobe has done a good job with its OS X version; unlike some ports to the new operating system, the new OS X Photoshop holds its own in any speed contests. While not delivering any OS-X-only features, Photoshop takes advantage of the operating system's improved stability, memory management, and multitasking.

However, it's not yet all smooth sailing for OS X-wannabes; Photoshop 6-compatible plug-ins will have to run in OS X's Classic mode, and plug-ins that control scanners using the Small Computer System Interface standard, printers, or other hardware, may not work at all under OS X. Plug-in creators, such as Alien Skin , makers of the popular Eye Candy series, are rushing updated versions to market. Of course, that means having to buy more upgrades!

(Photoshop 7 continues to support older Macs running OS 9.1 or later, along with Windows systems running Windows 98 or later. Of course, all users will benefit from a powerful processor and lots of RAM).

But while the new OS X support will be welcomed by Apple's management team, the product's new features, while worthwhile, are not as dramatic. Among the new features:

The ability to customize and tidy up Photoshop's multitude of palettes into savable Workspaces.

The ability to save Tool Presets

A file browser, carried across from Adobe's low-price (but highly useful) Photoshop Elements, letting users search for graphics by name or date or by key word.

A greatly revised Brushes palette includes features to approximate real-world painting, reminiscent of (though still a pale imitation of) Corel /Procreate Painter.

Two new tools, Healing Brush and Patch Tool that work magic in erasing wrinkles and other minor flaws.

Auto Color adjustment, which simplifies correcting colour casts in scans or digital photos.

A spell-checker. You won't use Photoshop to replace your word processor, but now you'll have no excuse for spelling mistakes when adding text to images.

Photoshop's Web graphics companion program, ImageReady, also benefits from minor makeovers such as improvements in its Rollovers palette and more options when creating transparent GIF files for Web use. I'm disappointed Adobe still hasn't managed to integrate all of ImageReady's features into the Photoshop core. This is the third version of Photoshop that instead packages both programs together, forcing users to bounce between the two while working on a single image.

Photoshop 7.0 is a must-have for Mac users who have moved to OS X or are considering migrating. Other Photoshop users can probably take their time deciding whether the new features justify the time and expense.

Corel/Procreate Painter is a better choice if you're creating digital art from scratch; while Macromedia Fireworks deserves consideration if you're making graphics for the Web. Adobe's own Photoshop Elements is a powerful and cheaper ($149) alternative for the non-professional.

But despite all this, Photoshop 7.0 offers enough new and powerful features to keep the Photoshop jockeys happy.


Search WWW Search www.zisman.ca

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan