Adobe Photoshop 7.0 News

What’s new in Photoshop 7.0
Whenever a new full version of Photoshop is released there is a predictable debate over whether the new program justifies being classed as a full upgrade or not. But whatever the pundits and critics like myself write, it is going to be the Photoshop customers who will ultimately decide if Photoshop 7.0 makes the grade or not. Speaking as an alpha tester and someone who has had the opportunity to work closely with the Photoshop engineering team, I can readily acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Photoshop engineering team that goes into each and every program upgrade. And Photoshop 7.0 is no exception. In preparing this update to the book I counted at least fifty feature additions and tweaks to the program. Admmitedly some of these are quite subtle, but nonetheless these have all gone to provide a version of Photoshop that is more versatile and equipped ready to meet the demands of users old and new. What follows is a brief summary of what’s new and which features will be of special interest to photographers.

OSX and Windows XP support
For Macintosh users, the Mac OS X support was one of the most eagerly anticipated features of Photoshop 7.0 . While at the same time, PC users now have support for the Windows XP operating system, and I’ll be writing more about this in Chapter Three. Mac OSX is based on a UNIX core and although UNIX has been around for a long time, the last time it was supported by Photoshop was in version 3.0. So a lot of engineering time had to be devoted to updating the Photoshop 7.0 code. Photoshop 7.0 has also had to rely heavily on Apple to provide the operating system resources to optimize Photoshop 7.0’s performance in OS X. To this end, Mac users will probably want to make sure they are running the very latest update (OS X 1.3 at the time of writing). The Windows XP system is an overhaul of the Windows NT system and like OSX is a very robust OS to run Photoshop on and features a new ‘Luna’ interface and some nice cool interface features that enhance image file management. But apart from a few nagging issues I have with Mac OS X, the OS X and XP interfaces give Photoshop a nice brand new environment to work within.

File Browser
The File Browser first made its debut in Photoshop Elements and a much enhanced version of the File Browser is now included in 7.0. As far as photographers should be concerned, this is the number one new feature. Gone are the days when we thought ourselves lucky to be able to work on more that one image at a time. And because Photoshop now allows us to process large numbers of images with ease and the number of image files stored on our hard drives increases, we really do need an efficient method of navigating, sorting and managing our photographs. The File Browser is a very welcome addition for Photoshop, as we are now able to quickly see large image thumbnails and previews. Images can be ranked according to preference plus you can rotate and batch rename selected images from within the browser interface. And since Photoshop 7.0 features XMP (Extensible Markup Platform) support for embedding metadata, you can view all the associated metadata in the File Browser. Metadata use is becoming increasingly important to the future of digital photography and image management and XMP will allow you to manage your files in an automated production workflow. The File Info dialog now automatically includes any of the EXIF metadata present in the file and the XMP data.

Healing Brush and Patch tool
At first sight the healing brush appears to be a new variant of the clone stamp, but is actually a very powerful retouching tool. The healing brush is able to sample the pixel texture from one source point (which can be image pixels or a pattern texture) and smoothly blend this with the color and luminosity of the pixels you are applying the healing brush to. The healing brush will prove itself to be incredibly useful for all sorts of tricky photographic retouching jobs. The Patch tool is an interesting variant of the healing brush that allows you to sample larger, selection-defined image areas and ‘patch’ these over with pixels sampled from another part of the picture. Or alternatively, you can use the Patch tool as an effective means for copying selected areas and smoothly compositing in another portion of the image. The Patch tool may sound like yet another gimicky Photoshop feature but this too is a very effective retouching tool.

Brushes engine
The Photoshop paint engine contains a lot of new brush dynamics controls and is able to fully exploit all the different user-variable options of a pressure sensitive tablet such as the Wacom Intuos to create natural media painting effects and these can be combined with pre-supplied or any sampled texture. The overwhelming variety of brush options may be beyond the basic requirements of photographers. Nevertheless, the visual feedback provided in the brushes palette allows you to explore these various options intuitively and easily should you wish to do so. The supplied brush presets will help you get acquainted with the new possibilities the brushes engine offers. Several new brush and layer blending modes have also been added in Photoshop 7.0.

Interface refinements
You can save as many custom palette configurations as you like via the Workspace settings in the Window menu (previously you only had the choice of saving your last used palette layout, or resetting the palettes to their default positions). You can even record the loading of saved workspace settings as an action and it is also possible to assign hotkeys to switch quickly between different screen layout settings. Macintosh users will be pleased to know that they can now choose to display all their open document windows as a tiled display, just as PC users have been able to before.

Many of the Photoshop tools now have revised options in the Options bar. Custom Photoshop tool configurations can be saved in the Tool Presets palette. This means that you can save or load settings for custom marquee tool proportions or type tool settings using a specific font, font size and alignment. The document window will display the size dimensions in the status box and you can create a new document from a custom preset document size (and create your own document size presets).

Photoshop 7.0 fully supports automated system scripting. This will enable the geekier users among us to write scripts that operate actions from outside of Photoshop to perform discrete image processing tasks. The Conditional mode change feature in the Automate menu permits you, when recording an action, to selectively perform a color profile change based on a pre-selected range of color mode options. The Picture Package has been revamped to allow you to select more than one image to place on the page, together with filename or caption information and Picture Package now displays image previews in the dialog. The Contact Sheet II feature at last addresses the problem of the gutters being too wide. Several new preset options are available in the Web Photo Gallery styles you can now have your email address appear on the pages and there are some new security features too, so if you wish, you can have a copyright notice added to your web gallery images. The text engine includes spell checking and replace text features in multiple languages, plus a new ‘Sharp’ text anti-aliasing mode.

Auto Color
An Auto Color image adjustment has been added to the Auto Levels and Auto Contrast commands in the Image Adjust menu. Auto Color will attempt to remove color casts by analyzing the darkest and lightest colors in an image and neutralizing them. In the Levels and Curves dialogs there is an additional option to neutralize the midtone color as well. The Levels and Curves auto options allow a suitable element of control over these auto adjustments in case you are worried about introducing too much image clipping. And as with the other auto adjust tools, it can be applied to 16-bit per channel images.

Filter menu
The Adobe filter plug-in previews have all been enlarged to twice their previous size. This will make it easier to evaluate the final outcome before applying a filter and visualize what the image will look like at different filter settings. The Liquify command has been moved to the Filter menu and been improved to provide full zoom and pan control over the image preview, plus a turbulence distort tool, multiple undo and the ability to save and load Liquify mesh distortions. You can load pre-saved alpha channels for use as a freeze mask and the distorted image can be previewed as transparently overlaying the full composite original or a specific layer in the Liquify dialog.

The Pattern Maker is a curious item. It can be used to generate a fragmented pattern based on a selection from the original picture. It will be useful for web designers who want to produce tiled background images, but the Pattern Maker can also be used to produce interesting pattern tiles that work for larger images as well.

Web features
More web features have been added to Photoshop 7.0 and ImageReady 7.0. In the Photoshop Save for Web dialog you can save customized the SFW settings, specify knockout transparency for one or more colors in a web graphics element and create partial transparency effects. You can selectively protect vector art and text layers, preserving these elements in a design using a higher quality JPEG compression setting. The Rollovers palette in ImageReady allows you to manage rollover animations more easily and the Slice tool has a Divide option, enabling you to split a slice into even sub-sections.

The Canvas size dialog enables you to add extra units of measurement to the canvas ‘relative’ to the original size. So for example, you can choose to add 2 cm of canvas top and left of the current canvas. Password protection can be added to limit the access people have to PDF files saved out of Photoshop and restrict the printing options.