Test Drive: Adobe Photoshop 7.0

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted June 24, 2002
By Troy Dreier

It's almost a holiday for graphic and Web designers, the day a new version of Adobe Photoshop comes out. Long the default graphics-creation application, Photoshop has stayed ahead of competing apps by meeting the changing needs of designers and never settling for good enough. The new version, 7.0, provides some excellent tools that should make developers smile. There are tools that make formerly complex operations remarkably simple, make organizing resources and working in teams easier, and let users test their creativity in new ways.

Great Results in a Flash
The new features in Photoshop are all about making your life easier and your work time more productive. Here are some of the tools that Adobe have added and enhanced to make your day a little easier.

Healing Brush and Patch Tools
While Photoshop 7.0 has scores of improvements, the one that it will be best known for is the Healing Brush. Found in the toolbox (marked with a slightly cutesy icon showing an adhesive bandage), the Healing Brush seems to be reading your mind, the way it seamlessly removes blemishes from photos in one easy step.

Imagine that you need to post an image of your boss, but you know he'll hate the picture, because his face is full of blemishes and shiny patches. To fix them, open the photo in Photoshop and select the Healing Brush. Place the curser on a different part of your boss's face, one that's free of blemishes and has the correct texture, then option-click or alt-click that spot. Immediately after that, click on the problem area you're trying to correct. Photoshop will swap the area you first clicked with the problem area, then adjust the color, so that it perfectly blends in with the surrounding area. What formerly was a painstaking operation now becomes so simple that a five-year-old could do it. In our testing, the Healing Brush produced superb, undetectable results every time.

For larger areas, you can use the Patch tool, which performs the same function as the Healing Brush, but works on large or irregularly-shaped areas. Click and hold the Healing Brush button to call up the Patch tool. When you do, a lasso icon will appear. Use it to encircle the problem area, then move the outline you've just created to an unblemished part of the photo. Instantly, the blemishes you first outlined will disappear.

Auto Color
Equally as impressive is the Auto Color command, found under Image/Adjustments in the pulldown menu. Auto Color is a quick way to remove color casts throughout an image. To test it, we scanned in several old photos with heavy casts, mostly yellow, obscuring the true colors. Selecting Auto Color instantly removed the color casts, revivifying the colors and completely brightening the images. To test it out for yourself, make a duplicate of a test image and place them side-by-side. Select Auto Color for one and compare the results. A former multi-step operation becomes a snap to perform.

Spell Checker
Designers-at least the designers we've met-can remember stacks of color charts, freelance illustrators' specialties, and Byzantine printer specifications, but can't correctly spell a sentence to save their lives. If this describes you, you're sure to appreciate Photoshop's new spell-checker.

To use it, select any text layer in your project, then select Edit/Check Spelling from the pulldown menu. Photoshop will begin checking the text, and will even check text in all the layers, so that you don't need to select every layers separately. If you only want it to check one layer, though, uncheck the Check All Layers box at the bottom of the Spell Checker window.

Organize Your Files
Being creative with your work is one thing, but with complex projects requiring multiple elements to get up and running, it's nice to see that Adobe have spent some time tweaking and improving the management and organization tools of Photoshop.

Organize Images
If your intranet resources include several folders of digital pictures-thousands of shots taken for catalogs, perhaps-and you've ever wasted time opening one picture and then another trying to find the one you need, then you'll appreciate Photoshop 7.0's File Browser.

The File Browser lets you scan through your images visually, by creating thumbnails of a whole folder. To open it, select File/Browse from the pulldown menu.The File Browser is initially in the palette well in the upper right corner, so you'll want to drag in into the center of the desktop. Resize it to offer more coverage. You'll see your folders displaying in a tree hierarchy in the upper left corner, with the contents of each folder in the larger page to the right. Select a thumbnail and an extremely complete list of it EXIF properties will display in the lower left corner.

The File Browser gives you a few more options than simply viewing your files, though. You can rotate them, so those that are sideways will show correctly, or rank them A through E. To do either, right-click or click-and-hold on an image then select rotate or ranking options. If you've ranked your images, you can display them in their ranked order by opening the Sort By option in the bottom of the Browser window and selecting Rank.

WebDAV
The ability to connect to WebDAV servers isn't new with Photoshop 7.0, but it's taken such a giant leap forward, that it's finally usable. WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) lets you set up a central folder of resources for your team, then control the checking-in and checking-out of files so that no two team members can work on the same file at the same time. Photoshop's previous attempt at WebDAV support was hampered by the inability to handle long URLs or to let users move easily between files.

To set a server for your workgroup, select File/Workgroup/Workgroup Servers from the pulldown menus. Set management preferences by choosing either Edit/Preferences/File Handling (Windows and Mac OS 9.1) or Photoshop/Preferences/File Handling (Mac OS X). To open a managed file, go to File/Workgroup/Open and select your server.

Custom Workspaces
We can think of two good uses for the new ability to create custom workspaces in Photoshop: one is if you work in a small office and have to share your computer with someone working a different shift, and two if you simply want different palette arrangements for different tasks.

To create a custom workspace, arrange your palettes as you prefer them, then select Window/Workspace/Save Workspace from the pulldown menus. Give that arrangement a name, when prompted. To call it up in the future, all you'll need to do is select Window/Workspace, then the name you've assigned it.

Turn Your Creativity Loose
New tools to make your job easier and better ways to manage your projects are great, but when it comes down to it, Photoshop is all about creativity. Here are a couple of the new features you'll find that allow you to exercise your creative self more easily.

create New Paintbrushes
With new options for customizing and creating paintbrushes, Adobe is hoping you'll put away your specialized painting applications and use Photoshop exclusively. We don't think it will put the others out of business, but it could well take some of their sales.

To control the look of your brushes, open the Brush palette from the Window pulldown menu, if it isn't already open. You'll get a visual list of brushes on the right-hand side, with various shape and color controls on the left. Click on the name of one of the controls (like "Shape Dynamics" or "Scattering") and the list of brushes will be replaced by controls for that attribute. For example, the Shape Dynamics controls let you set the Jitter and Minimum diameter of the brush, among other things.

Most changes will preview instantly in the window in the bottom of the brush palette, so you'll know just what you're getting. You can even make custom-shape brushes. When you have a well-defined image open in Photoshop, select Edit/Define Brush and you've instantly got a new brush in that shape.

Create Patterns
We may not have saved the best for last, but we have saved the most fun for last. Photoshop 7.0 can instantly make customizable patterns out of any image, giving you a simple way to create textures or odd effects-or even gift wrap.

Start with the image you want to use, then select File/Pattern Maker. You'll get a new workspace with your original image in the center. Highlight the portion of the image you want to use in the pattern and press the Generate button to the right. You'll get a random pattern made from your selection, tiled to cover the whole canvas. If you don't like the result, simply generate again. Pattern Maker can hold 20 patterns in its history, so you can always go back. Play around with the controls; you'll find that you can control the size and layout of the pattern tiles.

When you've made something you like, click the disc icon on the lower right to save your pattern as a pattern preset.

It's All Good
Although this has been just a quick look at some of Photoshop's new features, as you can see Adobe have put considerable thought into the new features they have added. In some ways it is hard to improve what is already regarded as one of the most complete graphics creation and editing applications available, but they appear to have done just that.

Reprinted from intranetjournal.com.

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