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This article is from February 25, 2002, and is no longer current.

Photoshop First Look: What’s Up with Number 7

Adobe just announced Photoshop 7.0, so I wanted to give you a quick look at some of the cool new stuff they packed into this slick upgrade. I know you don’t want me to blab on and on about the history of Photoshop, and what this upgrade means, blah, blah, blah — you just want to get to the juicy stuff, so here goes:

If you’re using the latest Mac or PC Operating Systems, you’ll be happy to know that Photoshop 7.0 is now fully Mac OS X native and Windows XP compatible. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, on to the features.

Looking Good
One of the first things you’ll notice when launching Photoshop 7.0 is the updated look for the interface. It appears slightly different depending on which platform and operating system you’re using, so Mac OS X has one look, Windows XP another, Mac Classic yet another, and so on. These small cosmetic changes reflect the OS Photoshop 7.0 is running on, but don’t worry; it still looks like Photoshop (see figure 1). What all the versions have in common is a new Toolbar, with updated tool icons that colorize as you rollover them (just like a rollover on a Web page). In fact, if you see even a tiny button in Photoshop, chances are it has a rollover effect. It sounds like it might be annoying, but thankfully the effect is pretty subtle and doesn’t get in the way.

Figure 1: Photoshop 7.0’s toolbar adopts a slightly different appearance according to platform and operating system.

Outside of the obvious cosmetic updates, Photoshop 7.0 has a number of gotta-have-it features that are going to capture a lot of attention. The one that seems to blow everybody away is the Healing Brush tool, which works wonders (OK, miracles) for removing wrinkles, crows-feet, and any signs of aging from photographs of people. Together with it’s companion the Patch tool (which is great for removing spots, rips, and other nasty artifacts), these new tools will change the face of retouching (no pun intended).

Another huge new feature is the File Browser, which lets you sort and organize your digital images (see figure 2). This is no cheesy browser — it’s surprisingly robust, and if you use a digital camera (and I know you do) you’ll love the fact that the File Browser automatically builds thumbnail previews of your camera images, so you can easily see and sort images right from your camera.

Figure 2: The new File Browser lets you sort, preview, and tag images with critical information such as file type, origin, and keyword.

Another must-have feature has been overlooked by a lot of people I’ve talked with, but which has the power to fundamentally change the way we work with Photoshop, is the new Tool presets. Now you can set up a particular tool (Brush tool, crop tool, type tool — you name it) using your favorite settings and options. Get it just the way you like it, then you can save it and access that custom tool anytime you like, right from the menu bar (or from the Tool Presets floating palette). For example, let’s say that you often use the Airbrush tool, with Pantone 287 as your color, with the opacity set to 15%, with a soft-edged 35 pixel brush tip, and the Blend mode set to lighten. Now, you can be one click away from a brush with those exact settings.

In fact, you can set up only the tools you want, using exactly the options you want, close Photoshop’s Toolbar altogether, then just chose tools from either the Options Bar or floating palette (see figure 3). Pretty scary! Also, think of the other implications from this power: You can have a crop tool that automatically crops to 5-x-7 or 8-x-10 inches. How about a Type tool that always uses your favorite font, at your favorite size, color, tracking, leading, and paragraph settings. This is really great stuff!

Figure 3: New Tool Presets let you customize your tools and workspace and access them from a floating palette.

Adobe added another new feature that lets you set up and save your palette locations as your own personal workspace, putting you one click away from having Photoshop “your way.”

Brushing Up
More powerful brushwork awaits you. The floating Brushes palette, that left the scene back in Photoshop 6.0, is back. Apparently it got a hold of some steroids during its hiatus, and now it’s back in 7.0 with more power, more features, and more brushes than ever! This totally new brush engine enables Photoshop users to create traditional painting techniques, and offers more control and flexibility for photographers and retouchers than ever before.

Another killer feature within the new Brushes palette is the Master Diameter slider, which lets you not only change the size of soft-edged and hard-edged round brushes, but for the first time ever enables you to totally control the size of Photoshop’s custom brushes (brushes that look like glints, trees, grass, dry brush effects, etc.). It even works for brushes you create on your own, so it opens a whole new world of brush effects, especially on high-resolution images (see figure 4).

Figure 4: The reinstated and improved Brushes palette lets you apply myriad options to specific brushes with the Master Diameter slider.

This next feature isn’t necessarily a killer feature, it’s more like an “about time” feature, as Photoshop 7.0 now has a spell checker. It even comes with built-in dictionaries for spell checking about a dozen languages. Another welcome, but not killer feature, is the inclusion of a Pattern Maker filter for creating repeating background textures.

I have to admit, besides the gotta-have-it features in 7.0, the things I like best about Photoshop 7.0 are all the little enhancements, improvements, and tweaks to the way I already use Photoshop, stuff like:

  • much larger Filter previews;
  • a new Relative command in the Canvas Size dialog that takes the math out of resizing your canvas area;
  • a new pop-up list in the New Document dialog with a list of commonly used document sizes;
  • the Pantone metallic ink swatches are now included with Photoshop 7.0;
  • greatly improved Picture Package and Web Gallery automations;
  • loads of new shape presets, pattern presets, and brush presets;
  • improved, and more automated creation of Rollovers in ImageReady;
  • one-click background transparency from within “Save for Web”;
  • a Zoom tool has been added to the Liquify feature, and Adobe included a “Save Mesh” feature that lets you create your effect on a low resolution version of the file, save the mesh, and then apply that mesh to the high resolution version of the file.Loads of little tweaks throughout Photoshop 7.0 help make it, in my opinion, the best version of Photoshop ever. I seem to keep uncovering more and more of these little improvements as I dig deeper and deeper into the upgrade.Adobe says Photoshop 7.0 will ship in the second quarter of this year. As for pricing, according to Adobe, registered users of earlier versions of Photoshop can upgrade to 7.0 for $149. Upgrades from Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop LE are available directly from Adobe for $499. The estimated street price for the full version is $609.For more info on the new Photoshop 7.0 release, “Photoshop User” magazine has posted a feature guide (in Acrobat PDF format) which details all the new features, and you can download it, and check out QuickTime video clips of 7.0 in action, at photoshopuser.com.

    Scott Kelby is editor of “Photoshop User” magazine, President of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, and is the author of the best-selling books “Photoshop 6 Down & Dirty Tricks” and “Photoshop Photo Retouching Secrets” from New Riders Press.

    This story brought to you by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). Copyright 2001 KW Media Group. Photoshop is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems, Inc.