Photoshop 7.0, by Adobe
Posted: 6-Oct-2002

5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: KC MacGregor Class: PRODUCTIVITY

In a world gone digital thanks to the Web and ever more affordable digital cameras, a vast demand has arisen to produce, store, distribute and playback bitmap images. In response to this revolution Photoshop has been undergoing its own transformation, into something quite a bit more complex than just a computer-based image editor. You can see this ongoing evolution in Version 7's two major advancements, a greatly increased capacity to paint with a spectacular array of Brush tools, and visual file management with the new File Browser. I've always found Photoshop to be a very useful tool for creating and manipulating images, but with Version 7 Photoshop has made itself downright indispensable.


Jazz up images with a multitude of Photoshop 7 Brush options


On the production side, Photoshop 7 offers a vastly improved customizable Brushes palette, Workspace Option to save favorite tool-palette layouts, Healing Brush, and even a built-in Spell-checker. File management is mightily aided by the new built-in File Browser, with easy-to-view thumbnails that open right into Photoshop. The only pebble in Photoshop's shoe is the visual interface which could use a little fine tuning.

Dynamic Brushes
In the good old days many commercial illustrators used an airbrush to manipulate photos into photo-realistic images for reproduction. Airbrush was also used to touch-up unfortunate skin blemishes on portraits and repair the tears and cracks of old photos. Many 'photographs' in print media were actually photographs of airbrushed renderings visually indistinguishable from images processed straight from film. The airbrush was thus the historical model for Photoshop's rendering functions and to some extent still is that model. But Photoshop 7 has taken its rendering and repair toolbox to a whole new level with specialized healing tools and an array of brushes that perform far beyond the simple airbrush of previous versions.

The new Photoshop 7 Healing Brush works with almost spooky ease on anything unsightly or damaged. The Healing Brush acts like the clone stamp but without its tendency to clump. This is because the Healing Brush clones the lighting, shading and texture of the source point and seamlessly applies them to the area to be corrected.

(see the
Technology Can Be a Blessing footnote at the end of this review)

In practice a certain amount of finesse is required when using this tool, and it pays to do small sections at a time. But the results are remarkably good and very efficient compared to how long it would have taken to get the same results in previous versions of Photoshop.


Beauty restored with the Healing Brush


The Healing Brush is represented in the toolbox by the icon of a Band-Aid. The Photoshop icons are a part of the interface that wants a little attention. When the mouse rolls over the icons they blush color, fussy and rather distracting. It's pretty but it doesn't make the icons any easier to read as graphic images. No matter how many times I 'reached' for the Healing Brush's rosy Band-Aid icon, I hesitated as I visually processed 'sliced hotdog' every time. When you have software that runs as smoothly and powerfully as Photoshop, every little interface irritant unduly disrupts the creative train of thought.

The Patch tool resides in the same context-sensitive 'flyout' tool menu as the Healing Brush, and allows you to lasso a problem-free area of a photo and drag it over a similar portion in need of correction. Results are seen in a matter of minutes versus the hours it took in the past to fix large problem areas, as I proved to myself in the photo below. The unsightly telegraph pole and wires were removed in no time flat.


The Patch tool eradicates telephone wires with almost spooky ease

Photoshop 7 has added a cornucopia of Brushes to its menu and with the array of parameters under the Brush options menu you can change brush size, color, angle, distribution, flow, pattern and more. You can add textures of all sorts, even the look of traditional media like pastels or oils, to achieve just about any style you can imagine. The real deal here is speed. You could have simulated these effects in earlier versions of Photoshop but it would have taken much, much longer.

Because it is so easy to experiment it's also easy to lose one's way. Photoshop 7 allows you to customize and save your working arrangements with Tool Presets and Workspace options. A favored tool option can be saved by choosing the New Tool Preset button at the bottom of the Tool Presets palette and saving the tool parameters under a new name. Choosing Workspace from the menu bar allows you to save the configuration of palettes used on a particular job. Once the arrangement is named you can return to it in the future without that breadcrumbs-in-the-forest feeling complex jobs can induce. You can easily go back from one Workspace to another, alternating between Project A's Brushes and Project A's Crop Dimensions, for example. When they're no longer needed hit Workspace>Delete Workspace.

The upside is that the sky's the limit on what you can produce with the new brushes and improved paint engine. There is no downside except during the process of trial and error when it's maddeningly easy to lose track of which settings are worth saving to a Workspace or Tool Preset. A temporary holding area, call it a summary view of experiments or scratchpad, would make an invaluable addition to the Workspace option.

Photoshop 7 gives a thumbnail representation of brush shapes which can be resized, essential in order to see the fine differences in brush pattern. If these icons could be dragged and dropped into a holding area they would be much more manageable. Similarly with creating new brushes from the custom shapes menu. One wishes for an interface that would allow dragging and dropping from the custom shapes palette into a custom brush palette, which could be saved or updated according to need.

The new Photoshop 7 Brushes are a terrific enhancement to the toolbox. Montage and collage were always easy to produce in Photoshop with its Layers function. Now with a greater range of Brushes combined with the Healing brush you can easily get a more sophisticated look when compositing images. Even if you're not a professional designer, the brushes used along with layers can easily create photo montages and collages in a much more visually effective portfolio than the traditional high-school-yearbook style layout. For the professional these tools are bound to increase creativity and productivity exponentially.

AutoColor Command
This new control resides on the options menu with AutoLevels and AutoContrast and automatically optimizes a photo's color adjustments. However, it only works in RGB mode. Experiments with AutoLevel and AutoContrast have always proven to be remarkably close to what I produced manually, but to my eyes AutoColor comes out a little too cool and a little too harsh. Color is a pretty subjective matter, in any case, so I'd recommend some trial and error, comparing AutoColor results with what your own eye chooses and see if it's a close enough match to rely on with regularity.

The Browser
The new visual File Browser makes surveying a collection of images hassle-free. There's something about seeing one's images in thumbnail format that is very helpful in the evaluation process. Lack of tonal range becomes more obvious when you look at a reduced picture. If it doesn't read well small it probably won't read well when compressed for the Web. Being able to quickly access a palette of thumbnails in Photoshop is a very helpful addition for those of us who use it as our digital darkroom.

The File Browser is arranged in four panes. One window displays a folder as thumbnails which can be resized small, medium, or large. It's a bit like looking at slides on a light table and just as easy to move about. Individually or in groups, thumbnails can be dragged and dropped into the trash. Images can also be dragged and dropped into the Browser's folder directory which is displayed in a separate window alongside the thumbnails. This makes rearranging folders a snap. A Preview window shows a bigger thumbnail of a selected image.


Organize and review files with the Photoshop 7 Browser


The Browser's fourth window shows Metadata, the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data embedded in digital camera images, file size, creation date, date modified, and so on. The total combination of visual and textual information about one's images makes it easy to separate digital goats from sheep. To further aid creating a hierarchy of images there's a place to enter rank, and an automatic Batch Rename. I did notice that scrolling through large batches in the Browser is a tedious process as the refresh rate becomes overburdened, so organizing files into more folders may be needed for best performance. Also, it would be useful to have a search option within the Browser and to be able to view more than one folder at a time for comparison purposes. A word to the wise: the metadata remains when the file is saved as a jpeg but is wiped out when it is saved as a PSD or Tiff.


Picture Package
For improved printing capability you can use the Automate > Picture Package to print out more than one picture at a time, with different sizes. This is especially likely to be useful when you are proofing and want to see if printed images read well together.

Liquify Tool and Pattern Maker
Found under Filters, the Liquify Tool has been made more useful with the addition of the turbulence brush, which combines the bloat, pucker, and swirl tools. All these brushes are best used with restraint but provide helpful shortcuts to anyone doing photo illustration. The Pattern Maker is new and allows you to select a picture or part of a picture and generate a pattern automatically. You don't control the resulting image so the results are therefore random and not likely to induce much excitement.


Photoshop 7 generates magic


ImageReady
Photoshop recognizes the importance of image preparation for the Web, so much so that it includes a secondary application, ImageReady. You can go back forth between the two applications with ease and save images as transparent gifs in a, ahem, jiffy. The inclusion of ImageReady has not always been received with the appreciation it deserves. Anything that allows you to prepare for the Web while in Photoshop without having to open a completely different application is a real plus in my book. Photoshop 7 makes it easier than ever to ensure that images will survive the transition to html. You can also more efficiently create roll-overs. Unfortunately you can't open the File Browser from ImageReady, which is where you're most likely to want to review images for possible Web page consideration.

Review System

  • iMac DV
  • MacOS 9.1
  • 128 MB RAM


Adobe lists Photoshop 7 as compatible with both Apple Mac OS 9 and OS X as well as Microsoft Windows 98, NT, 2000, ME, and XP. Adobe recommends 192 MB of RAM running on a G3, G4, or dual G4 with Mac OS 9.1, 9.2, or Mac OS X version 10.1.3 and 320 MB of hard disk space. It ran just fine for me on my 500 MHz G3 with 128 MB of RAM under Mac OS 9.1 (I needed to upgrade from Mac OS 9.0.4 first), and the install itself took up only 236 MB of disk space (Photoshop 7.0 itself was 54 MB, and ImageReady 7.0 was 48 MB).

Summary
With all the different functions it seeks to perform, the pebble in Photoshop's shoe is still the interface, but it's a very small pebble indeed. Photoshop's Version 7 will be a delight to all digital photographers as well as professional graphic designers, photo editors, and illustrators, making it easier than ever to create and manage one's digital portfolio for print and online. Already a classic, it has evolved into the must-have software of the digital age. A resounding yes to this upgrade!

Pros

  • New Brushes palette
  • Workspace Options and Tool Preset for more efficient production
  • File Browser enhances file management
  • Runs native on Mac OS X
  • Inclusion of ImageReady application


Cons

  • Minor graphical interface issues:
  • Some icons donít read very well
  • Simple drag-n-drop from shapes to brushes would be nice


Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 Mice


Technology Can Be a Blessing

By Bill Catambay

This is a short story about how Photoshop and iMovie joined forces to provide me the tools to do what would have otherwise been impossible. In the evening of August 27th, 2002, my grandfather, who just celebrated his 90th birthday this past April, passed away. As a special tribute, I wanted to create a movie for the funeral which would highlight his life, and I had only two days to do it in. Starting Tuesday night, I began collecting pictures from several family members, many of these pictures aged with major discolorizations, rips, stains, and scratches. One old picture taken from the late 1800's of my great grandparents coming over the Oregon Trail was barely viewable. There were also many thumb-sized prints that needed to be enlarged and enhanced.

Most of Wednesday was spent scanning in several hundred pictures. Later that evening, I began putting the magic of Photoshop 7 to work. Using the Auto Adjust features and the new "Healing" brush, a miracle occurred on my G4. Pictures from long ago, 50's, 40's, 30's, 20's, and even the picture from the 1800's, were transformed into
beautiful photographs that were clean and balanced enough to seem like they were taken yesterday. With previous versions of Photoshop, I could have done a similar thing, only it would have taken much longer. With the power of the Healing brush, I was able to process all of the still photos by late Wednesday night, giving me all of Thursday for splicing the pictures into an iMovie, incorporating old video clips from the 60's and some footage from my Grandpa's recent 90th birthday party. By late Thursday night I was polishing the transitions, adding a soundtrack, and transferring the iMovie onto my digital video camera. Friday morning, after putting on my suit, I boxed up my 5-speaker DTS surround system along with my digital video camera and red sleep-deprived eyes, and was off to the funeral. After the services, when the family gathered for dinner back at the church, I played the movie, and it made all of the difference in the world. The tribute hit the mark, breathing life into a long-ago past and stirring memories that needed to be stirred.

With regards to the technology, I could not have done this without Photoshop or iMovie. In fact, given that I had spent every waking moment working on this tribute in those two days, that it had to be just right, and that I just barely completed it on time, I am convinced that I would not have achieved my goal with an older version of Photoshop. The Healing brush made that much of a difference, and for what it allowed me to accomplish, I considered it a blessing.

If you are interested in viewing the final results, you can view miniatures of the tribute by
clicking here.