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First contact: Adobe Photoshop CS3 Beta

As a rule, Adobe products only see the light of day when they are really ready to land on store shelves; So it is quite an event that the software giant has released a beta of Photoshop CS3 for download. However, with the final version of CS3 still months away, and with Apple’s transition to Intel technology complete, the beta CS3 program is a more than adequate solution for Mac users who have been putting off updating. their computers due to the lack of a native Intel version of Photoshop.

In addition to offering native support for Intel-based Macs, the CS2 beta also includes a rich set of new features, such as interface changes, non-destructive filters, easier composition, Camera Raw enhancements, and a completely redesigned version. from Bridge, Adobe’s file browser.

In our initial tests, the Photoshop CS3 beta has been very stable, while also providing significantly improved performance on both Intel-based and PowerPC-based computers. Intel users will want to download the program because of the increased performance it brings, but thanks to the program’s stability, most users will also find it useful for use on their production system. Apart from the interface changes, the features that make up the core of the program remain unchanged, thus facilitating the transition for users from previous versions.

performance

Although the program is packed with new features, most users (particularly those who have purchased an Intel Mac or are contemplating purchasing one) will initially be curious about the performance on Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, and other Intel-based models. .

Overall the news is very good: most trades get a slight performance boost, and some deliver a substantial profit. Opening the program is twice as fast with a time of 20 seconds on my 2 GHz MacBook Pro Core Duo compared to 50 seconds used by Photoshop CS2. In my tests, applying the Sharpen and Blur filters were more than twice as fast compared to the CS2 version, and I have found that these numbers maintain the relationship with larger images. Other operations, such as converting to CMYK and resizing using bicubic interpolation, were only faster by a second or two. At Macworld Lab USA we are conducting further benchmarks on the public beta and will be released shortly.

Interface

After running the program, the first thing that catches your eye is the new look of the palette. By default, the main palette is a single column of tools, and the rest of the pallets are outlined with a rather attractive semi-opaque gray border. The program still offers the same stacking mechanism that allows you to nest pallets in collections accessible by tabs; but in the CS3 version the palettes that used to reside on the toolbar have been moved to a second palette located after the original dock on the right side of the screen.

The Photoshop interface has relied on heavy use of palettes for a while, so Adobe has added the ability to collapse a dock full of palettes into a collection of tiny icons. When it collapses, you can click on any icon to display the palette corresponding to its normal size.

For users of small screens, the ability to collapse the pallets is especially useful, while users of larger screens will appreciate the second dock, as it allows them to view more palettes simultaneously.

And for those of you who want the “traditional” two-column palette, all you have to do is click on the top of the toolbar to bring it back to its two-column state.

Edition for the undecided

Smart filters are attached to a layer in the same way that style layers do. You can also paint over a layer mask to limit the effects of your smart filters.

When Adobe introduced Adjustment Layers in Photoshop version 4 back in 1996, it also introduced the practice of non-destructive image editing with Photoshop. However, the feature was limited to a few effects, so the document structure still had to be carefully thought through using multiple layers to limit the consequences with the use of destructive effects. With CS3 you can bind any filter to a layer as a Smart Filter in the same way that Style Layers are added to a normal layer. So, for example, you can add an Unsharp Mask filter to a layer to sharpen that layer.

The advantage of using a Smart Filter compared to a normal filter is that you can hide or clear the Smart Filter at any time to remove its effect, or you can double click on a Smart Filter to modify its parameters. Smart filters also have layer masks, much like Adjustment Layers, so you can interactively paint a mask to limit the area over which the effect will be applied in your smart filters.

While many of Photoshop’s effects are still destructive, such as image cropping, mode or size changes, the addition of Smart Filters should appease most of the non-destructive desires of Photoshop users.

Users who frequently use the Clone Stamp tool will appreciate the new Clone Font palette, which provides the ability to change the clone font numerically, save multiple fonts, or view the clone font as a semi-transparent overlay on top of the document.

The use of selections is a centerpiece in many of the retouching operations, from composition to corrections and spot filters. To facilitate this task, CS3 adds a new Quick Selection brush that allows you to select and object just by painting on it. As the brush is applied the program automatically analyzes the image to determine which pixels in the region need to be selected. Although the Quick Selection Brush does not select fine details (hair, for example) or transparency correctly, it can do an amazing job of quickly selecting an object that is against a background of a similar color, something that is particularly difficult to do with the rest of Photoshop’s selection tools.