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Adobe takes wraps off Photoshop 7  
Sunday, February 24, 2002 | by
At long last, Adobe today has taken the wraps off Photoshop 7.0, the next revision of its flagship image editing software. For many Mac users, the only new feature that matters is native support for OS X (it will run in OS 9.1 and 9.2 also, as well as Windows 98 and later). The OS X version, a beta of which I have been using full time for about a month, takes full advantage of the new Mac operating system's Aqua interface cues, and has been a stable performer to boot.

Adobe Photoshop 7.0 on the desktop of a Mac running OS X

But Adobe didn't stop at bringing Photoshop to OS X and call it a release. While the list of new features in version 7.0 is perhaps somewhat less dazzling than in some previous releases, one addition has the potential to significantly improve the workflow of digital photographers who chug a lot of photos through Photoshop each day: native scripting support. Adobe has built Photoshop 7.0 to understand AppleScript on the Mac, VBScript on Windows and Javascript cross-platform. Scripting begins where Actions leave off, and the sky's the limit from there.

For example, I recently wrote for myself an AppleScript that chugs through a mix of horizontally and vertically oriented photos and rotates only those that need to still be turned upright, so that the end result is a complete set of vertically-oriented photos open in Photoshop. By comparison, a rotation Action would blindly rotate all photos, even those that don't need it, since an Action is incapable of determining the oriented state of a photo before it applies the rotation commandw. This is but one small example of what's possible with scripting that isn't possible with Actions.

Scripting support on the Mac side isn't new. It's been available through a powerful but pricey Photoshop plug-in called Photoscripter since Photoshop 5.0. But the fact that it's now rolled into Photoshop on both Mac and Windows platforms should make scripting more pervasive for those enticed by its workflow-smoothing possibilities.

Note: Don't be alarmed if you install Photoshop 7.0 and can't make the scripting support go; Adobe plans to make the plug-in that enables scripting available as a free download from the web sometime around the time that Photoshop 7.0 is released.

There are a handful of other changes worth noting:

File Browser. Photoshop Elements 1.0 introduced a rudimentary image browser to the Photoshop interface; Photoshop 7.0 takes that browser and broadens its capabilities. Adobe has implemented an image rotation function, extensive sorting options, display of EXIF shooting information, batch renaming and more. The File Browser is no replacement for a stand-alone browser, but I've already found it a handy way to quickly locate and open one photo before getting back to work on the task at hand in Photoshop.

Photoshop 7.0 File Browser

Web Photo Gallery. Each new release of Photoshop sees a few more holes in this handy feature filled in. Photoshop 7.0 adds a selector for .htm or .html extensions on web documents, more template styles, an on-the-photo security feature and the ability to place text beneath a photo on both thumbnail and preview pages that is comprised of a user-settable combination of filename, caption, title, copyright and credit.

Tool Presets. Say you're always cropping photos to 8 inches x 10 inches at 240 dpi. In Photoshop 7.0, a Tool Preset can be created that stores those settings for easy recall. This obviates the need to retype this and other often-used settings continually. Other tools also are eligible for tool presets.

The most whizzy new feature, hands down, is the Healing Brush. It can clear up everything from forehead wrinkles to large dust clumps in a digital camera photo, and do it with a single swipe or swirl of the mouse. While its use is an ethical minefield, its effectiveness has to be seen to be believed. The Auto Color command is also interesting.

Scripting is big. So is OS X support. There are few other changes that target the working field photographer directly, however. For example, though a spell check feature has been added, it's designed only to check the spelling in text on a photo, not in File Info. And the layout of the File Info dialog has been revamped in a manner that makes the already small caption field area smaller than ever. The font is the same small size too, which means aging photographers will continue to struggle to read the caption they've entered.

File Info dialog in Photoshop 7

Other core functions, like Levels and Curves, have long been in need of a makeover that preserves their functionality but makes them simpler for beginner and intermediate users to understand and use. So, while Photoshop 7 appears to be a must-have upgrade for the big stuff it offers, there remains plenty of room improvement in smaller but essential areas.

The Adobe web site has a 2-page overview of the changes in Photoshop 7.0, as well as 9-page document that delves into the new features in detail. The program is to ship in the second quarter of 2002 (PMA show staff are projecting an April release) at an Adobe-estimated street price of US$609. Upgrades from earlier versions of Photoshop are US$149. Upgrades from Adobe Photoshop Elements and Photoshop LE, US$499. The Adobe web site is not yet accepting pre-orders as I write this.

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