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Photoshop 6 changes IPTC format and more  
Friday, December 1, 2000 | by
As early adopters are discovering, a minor change in the way Photoshop 6 for Mac and Windows writes out IPTC text information in the files it saves may wreak havoc for other programs downstream from Photoshop, including the popular image browser Photo Mechanic.

The change, which sees a new Caption label added to the beginning of where the IPTC information is stored inside a Photoshop JPEG, for example, is in keeping with Adobe's own specification. Trouble is, previous versions of Photoshop didn't apply this same label. That means that the plethora of image browsers, archiving systems and workflow automation tools that have been built to read Photoshop-saved files may be tripped up by the addition of the label, and the odd/even byte length dance that accompanies its addition. This is geeky, geeky stuff, but it matters to the extent that it affects whether IPTC information stored in a Photoshop 6 file can be seen by other applications.

New IPTC Caption label inside the guts of a Photoshop 6 JPEG

Dennis Walker of Camera Bits software is busily preparing an update to Photo Mechanic Lite and Pro for Mac that will render both applications compatible with Photoshop 6 files. Meanwhile, photographer Steve Miller indicates that the AP has asked that images be saved in an earlier version of Photoshop for transmission to the wire service. Mike Evans, a developer of programs that read and write IPTC data, indicates that he updated his suite of software several weeks ago for compatibility with Photoshop 6.

Photoshop 6 introduces a second and even more significant file format change. EXIF shooting information, such as that found in the D1, D30 and other late model digital cameras, is now preserved when photos are saved in Photoshop 6. Even the 160 x 120 pixel EXIF thumbnail created by the camera is carried along for the ride.

Both changes seem sound (though preserving the EXIF thumbnail will make Photoshop-saved JPEGS from certain digital cameras somewhat larger), but it has the effect of pushing the IPTC info down much further in the file. As a result, any program that only scans, say, the first 6K of a photo file to retrieve the IPTC information stored there will have to be updated to work with digital camera photos saved in Photoshop 6.

This has broken a number of image autoprocessing utilities written by me here at Little Guy Media. I, like many other scripters and programmers, choose to write IPTC grabbing functions to be as speedy as possible. And the principal way to get the speed up is to only read the first few kilobytes of what otherwise might be a very large photo, since the IPTC info has to this point always been very near the top of the file. This change is not a deal-stopper: updating my utilities will be easy enough, as it should be for most others whose programs are affected.

Neither change in Photoshop 6's file format structure is monumental. The retention of EXIF shooting data in particular is a welcome change. Before you roll out Photoshop 6 in your workflow, however, be sure that the images it saves can move seamlessly through the rest of your production cycle.

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