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Adobe releases Photoshop CS6 beta  
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 | by Eamon Hickey
Adobe today released a beta version of Photoshop CS6, which is available as a free download. If it follows previous Adobe practice, the Photoshop CS6 beta program will run through the introduction of the final version, which is expected in the next two or three months, according to the company.

For photographers, new feature highlights in Photoshop CS6 include what Adobe is calling "huge" performance enhancements, Adobe Camera Raw 7 and its new toolset, a new look for the user interface, significantly expanded video editing capabilities (now also available in standard Photoshop, not just Photoshop Extended), more than 60 small feature enhancements, and a range of new capabilities for bending and re-inventing pixels, particularly related to Content-Aware Fill functionality. 

As with other Adobe beta programs, the company is soliciting feedback from users to help them improve the final shipping version.

Here's a quick rundown of some of what's new in Photoshop CS6, with an emphasis on what might interest photojournalists and other photographers who don't do a lot of pixel bending. (Brief demos of some of these features and capabilities are available in a series of eight "sneak peeks" at Adobe's YouTube channel.)

Adobe Mercury Graphics Engine. This promises big performance increases in many Photoshop functions, especially those that now require rendering time. Because this engine leverages your computer's graphics processor (GPU), the speed improvements will likely vary according to your GPU's specifications, and some GPU-enabled features are not supported on Windows XP. 

Adobe Camera Raw 7. The new version of this raw conversion plug-in incorporates most, if not all, of the changes and improvements in the toolset and conversion engine that were first shown in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4.

The basic tone controls have been redesigned to be more intuitive and easier to use, and Adobe says that the underlying processing algorithms have been improved, enabling photographers to achieve a better result faster. 

Among the changes that Adobe is focusing particular attention on is improved ability to extract detail from highlights and shadows without producing visible artifacts.

Also like Lightroom 4, Camera Raw 7 adds local editing brushes for white balance, noise reduction, and moiré removal. 

Background save and auto recovery. Large, multi-layered images often take a long time to save; it's now possible to save them in the background while you work on another image. Photoshop can now also save auto-recovery information as you work; the save interval is user-selectable. 

Video editing. Both the standard version of Photoshop and Photoshop Extended now incorporate video editing functions, and the range of capabilities is significantly expanded. We don't have the details yet but will post an update when we know more.

65 "JDIs". JDI is Adobe's acronym for "just do its" -- small feature and tool enhancements or additions such as adding a keyboard shortcut (CMD+J) for duplicating a layer or allowing brush size to go up as large as 5,000 pixels.

New look to the user interface. Photoshop is now darker in what Adobe is calling a more "modern" look. In the program's preferences, you can set it back to the old look, or pick from among two other gray levels. The image area background shade can also be set separately. 

Preset migration. A new feature is designed to make it easy to automatically migrate your tool presets from previous versions of Photoshop to CS6. 

Pixel bending, 3D, design-oriented, and other miscellaneous enhancements.
  • Expanded Content-Aware functionality, including Content-Aware Patch and Move. (A demo video is here).
  • Blur Gallery. A tool for artifically creating lens blur, tilt-shift blur, and other blur effects.
  • All new crop tool.
  • Several graphic design-oriented improvements, including the ability to add dashed lines and gradient strokes.
  • A number of new 3D editing features (Photoshop CS6 Extended only). 
No exact release date for the final version of Photoshop CS6 has been given, but Adobe says it will debut sometime in the first half of this year -- i.e. before June 30, 2012. 

The Photoshop CS6 beta is compatible with Mac OS 10.6.8 or later, and Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 SP1. 
Related articles  
Related coverage of this topic includes:
  • Photoshop Lightroom 4 now available from Mac App Store (May 10, 2012)
  • Adobe posts Camera Raw 7.1 release candidate (May 7, 2012)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS6, rest of Creative Suite 6 now available (May 7, 2012)
  • Adobe releases Camera Raw 6.7 (May 2, 2012)
  • Adobe posts second release candidate of Photoshop Lightroom 4.1 (April 26, 2012)
  • Photoshop CS6 to ship within 30 days, says Adobe (April 23, 2012)
  • Apple posts Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.10 (March 15, 2012)
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