Adobe Bridge is an organizational and image-browsing powerhouse that's been shipping with Photoshop since the inception of the creative suite. However, in previous versions it was sometimes painfully slow and the workspace wasn't friendly as it could have been. That's all changed in Photoshop CS4 -- Bridge got a makeover, a speed boost, and a new Review Mode that'll make photographers squeal with joy.

Interface lift

When you launch Bridge a friendly, light- gray window containing a slew of resizable and movable panels greets you. Using the familiar Folders panel, you can navigate through your hard drive and view files as scalable thumbnails. To see larger previews, click an image and it'll appear in the Preview panel (or just press your keyboard's spacebar for a full-screen preview).

At the top of the window lie several new navigational aids including Forward and Back arrow buttons that let you move through recently viewed folders, a "Go to parent or Favorites" menu (it looks like a down arrow) that lets you move up a folder in your directory or access folders you've added as Favorites, and the "Go to recent file" menu lets you see all the files and folders you've recently viewed. One of the most useful additions is the Path Bar, which serves as a clickable trail of breadcrumbs that keeps you spatially oriented within your file system (if you don't see it, choose Window: Path Bar).

You can use Bridge to browse all the images on your hard drive; not just the ones you import with it. The new interface design lets you move through your hard drive with ease and gives you easier access to workspaces. After you've arranged and resized the panels the way you like them, you can save the workspace so you can return to it later.

Also new is a search bar complete with Spotlight integration. If you don't know where a file lives, type its name (or the first few letters) into the search field and press Return, and Bridge will instantly launch a search party throughout your hard drive. Workspaces also receive top billing in the new Bridge window, making them a lot easier to find. They're not new--they were previously stuffed at the bottom right of the window with a cryptic 1, 2, 3 label. If the pre-configured workspaces don't float your boat, you can always make your own.

Importing photos

Using Bridge to import your photos (done seamlessly via a separate app called Adobe Photo Downloader) can be a huge timesaver as you can make it do all kinds of housekeeping chores for you. For example, you can set it up to automatically rename your photos, add keywords, a description, and copyright info to each and every one. It can perform a backup as part of the import process and burn a DVD for off-site storage. This valuable function of Bridge has been carried over from the previous version.

Review Mode

After importing your images, the new Review Mode lets you see them in a giant, floating carousel. It's a quick and easy way to view your images full-screen, mark rejections, and apply a handy star-rating system. To use Review Mode, select a folder or multiple images, click the Refine icon at the top of the Bridge window and choose Review Mode (or press Command+B). By using the left and right arrow keys, you can sift through your images very quickly. To exit Review Mode, click the X at the bottom right corner or press Escape.

If you want to take a closer look at part of your image, click the Loupe button at the bottom right or click the image itself. You can also rotate your images in Review Mode.