Adobe made some pretty serious changes in Photoshop CS4, especially in the workspace. And while some of them, like the new Application Frame, will take some getting used to (and are optional), they're changes that are long overdue. Each new version has piled new tools on top of old, and important bits and pieces were getting lost in the shuffle. In fact, you're liable to see several "new" tools in Photoshop CS4 that aren't really new at all (like the Hand and Zoom tools); they've merely clawed their way back to the surface after being buried. As a result, a few tools have been cut (stay tuned to find out which ones).
There's no shortage of new features either. Photoshop CS4 takes advantage of OpenGL -- a hardware and software engine for drawing graphics faster and more efficiently--to render some very slick and useful screen effects like Rotate View, pixel tossing (called Flick Panning), dynamic brush resizing, and more. Also making its first, tentative steps in CS4 is a new technology called seam carving, the engine behind the new Content-Aware Scaling tool that intelligently resizes your images so your focal point remains unchanged.
Along with it comes a real 3-D engine, new Masks and Adjustments panels, selective editing in Camera Raw, and more. What's missing in this release, however, is 64-bit compatibility--the means by which Photoshop can handle files greater than 4GB in size. Windows Vista 64-bit got it, so why not the Mac? Read on to find out why.
New way to work
Your Photoshop Life can now exist within a compact frame you can move around and resize (it's on by default). The upside of using the Application Frame is that all of Photoshop's windows and panels stay together as you move things around, and resizing the frame automatically resizes your panels and windows to fit inside the frame (which is great for sequestering Photoshop to one portion of your 30-inch Cinema Display). The downside is that this kind of view is a radical change for Mac users, because it looks very PC-like.
At the top of the frame you'll spot a new row of tools called the Application Bar. It gives you quick access to the new Arrange Documents menu, which lets you see and work with several documents at the same time, as well as the sparkling new Rotate View tool. By using Rotate View you can spin your canvas -- not the pixels -- in order to work with it at an angle (tablet users have been begging for this since it debuted in Corel Painter a few versions back.
The Application Bar also makes other tools easier to find, like those buried deep in a menu (Rulers, Guides, and Grids are now available in the Extras menu), at the very bottom of the document window (Zoom Levels), or at the bottom of the Tools panel (Hand and Zoom tools). Workspace presets also get top billing at the top right of the bar. Take the What's New in CS4 workspace for a spin to highlight (literally) all the menu items new in Photoshop CS4.
You can also create even more room for your images by collapsing docked panels with a single click, and moving around within your images has also been improved with smoother screen display at odd zoom levels and the ability to "toss" your pixels with the Hand tool (called Flick-Panning). A bird's eye view Quick-Zoom lets you instantly fly out of a high zoom view by pressing H while the Zoom tool is active (very handy when you're working on fine detail and you need to see where you are, or quickly move to another area). If you zoom to 501 percent or over you'll see a pixel-grid enabling you retouch images with precision.
Another useful addition is spring-loaded tools. By pressing and holding a tool's keyboard shortcut, you can temporarily switch to it and perform your edits, and then release the key to return to your original tool.