Best Buy
  • Price: £548 plus VAT (Standard) . £794 plus VAT (Extended)

  • Company: Adobe

  • Pros: 64-bit enabled. Helpful Refine Edge feature. Easier merging of HDR images. Many community-driven improvements. Lens Correction filter uses camera/lens profiles. Better noise reduction in Camera Raw. Convenient Content-Aware Fill feature.

  • Cons: Many plug-ins/filters work only in 32-bit mode. App generally does not feel much faster.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Workspace improvements

If you’re upgrading from Photoshop CS4, the workspace doesn’t look much different than before, though the Tools panel icons have been modernized. Also, the Application Bar includes a live workspace switcher (they’re really buttons) that you can drag leftward to reveal and hold several saved workspaces. In fact, the Hand and Rotate View tools were removed from the Application Bar to make more room for this feature. You can also delete built-in workspaces you’ll never use.

To give you easier access to files through Adobe Bridge, Adobe gave Bridge its own panel inside Photoshop. It’s named Mini Bridge because of its size and the fact that it can’t quite do everything Bridge can (though you can still use full-blown Bridge anytime you want). You can drag files from the Mini Bridge panel into a Photoshop (or InDesign) window. You can also view and search for files, get a full-screen preview by pressing the space bar, and run commands on multiple files.

Many smaller tweaks

If you ever wondered whether Adobe listens to customer feedback, the proof is in the 100-plus changes that are the direct result of Adobe’s customer feedback initiative, called Just Do It (JDI). For example, Photoshop now automatically saves 16-bit JPEGs as 8-bit; the Ruler tool includes a Straighten option; the Crop tool includes a rule-of-thirds grid overlay; the Save dialog box includes an “apply to all” checkbox; there’s a preference to turn off gestures on laptop trackpads; there's an option to revert to legacy (CS3) keyboard shortcuts for Channels; the default Shadows/Highlights adjustment is set to 35 percent instead of 50 percent -- the list goes on.

Layers got a few upgrades, too. For example, you can adjust the opacity and fill of multiple layers at once, nest layers into a deeper folder structure, save your favorite layer style settings as defaults from within the Layer Style dialog box, and drag and drop files from your desktop into an open Photoshop document to add them as a layer.

Other additions include a ghosted outline as you drag layer content using the Move tool (helpful when moving small items), visual feedback when you’re dragging layer styles from one layer to another (you see a big, partially transparent fx icon as you drag), and a new Paste Special menu item that lets you do all kinds of neat pasting tricks.

Photoshop updates come along every 18 to 24 months, and in this economy, it’s harder than ever to justify the upgrade cost. With Photoshop CS5 and CS5 Extended however, it’s a no-brainer -- especially if you skipped CS4. If you work in advertising or graphic design, the new Content-Aware Fill and the improved Refine Edge dialog are worth the upgrade price, not to mention the hundreds of enhancements that will make your editing life easier. If you never work in 3D, you can get away with the standard version of the program and save a ton. That said, the extended version makes more sense because it includes extra goodies such as the option to load several images into a Photoshop document automatically (File ->Scripts ->Load Files into Stack), more powerful video editing, animation control, and more.

If you’re a photographer, you’ll get more accurate results with the Lens Correction filter; merging multiple exposures now makes more sense and takes less time; and the Camera Raw enhancements mean your photos might not need to spend time in Photoshop at all. With all the time you’ll save by using the new tools, you can give the Mixer Brush a spin and create that painted masterpiece you’ve always wanted.