Adobe improves on an already good thing with Photoshop 5.0

Pros and cons:
+ History Palette finally allows multiple undo
+ Vastly improved text handling
– Not for novices


Real-life requirements:
Win95, NT or Apple System 7.5.5 or higher, at least 32M RAM, 80M free storage,
CD-ROM drive





Now that Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect have reached their eighth editions, Adobe
Photoshop 5.0 sounds like a relative newcomer. Surprisingly, though, the image editor has
been at the top of its field for nearly a decade.


One reason may be that Adobe Systems Inc. has always released fairly bug-free software.
It does not confuse the market with yearly updates. And Photoshop users have liked knowing
that a new copy would remain state-of-the-art for at least a couple of years.


You need a high-end system to run Photoshop efficiently: a Power Macintosh or Pentium
CPU with at least 32M of RAM, 80M of free storage, a 24-bit video adapter and a CD-ROM
drive.


To study the interactive tutorial, you need a sound card, too.


Version 5.0 is easy to install. Just insert the CD-ROM and click a button. You can also
install Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe PostScript and Apple Computer Inc.’s QuickTime to
view the tutorials if you wish.


I experienced only one problem after installation. When I booted my test system, an
error message said, “Adobe Gamma Loader caused an invalid page fault in module
kernel32.dll.”


When I called Adobe support, the technician immediately told me that my video adapter,
from STB Systems Inc. of Richardson, Texas, needed a new driver. He was right.


Photoshop has always been the benchmark against which all other image editors are
measured. Version 5 is no exception. It breaks some new ground and, even better, adopts
advances pioneered elsewhere, such as the History palette for multiple undo levels.


My favorite new tool is the Magnetic Lasso. Anyone who has tried to make a freehand
selection with a mouse or pen knows how hard it is to define borders accurately. You can
try the Select/Color Range option, but even that isn’t always adequate.


The Magnetic Lasso detects and snaps the selection boundary to the edge of an object.
It’s great for selecting complex edges against a high-contrast background. The
complementary Magnetic Pen draws a bezier path along a high-contrast edge. Both tools are
welcome additions to Photoshop’s bag of tricks.


If you want to make dimensionally correct lines and angles, try the Measure Tool. It
determines the distance between two points and compares angles between objects in an
image. This might not sound exciting, but it grows on you.


Say you want to place one object parallel to another but you don’t know how far to
rotate it. Apply the measure tool to determine the angle between the two objects, then
enter the value in the Transform/Numeric dialog box.


Photoshop’s Layer Effects menu can apply drop shadows, inner shadows, inner glow,
outer glow, bevel and emboss effects to an entire layer in one step. The layer effects are
particularly effective for text. When you edit a layer, the effect updates in real time,
showing the results as you go.


The Type Tool is much better than in previous Photoshop versions. It creates horizontal
or vertical type and has a dialog box for selecting a font and setting size, attributes
and color. You can set kerning, leading, tracking and baseline shift from the dialog box.


Best of all, you can set all these options, except color, on a character-by-character
basis.


As for Photoshop’s color management and control capabilities, the new Color
Sampler tool lets you sample and save the red-green-blue values of four different color
spots on an image in the Color Sample area of the Info Palette.


If you later use one of the color correction dialog boxes, such as Curves, Levels or
Brightness/Contrast, you can observe the color sample values change as you make
adjustments.


The Gamma Control Panel lets you interactively calibrate your display for consistent
color and set up an International Color Consortium profile. Photoshop 5.0 can specify spot
color channels and will support 48-bit RGB images and 64-bit CYMK images.


As for improvements to previous features, the Duotone, Indexed Color and Color Setting
dialog boxes now have live previews for making corrections before you exit the dialog box.


The Actions palette can record nearly all program operations for complex macros. You
can group related macros with the Actions palette and collapse them to improve
organization.


Gradient styles now include angular, diamond and reflected gradients, and the algorithm
produces less banding than before.


The Free Transform command has a movable center point for rotation. You can select and
transform paths as well as images. The Transform Selection command even transforms
selection marquees.


At an estimated $629 price, Photoshop 5.0 is a worthwhile investment. If you
haven’t used it before, make sure you have enough hardware resources, and expect a
lengthy learning period. Photoshop works well enough with 32M RAM, although Adobe
recommends 64M.


On my test machine, a 200-MHz Pentium with 48M RAM, Photoshop performed well even with
Corel WordPerfect running in background.  


William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Taholah, Wash.

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