Members get first dibs on latest Photoshop updates

They're interesting enhancements, but do you think it's worth the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to get updates like these a little early?

Photoshop now supports Smart Objects for nondestructive Blur Gallery and Liquify filters. Lori Grunin/CNET

Adobe's first major Creative Cloud-driven update to Photoshop CS6 , as well as an important update the to the lesser-known CC-only Muse Web design tool, tosses out just enough capabilities to keep things interesting. Along with HiDPI -- i.e., Retina Display -- support for Photoshop and Illustrator, which rolled out to Creative Cloud subscribers all users last night (and which should be available to the rest of the nonsubscription folks by the end of the year), Photoshop actually reverts some changes to the crop tool, modestly fixes the text styles implementation, updates 3D text handling, finally admits that Actions aren't going away, and beefs up its CSS integration.

Conditional actions are a welcome, overdue capability, but I wish they were a little more sophisticated.

It's been years since the company has substantively updated the Actions architecture; when the company first incorporated scripting into Photoshop, the goal was for users to gradually move from Actions to scripts. But Photoshop users are nothing if not entrenched in their workflows (myself included), and that anticipated move never happened. So Adobe has finally granted us the ability to add conditionals to Actions. Heck yeah!

It looks like the initial implementation goes after the most easily coded stuff, with watermarking the big use -- basically, activities based on document or layer properties -- but I suspect this presentation will have to change radically over time. Otherwise, that drop-down list is going to get mighty long and unwieldy. And while I welcome conditionals, there are some bizarre omissions. Landscape and square orientations but not portrait? sRGB color profile but not Adobe RGB? No text layer? Am I the only who thinks Adobe is using its subscribers to beta test the feature?

The crop options return to better days.

The company had also overhauled the crop tool between CS5.x and CS6, though it preserved the option to revert to "classic" operation, something Adobe does tend to be good about. Unfortunately, the resolution text-entry field became a casualty. But it's back now, along with more prominent notation of the resolution assumptions of common presets. There's also a Front Image option, but I can't figure out what it does.

A change for the better, you can now save (and load) a set of default text styles so that you no longer need to create or load a PSD file that embeds them. Unfortunately, it's still just a single set of defaults, but I expect this to improve over time.

For Web designers, you can directly and easily import colors defined in a CSS or SVG file as Photoshop color swatches simply by loading the file. Similarly, a new copy CSS command will parse all the objects in a group of layers and generate CSS code, though it's not terribly pretty; if you're going to use it a lot, you might need to rethink the way you structure your designs. For example, it turns each text layer into a separate style entry, even if the only difference is its location on the page.

A more subtle update: when creating a new anchor point with the path tool, holding down the spacebar will let you move it, just like in Illustrator. And if you're a big fan of 3D text, Photoshop CS6 Extended's outlook got just a bit brighter -- and more colorful and textured -- thanks to support for image-based lights.

Muse now offers separate layout workspaces for tablets and phones.

If you design sites for which liquid layouts aren't translating well to either tablets or phones, Muse now offers separate, parallel workspaces for more easily creating individual designs targeting desktop, tablet or phones with roughly the same site architectures. You can't tile the layout windows to work on versions side by side, though, which I find clunky and annoying.

So, there you have it: Adobe's big product updates. Creative Cloud advantages/disadvantages aside, do you think early available updates like these are worth the price of subscription?

 

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