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Adobe gives Photoshop CS6 a new graphics-chip boost

The Liquify tool is responsive and more powerful thanks to use of the graphics processing unit in Photoshop CS6. Also: background save.

Adobe uses a computer's GPU to accelerate the Liquify plug-in.
Adobe uses a computer's GPU to accelerate the Liquify plug-in. (Click to enlarge.)
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe Systems has released a second advance look at Photoshop CS6 that shows new work to give a hardware boost to the image-editing software.

The graphics processing unit (GPU) speeds the Liquify tool, which lets people smear images in a finger-painting way, according to a Zorana Gee, a Photoshop product manager. She demonstrated the change in a YouTube video, the second in what looks to be a series of previews of the software. An earlier Photoshop CS6 preview showed new raw image editing tools adopted from the Lightroom 4 beta, a darker user interface, and improvements to brush size selection. Expect Adobe to add more previews but to withhold some goodies for the official launch sometime later in the first half of 2012.

When firing up the Liquify plug-in with the current Photoshop CS5.x to edit a 100MB image, the image arrives only gradually, broken up into multiple tiles. "And further, if I want to increase my brush size beyond 1,500 pixels, I can't," Gee said. Worse, when she tries to use the brush, there's a big lag between her stroke and the on-screen result.

In CS6, she said, the image opens immediately in the Liquify filter, the brush size goes beyond 14,000 pixels, and interactive performance is snappy.

"You can see real-time editing--no lag," Gee said. "Your edits immediately follow your cursor."

It's not clear if the GPU help applies to other new tools. Adobe has added other GPU acceleration to assorted features in earlier versions of Photoshop.

Another feature is background save, which lets you do other work while you save a large file, though apparently you can't work on the file itself as it saves.

Photoshop is one of the most popular programs from the San Jose, Calif.-based company, but Adobe is in the midst of a transition to a $600-per-year subscription called the Creative Cloud that combines Photoshop with all the other Creative Suite programs, the Touch mobile apps, and online services for publishing and connecting socially to other subscribers. Cheaper subscriptions and traditional perpetual licenses also will be available for those who want individual packages.

Adobe had wanted to add the GPU acceleration and background save features to Photoshop for some time, but programmers had been derailed by the need to move from Apple's older Carbon user interface to its newer Cocoa interface after Apple canceled its plans for 64-bit Carbon support, said John Nack, an Adobe principal product manager.

"Both of these features have been in the team's sights for a long time, but they kept getting derailed by things like the Carbon-to-Cocoa conversion effort. Nice to have that behind us," Nack said in a blog post.