Adobe Photoshop 7.0
More of the same
Photoshop 7.0's standard Adobe look and feel, complete with drop-down palettes and menu options, remain relatively unchanged. But Adobe has introduced a few cool improvements, including the handy Tool Presets option, which lets you change and save custom parameters for any tool to a quick-access palette. (With Tool Presets you can, for instance, define a 4-by-6-inch, 300dpi crop box and save it as a preset.)
Along the same lines, you can now save custom tool-palette layouts as Workspaces so that you no longer have to recustomize palettes every time you open a project. A Windows Explorer-like file browser, similar to the Photoshop Elements file-management system, provides a welcome, if somewhat overdue, way to sort and locate your projects: the new browser lets you organize projects by name, date, resolution, and a number of additional parameters.
Brushes with greatness
You'll appreciate the aforementioned Workspaces, especially once you try Photoshop's slightly updated paint engine with its full-on brushes palette. Like Corel's realistic painting implements in Procreate Painter, Photoshop's improved tools now let you vary hue, opacity, and flow for brushes such as pastels, oils, and charcoal. The result is a more real-world painting experience than before. Better still, the Brushes palette now lets you set many more dynamic brush parameters, including jitter, color, and shape.
With all these improvements, Photoshop's brushes are still no match for Painter's. With Photoshop, your paint doesn't have any viscosity, so the results look fairly flat. And, despite the Brushes palette's newfound flexibility, it could use a few more improvements. For example, although Photoshop supports the Wacom Intuos2 tablet (with which we tested the software), the program could use a summary view of which tools and effects you've customized to respond to stylus pressure or tilt. Surprisingly, Photoshop also lacks a velocity control option that would allow brush size and similar parameters to work with your painting speed.
Even so, Adobe hasn't lost sight of Photoshop's primary purpose: image editing. To that end, version 7.0 adds two interesting tools to its image-editing arsenal. The Healing Brush makes quick and seemingly magical work of erasing wrinkles, minor skin defects, and other small flaws. For instance, though we couldn't quite restore the bloom to an old photo of a rose, we easily took a few days off its age. The Auto Color adjustment tool, for its part, essentially removes color casts from your photos, such as the green hue caused by fluorescent lights, and fixes the tonal range.
Thankfully, the new features don't require much more system overhead. In our casual tests on a dual-processor Athlon XP 1900+ system, application load time increased by about only 25 percent--roughly six-tenths of a second. When we ran Photoshop's Web-page-builder macro (which creates an HTML document from a directory of images and saves it locally) on a directory of 77 files, we saw a 35 percent jump--a mere 30-second difference.
Adobe's bundled sister app, ImageReady, boasts a few small improvements of its own, including updates to the Rollovers palette. ImageReady 7.0 also introduces some useful image output tools: for instance, you can now create dithered transparencies for GIF files.
To buy or not to buy
Without a doubt, Photoshop remains the premier image-manipulation package in its class. If you rely heavily on some of Adobe's newly improved functions, such as painting, or you want to take advantage of OS X's improved graphics engine, you'll want to run out and buy the new version as soon as you can. Otherwise, this upgrade is more of a luxury than a necessity.