Polishing the Adjustments panel [Part 3 of 3]

Bryan has now listed some of the benefits of the Adjustments panel in CS4. That doesn’t mean we think things are perfect, however. As Photoshop moves forward–especially as we do more things non-modally/non-destructively–we need to address any lingering legitimate usability beefs. Here are some possible refinements:

  • Enable an option (via the panel flyout) to have panel adjustment text fields take focus when an adjustment is created. If you pop the dialog form of Levels, you can tab into/among the various fields. You can’t set focus on the panel using just the keyboard. We should fix that, either by putting focus there automatically, and/or by adding a shortcut for the purpose (e.g. Shift-Return).
  • Similarly, add an option to auto-select the eyedropper tool and/or on-canvas adjustment tool when creating/selecting an adjustment layer. This would better fit the modal dialog form, where there’s no need to select a tool.
  • Enable a single-key mechanism for activating the on-canvas adjustment tool. (Ah, but what key? they’re all used).

Anything else?

20 thoughts on “Polishing the Adjustments panel [Part 3 of 3]

  1. And until then you should make it possible to work with the usual dialogs. Don’t shove half finished features down our throats.
    [I already created a panel that lets you create/edit curves via the dialog. –J.]
    Offer them, so we can play with them but can also do the work as fast as before. Do what you said you would in this video (4:22):
    Remember the mouse and the keyboard are both great devices. The mouse didn’t replace the keyboard. You can still work very fast with the keyboard or you can fool around more freely amd intuitively with the mouse, especially if you’re new and can’t type fast. Don’t let your love for noobs kill the pros. Give us both. There is no point in killing the old way.
    Thanks again for the great work on the CS4 GUI, it’s so much better than CS3. If only there wasn’t this stupid AP.

  2. Ah, but what key? they’re all used

    Should’ve thought about that before you started buggering about, eh?
    [We certainly did think about it, and there are pros and cons to any approach, and making things non-modal brings some challenges with it. –J.]
    Seriously though, thanks for acknowledging the panel’s deficiencies. Perhaps there’s hope…
    I am, by the way, still trying to find a clear way to demonstrate exactly why it remains a step backwards for the work I do.
    [I look forward to seeing the details. Concrete, *specific* feedback is the only way we can move forward. –J.]

  3. All I’d like is a tiny button that launches the panel in question into it’s own separate window (like your handy Configurated Curves thing). I use adjustment layers “live” but often want the olde dialog. In Flash you can have several instances of the Library Panel open at once, even of the exact same Library. So pop-up/duplicate/invoke dialogs for each adjustment.
    I’m used to memorizing new icons or keyboards every 18 months (option-5 is blue right now, not command-3), so whatever, change ’em.
    (PS, thanks for the word option in your descriptions above)

  4. I remember my first few times in CS4 that the adj. panel was generally difficult to navigate. It was a little confusing going back and forth between the adjustment options and the adjustments themselves, maybe it was just me.
    This has completely nothing to do with adjustments, but you also need to fix the pan and zoom physics for the accessories and dialog boxes, i.e. camera raw, liquify filter, filter gallery. Once you’re out of the regular Ps environment it’s a little disappointing and disheartening to find out you can’t throw your picture around. 🙂 maybe you should crate walls! When we get pissed at Ps we can just start throwing things up against the walls. Wow, I’m abusive. 🙂

  5. Hi Jack,
    Thanks for all the help.
    If you click my url here you can see some nice Photoshop work (at least I think so) of a photo shoot of a a friend and his dog.
    I “figured” out to use the high pass filter and the hard light filter mast to the dog’s hair and gave it a nice pop and contrast
    Ken in KY

  6. I’m all for non-destructive/non-modal direction but I too have issues with adj & mask panels in CS4.
    1-Make Adj panel resizable
    [It is resizable: apply an adjustment, then click the little “expand” icon (bottom, second from the left). –J.]
    2-do not assume new icons are intuitively recognizable and
    3- consolidate label text,icon with preset ie: maybe icon w/wo text label[option] + preset fly-out?…to reduce need for visual scanning & scrolling to connect the three
    4- color labels for presets
    I’ve been working exclusively in CS4 for a few months now and would have to agree that its a work in progress in need of some refining.I still work faster with kybd commands,contextual menus and layer panel flyouts. Adj/mask panels are fine for iterative adjustments but get in the way for initial application.
    Also,You might want to take a few hints from the long ago orphaned LivePicture…[apples & oranges I know] but oddly enough LP still works[in PPC classic layer!] modal/non-modal, non-destructive, has simple interface and fast.
    Would love to see best of PS and LP combined with file management of GridIron Flow.
    Keep up the good work.
    [Thanks for the feedback. –J.]

  7. Hello John,
    I think adding the clipping feature to occur as you create an adjustment layer would be great. In other words, so when the layer is created, it is already clipped. (i am aware of the option key when creating the new adj layer but that still involves a dialogue box)
    Here is something i notice from time to time: when i have a selection active, and then make an adjustment layer, sometimes i don’t want that adj layer and need to make a different type of adj layer. As it stands, there isn’t a ‘cancel’ button so i have re-load the selection, trash the first adjustment layer, then make a new one.
    I’m not sure what the solution is on this but it is definitely a reoccurring problem.
    I have been using CS4 since the beta session and i still fumble with the navigation of the buttons in that palette. Again, i wish i could offer a solution… but i’m just a user, not a developer…i can only relay my opinionated feedback.
    There are also palette sizing issues. Often, if i switch to my Mask palette that is ganged with my Adjustments palette, they are different sizes and it throws off the size of my Adjustment palette upon returning to it. Or it will bounce the neighbor palettes around and then do not return to their original position. (I work with 2 monitors).
    Thanks for hearing me out.

  8. This was a really interesting series of posts. Some of my work involves the adjustment panel all day while some of the other work involves no adjustment work at all.
    My big problem is that when I use an adjustment panel, lets say curves then want to add another adjustment layer, lets say a gradient map, I have no easy way of opening a new adjustment layer….
    That make any sense ?

  9. I have to admit that I resisted the Adjustments panel change at first, but now I can’t imagine going back to CS3. It just took a bit of panel relocation and some time on my part.
    When you are “stuck” in a application for 8+ hours a day you don’t want it to change. All of this change is tiring. But it’s the way things will be. I am slowly learning to trust that change is good and I try adapt as quickly as possible – at least that’s what my therapist told me to do : )

  10. I gotta admit that when I leapt over to CS4, I struggled with the new adjustment panels approach. I’m a pro photographer power-user of photoshop. I’ve been using adjustment layers for as long as they have been available and was keen to use CS4’s extra functionality.
    However, a constant irritation is the option-3,4,5 key command for the RGB channels while working in curves. That is an unnatural and uncomfortable position for the hands to be in. Especially as I always adjust the levels and curves panel colour clip points on every photograph to get the best possible starting point for an image.
    The other ‘bug’ is one that is likely less universal but for pro-users, especially pre-press CMYK image handlers, is a big one: In the regular curves (actually, any adjustment) panel you could click a point on a photo, which would set the colour in CMYK in the Color panel (even when you are in RGB -Especially when you are in RGB!) and the CMYK values would display. So when you make those incremental adjustments in Curves (for example) the Color panel would show the live changes.
    I have been able to get the Color panel to work live with CS4’s adjustment panel but the displayed result is inaccurate unless it is the lowermost adjustment layer!
    Couldn’t it be set up so that the Colour panel (and Info panel) displayed the values based on the total visible colours/densities instead of the value at the layer’s level?
    Better still, an option should be created, much like the clone stamp tool’s Current Layer/All Layers etc? So, it could monitor and display “this layer/ all visible layers/ all visible pixel layers / or similar?
    For the record, I work in RGB 16bit from raw files, measure in CMYK and use an Eizo CG241W monitor.
    For any readers of this message who are wondering why on earth I would work in RGB and measure in CMYK: 1. Does anyone understand what RGB numbers actually mean in a colour sense? eg, a skintone? 2. In Adobe RGB a(n RGB) white point holding tone, but not detail, measures with a CMYK value of 3:2:2:0. A skin midtone measures with a small amount of cyan and three times that amount of magenta and a tad more yellow! Even down to a highlight that relationship is constant! Oh, and that skintone value works on all ethnicities with only small variations.
    Appreciating being heard.
    New Zealand

  11. John, maybe it is time for Adobe to put out their own Photoshop keyboard designed to expand on the Photoshop keyboard shortcut system. This could be a special keyboard shortcut file with keyboard detection that with the keyboard and a couple of extra modifier keys gives you more shortcut options.
    I know companies have done this with video editing software packages and I believe 3D modeling packages.
    I would buy one of these keyboards especially if it was nice, wireless and rechargeable. A pressure sensitive mouse would also be a cool addition.

  12. [It is resizable: apply an adjustment, then click the little “expand” icon (bottom, second from the left). –J.]
    No, that’s not the same as being resizable.
    Go to the brightness/contrast controls. Drag out the adjustment panel so it floats.
    Now you have this tall window for just 2 sliders!
    And when panels are docked there are situations where I can’t resize other things. Like if I have styles panel below layers panel I can resize the layers panel height. But if I have colors below layers I can’t resize.
    In old photoshops the width of the swatches panel was exactly wide enough so that 50% gray was the last swatch on the first row of swatches. Now the swatch panel is always 2 swatches wider than I’d like it and won’t go any narrower 🙁
    Also the random jumpiness in panel height that occurs as you switch panels is just aggravating. I’d like it to either be “smarter” or have some minor transitional animations as I switch panels and they auto-resize themselves.
    When you get around to implementing user-resizability for the adjustments panel don’t forget to give it a scrollbar for situations when it’s contents are greater than the height the user resized it to.

  13. I’m not sure of the right design, but defining clearly how history states and undo interact with changes in a non-modal dialog would be helpful. An individual history state per change of a point on a curve is probably too much. I know I’ve said it before — that modal dialogs give clear points in the history. It isn’t clear to me how to get that back cleanly in non-modal dialogs. I guess that makes it a good candidate for some UI research.

  14. Hi John,
    I like the Adjustments panel (gasp!). It’s funny, it still throws me every time I use an adj. layer; I wait a half second for that dialog box that never comes. But, that’s me adjusting to eons of habit, and I much prefer the panel once I’m in it.
    I *do* have a suggestion or 2, though.
    First, the home panel really could use something…text labels, perhaps. Some of those icons are very odd (Scales of justice? The whole bottom row? ) Since I’m used to selecting my adjustments from a text option, I feel like I’m deciphering glyphs on that panel. So, I don’t use it. Which means I never use the presets, since I’m never in that view. How about adding the adj. layer half-moon cookie from the layers panel to the top of the layers adjustment panel? So, instead of having to go back to the home tab for each new adjustment, I can add from anywhere.
    Second, with regards to on-canvas editing, Cmd or Control Key, right? To use an adjustment panel, I have to have an adjustment layer selected, and for almost every tool, holding cmd or control key just gives me a shortcut to the move tool. There’s very few reasons why I need to move an adjustment layer; I don’t think it’d be missed.
    Thanks for sharing Adobe with us!

  15. Mostly the adjustment layers panel is great.
    In curves I miss ctrl-tabbing between curve points, and the modal-style ability to ctrl-click on the image to set an anchor point (I know about, and do use, the canvas adjustment method, but sometimes it lacks the fineness of control of the modal image click/ctrl click followed by the arrow keys).
    [Did you know that you can use the plus & minus keys to move among points? –J.]
    As you mentioned, when using the canvas adjustment, a key to activate the ‘finger’ is sorely missed.
    In levels, it was more convenient before CS4 to do auto-levels: new levels adjustment layer then alt-A. I know this example seems trivial, but keyboard accelerators for adjustment panel buttons are also significant in their absence.

  16. “Enable a single-key mechanism for activating the on-canvas adjustment tool. (Ah, but what key? they’re all used)”
    this would be great. also a key for flipping back to the “add new” version of the adj panel. i use empty adj layers for the blend mode access A LOT and this would speed things up a bit. i think the earlier poster’s suggestion for a text option instead of the symbols in the adj panel would be good too (my students have a tough time with symbols, at least for most of the semester)
    thanks and keep up the great work! PS just keeps getting better and better

  17. I think the Adjustments panel is a great leap forward. It’s GUI needs some work though.
    1. About the only icon instantly recognizable is Curves. Others need rethinking, IMO.
    2. The order of the icons is weird. Why B&C first? I hardly ever use it. Curves seems a better candidate all around. Alternatively, let user drag-n-drop to reorder them as they please.
    3. The presets can only be accessed by clicking on the arrow. That is not consistent with the rest of the GUI. You should be a able to click on the preset heading to expand it.
    4. Having access to the adjustment commands right on the layer would help, instead of having to scoot to the bottom of the Layers panel, which can be very long at times. For example, reduce the eye icon and add a New Adjustment icon above it, or click-hold on an empty part of a layer tile and choose from a pop-up menu (not to be confused with a context menu). Not so discoverable but would help pro users (who tend to find these “hidden” commands more than casual users).
    5. A single key for the On-Image tool would be a good addition. Maybe release one of the following keys: “;” “‘” “`” “,” “.” and then allocate it.

  18. I work on a MacBook Pro so my screen space is limited. In CS3, I used to have the Navigator, History and the Layers palettes open, with Layers being the biggest one as I usually work with dozens of layers.
    In CS4, with the adjustments panel, not only is there no space left for any other panel but the adjustments and layers panel, but also my layers panel is way smaller than it used to be due to lack of space.
    Let’s take a situation when I am not editing an adjustment layer at the moment. Why does the adjustments panel still take up more than half of my screen? Just to constantly offer me presets and icons? I don’t need that to always be there. I would want the adjustments panel to appear only when I’m editing an adjustment layer.
    However, if I make the Adjustments Panel float, then I have to close it every time, and this cannot be done with Cmd+W as you would normally close a window, instead, you have to click that ridiculously small Close button on it, which is near impossible using a tablet.
    Moreover, when I’m floating it, the Adjustments Panel pops up even if I create an adjustment layer that has no properties to set, such as Invert. Then it just pops up with nothing inside, and I have to close it. What’s the point? That could be seen as a bug, basically.
    The best thing would be to have more options on how the user wants to use the panel, including not using it but using the old Dialog Window instead. It would be a good idea to maybe auto collapse the Adjustments Panel when an Adjustment Layer is not selected, or when an Adjustment Layer that has no settings to set (such as Invert) is selected.
    I don’t like the way it takes up so much space (literally more than half of the height of my screen), especially when I’m not using it, and especially when I could put useful palettes in its place, like History and Navigator, Colors, or anything else.
    Of course people will say that Pros use two monitors and big screens, therefore they do not have such space issues, but I do not use big monitors yet, and I don’t want that to mean that I shouldn’t use Photoshop in that case.
    It wouldn’t cost anything to issue a small update sometime soon, adding a checkbox to the Photoshop Preferences saying “Enable dialog window instead of adjustments panel.” No one would be unhappy because of that change, since people who like the Adjustments Panel would not check that box, leaving the whole thing unchanged.

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