Monthly Archives: June 2009

Adobe is closed this week (and what that means)

I just saw Daring Fireball point to an SJ Merc story relaying the rather banal news that most Adobe offices are closed this week. So they are*. I’m no expert on company expense management, nor am I a corporate spokesperson (see blurb at right), but I feel like sharing a little perspective.

Let me first mention that these Adobe shutdowns are nothing new. I’ve worked here for 9 years, and the company has done the shutdowns off and on throughout that time–at least since ’01 or ’02. I didn’t hear the news of this one and say (as DF does) “Uh-oh.”

Mr. Gruber reasonably asks, “At a software company, shouldn’t every week be a productive week?” Sure, but I’ll bet you know what it’s like to work near holidays: it’s harder to make progress when lots of your colleagues are out of the office. If that’s going to be the case, why not just schedule a break & save a bunch of money on facilities, security, and so forth?**

I’d rather have everyone be gone at once (and thus more likely back at once) than to run at reduced strength for weeks on end.

Gruber also writes,

And I can only guess that on some, if not most, teams, there is subtle (or even not so subtle) pressure to keep working from home on whatever your current project is.

Nope. As I understand it, a few teams with time-sensitive projects may get permission to work through the break, but everyone else is taking the time off. Because the breaks aren’t a surprise, most teams built them into their schedules a long time ago (just as they do with holidays). Adobe offers very generous PTO benefits, to the point that people don’t use up enough time off. A week-long shutdown is a way of saying, “No, seriously, guys–we want you to take some vacation. Get the hell out of here, enjoy yourself, and come back refreshed.”

Anyway, my inbox for Monday shows 70 mails, vs. 300+ for a typical day. Clearly somebody is taking vacation seriously. Collectively we’re taking it all in stride.

* So why am I continuing to blog? For one thing, I’m drumming my fingers with nervous energy, waiting for a baby to arrive, and I need the distraction.

** For a company of ~7,400 employees, saving a week’s worth of summertime energy & other infrastructure expenses translates to real money. Meanwhile Adobe HQ (already the first existing LEED Platinum-rated green building) is upgrading this week to even more energy-efficient HVAC. The 20-story yellow crane I saw yesterday can’t do its thing while people are inside/below.

GridIron Flow now shipping

It was my pleasure to help the GridIron Software folks officially launch Flow this morning. I got to reveal a previously unannounced feature that’s dear to my heart: Flash panels (screenshot) that run inside CS4 applications*, offering immediate context for your file (what files went into it, what files are derived from it, how long you’ve spent working on it, etc.).
If you haven’t seen Flow, check out this 2-minute overview:

For a deeper dive, Dave Cross from PhotoshopUser TV & Layers Magazine has created a solid 10-minute tour that shows the Flash panels in action (also available on Vimeo).
A single-user license for GridIron Flow is $299, and a three-user license costs $399, via the GridIron store. [Update: Use promo code “NACKONADOBE” to save $50.]
[Previously: GridIron Flow saves Adobe designer’s bacon]
*Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks

Sunday Photography: Playing with Time

Friday Type: Animated excellence, great logos, & more

* To quote a YouTube commenter: “When I saw all the cranes piling up the buildings, I though ‘OMFG, this guy is nuts! Look at how much time he spent!'” Agreed.

Photowalk with Adobe folks

As part of Scott Kelby’s Second Annual Worldwide Photowalk, Adobe folks are leading four walks, hosted and joined by members of the Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge and/or Camera Raw teams. Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty writes,

Space is limited, so sign up quickly to walk and shoot with Adobe’s digital imaging team:


Infographics in motion

  • Hot Rocks: The NYT presents an interesting 2:30 overview on the dangers of drilling deep to tap geothermal power.
  • Realtime 3D Airtraffic Network Simulation: Lufthansa’s Brand Academy features “a 14-meter-wide, 180-degree projection [that] lets the visitors dive into the fully navigable, realtime 3D visualization of 16,000 daily Lufthansa and Star Alliance flights.” Check out the video. [Via]
    Update: Looks like the links have been pulled, at least for the moment. Check out alternate links (courtesy of Ken Beegle) in comments.

Hughes on PS TV; Julieanne on PS

  • My friend & fellow PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes recently sat in with the Photoshop TV guys, and you can see him in the current episode (starting around the 11-minute mark). Bryan discusses Configurator, some future directions for Photoshop, and more.
  • If you’re not yet subscribing to Julieanne Kost‘s great Photoshop blog, you might want to check it out. She provides bite-sized sets of tips each day (or thereabouts), and the tips are nicely categorized. You can also read her blog right inside Photoshop CS4 if you’d like.

Assorted Pixar Awesomeness

Lightroom 2.4 and Camera Raw 5.4 Now Available

Lightroom 2.4 (Mac|Win) and Camera Raw 5.4 (Mac|Win) are now available as final releases on and through the update mechanisms (Help->Updates) in Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2. According to the Lightroom Journal, these updates include camera support for the following models:

  • Canon   EOS 500D (Digital Rebel T1i/EOS Kiss X3 Digital)
  • Canon   PowerShot SX1 IS
  • Epson     R-D1x
  • Hasselblad   CF-22
  • Hasselblad   CF-22MS
  • Hasselblad   CF-39
  • Hasselblad   CF-39MS
  • Hasselblad   CFH-22
  • Hasselblad   CFH-39
  • Hasselblad   CFV
  • Hasselblad   503CWD
  • Hasselblad   H2D-22
  • Hasselblad   H2D-39
  • Hasselblad   H3D-22
  • Hasselblad   H3D-31
  • Hasselblad   H3D-39
  • Hasselblad   H3DII-22
  • Hasselblad   H3DII-31
  • Hasselblad   H3DII-39
  • Hasselblad   H3DII-39MS
  • Hasselblad   H3DII-50
  • Kodak   EasyShare Z980
  • Nikon   D5000
  • Olympus   E-450
  • Olympus   E-620
  • Panasonic   Lumix DMC-GH1
  • Pentax   K-7
  • Sigma   DP2
  • Sony   A230
  • Sony   A330
  • Sony   A380

Note: Hasselblad support is for the 3FR file format only. The Hasselblad FFF file format is not currently supported.

Check out the rest of the entry for details on Lightroom bug fixes, as well as DNG format options and & spec updates.

A special GridIron event on Monday

By now you’ve probably heard my enthusiasm about GridIron Flow–a very cool workflow management tool. If you have time & want to see more, come to a special event on Monday (June 29th at 12pm EST; time zone calculator). I’ll be making an appearance* to show off some slick Creative Suite integration the GridIron guys have put together. Hope you can join us.

* Caveat: If Project El Segundo launches early, all bets are off!

Tip: Committing a text edit in PS and AI

Reader “ray” brought up a good point:

“On the mac, when editing text in Photoshop, hitting the enter key finishes the edit* and deselects the text. Hitting escape cancels the edit and reverts the changes.

In Illustrator, hitting enter inserts a carriage return (line break), while hitting escape finishes the edit. This inconsistency is very frustrating, as my muscle memory for these actions is constantly wrong.”

Understood. There is a consistent alternative, though: in both apps, hitting Cmd-Return/Ctrl-Return will commit your changes. Hope that helps.

* Note that on the Mac, Return & Enter are different keys. Return inserts a carriage return (line break), and Enter finishes the edit. Cmd-Return and Cmd-Enter both finish the edit. So, when you want to be done editing text, just remember to add the Cmd/Ctrl key + Return/Enter regardless of app/OS and you should be all set.

Monday Illustrations: All tutes, all the time

Stop-motion excellence, rodeo-style

If a wee bit of the old Copland* doesn’t get your juices flowing on a Monday morning, then you might want to check yourself for a pulse, my friend. Check out the following (clicking the full screen button highly recommended):

Of this very cool project, creator Eleanor Stewart writes, “I created a music video for the classical music work ‘Hoedown’ from the Rodeo Suite by Aaron Copland. It is a stop motion animation in which various characters, inspired by Cowboy and Western films, come to life from the musical score. It was made for my final year degree in Visual Communication at the Glasgow School of Art.” [Via]

* Extremely tangential, ostensibly bonus info: The Photoshop team includes a few veterans of Apple’s mid-90’s Copland OS effort & the subsequent switch to OS X. In talking about “demoware,” I recently asked engineer Russell Williams, “Didn’t you guys do Mac OS Copland in Director? ;-P (That was always the half-joking rumor, anyway.)” He replied, “No, it would have been much smaller and faster if we had. 🙂 Also, the early developer releases of ‘Rhapsody’ (roughly OS X minus Carbon, or Classic plus Cocoa) were shipped on the Copland kernel, so it actually worked.”

RSS for comments now available

I’m experimenting with a new RSS feed that should enable you to follow comments on this blog via your news reader of choice. The feed appears to be rolling along, and I welcome feedback and advice. (And please tell me if you experience any problems with it!)

My eventual goal is to facilitate more conversation via blog comments. Right now you have to wait for me to approve each comment, and tracking conversations is hard. Through threaded commenting (due soon), RSS, and eventually site membership (a bit farther off), non-spammers should be able to talk back and forth more quickly & freely.

Incidentally, if you have a recommendation for a good way to track outbound clicks, please let me know. Right now I have no idea how many people click the various random links I provide, and I’d like to get a better sense of what content is popular. Google Analytics doesn’t seem to offer a solution, and I haven’t yet moved my main RSS feed to FeedBurner, so I’m not sure whether it can help.

Flash for AE, and AE for Flash

For years and years I’ve wanted the After Effects team to promote AE as the next logical step for Flash animators wanting to go to the next level. (Once you’re freed from having to render everything on the fly on who-knows-what machine, the sky’s the limit.) That’s why I’ve been so excited by steps like XFL export from AE CS4.

Now authors Richard Harrington and Marcus Geduld have created Flash for After Effects and After Effects for Flash. You can check out a couple of chapters online for free:

Happy keyframing & expression-slinging & precomping and all that.

"Ask Tog"

A couple of weekends ago, in the course of reviewing/culling hundreds of JDI feature suggestions, I was getting a little crispy. Amidst lots of good suggestions and the occasional chunks of profanity & ignorance, I saw the following:
“Ask Tog.”
Tog, in case you’re unaware, is Bruce Tognazzini, the pioneering interface designer who’s worked at Apple, Sun, and other companies. He largely defined what it means for a UI to be “Mac-like.”
Without more info, I can only guess at the commenter’s tone & intention. For all I know it was breezy & trying to be helpful. In the context of some other remarks from Mac users*, however, I read it as lazy shorthand for “You suck. Be more like Apple” (without any useful, actionable details, of course).
As it happened, I’d been reading earlier in the day and saw the following:

20 years ago, there was a simple application on the Mac for doing basic edits on photos. It was called Photoshop. Today, Photoshop is a powerhouse of sophistication, capable of working miracles in the hands of a professional. Adobe has been in lock-step with their users, increasing Photoshop’s sophistication even as their users increased in theirs… A new user can become productive in Photoshop in 10 minutes, even if it takes another 10 years to learn everything.

Now, I’m sure Bruce could point out plenty of shortcomings in the Photoshop UI–as I often do–but it was still nice to read his observations. I don’t take them as some kind of absolution, and of course we’ll keep grinding away at usability issues (more details on that soon), but hearing some recent props from the original Mac interface guy felt good.
* Personal fave: “Make the mac version look like a mother f______ macintosh program. Jesus f___.” Classy, constructive, and specific, just like I like ’em.

Adobe MAX 2009 info, registration now available

Registration for the Adobe MAX 2009 conference (October 4–7 in Los Angeles) is now open. From the site:

We are in a software revolution fueled by social computing, client and cloud, and the spread of rich media across screens and devices. For four unforgettable days this October, MAX 2009 will bring together thousands of designers, developers, and decision-makers to shape the future. Join us.

One highlight is our friend Dr. Brown’s RussellBrown@MAX three-day, hands-on course. Check out his site for more info.

You can save $200 by registering now. The MAX site features an interactive session listing & much more.

JDI survey miscellany

I continue to read through the 500 (!) or so free-form survey responses to our JDI query, and as I do so I’m picking out items to which I can reply:

  1. “Please fix the functionality with Exposé + Spaces under OS X!”
    • We work closely with Apple on these issues, and my understanding is that we’ve done what we can from our side. Exposé has certain limitations (e.g. it can’t tile tabbed windows; note the behavior with Safari or Firefox), and Apple is only going to do a limited amount to make Spaces work with Carbon-based apps. Hopefully things will improve as Photoshop migrates to Cocoa.
  2. “Allow Save and Open windows to have independent histories.”
    • Good suggestion. In the meantime, if you’re on OS X and aren’t using Default Folder, I think you’re kind of insane. Hitting Opt-up/down arrows to move among recently used folders is second nature to me, to the point that I can’t believe it’s not on every Mac. As for Windows, I know I’ve used similar utilities in the past, but I don’t know any names offhand. (Suggestions welcome.)
  3. “Should be able to set up a grid of guides based off of pre-entered values so you don’t have to drag out 100 of them by hand.”
    • Check out the GridMaker panel. Maybe this is the sort of thing we should include in the box (polished up, naturally). The advantage of shipping some features as scripts/Flash panels is that others can modify/extend them as needed.

Thanks for all the excellent feedback. The team accomplished a great deal last week, and we look forward to sharing more details soon.

Why it's worth registering your software

Short story: It’s a free information backup that can help us help you later.
People periodically send me all kinds of customer service-oriented questions (inquiries about pricing, upgrade eligibility, lost discs, etc.). I do my best to get these things sorted out, and often the customer service folks need to ask for proof of ownership. Even if you’re twice as organized as I am, digging up a receipt or credit card record from several years back can be difficult, if not impossible.
Things tend to go much more smoothly if you’ve first registered your software with Adobe, as you serial number & other info are then on file. You’re ensuring that your proof of ownership doesn’t get lost.
Oh, and you tend to get some nice freebies in the bargain. (Here’s what’s available when registering CS4.)

SlideShowPro for LR adds pan, zoom

I use the heck out of Todd Dominey’s excellent SlideShowPro for Lightroom, so I’m happy to see that the tool has been updated with pan & zoom support (see example). From the site:

By (very) popular request, a pan and zoom effect has been added to both SlideShowPro for Flash and SlideShowPro for Lightroom. The popular animation style slowly moves still photos while zooming in/out of a particular area. It’s most often used as a narrative device (by, you know, Ken Burns, who built a career on it), but it’s also nice eye candy, especially when mixed with portraits and music.

SSP for Lightroom costs $35, and this update is free to current owners (download via the Account Center).

Thursday Infographics: From Rambo to D&D

Brush locking (aka "Huh?")

We’d like to discard an obscure feature in Photoshop & replace it with something better. First, though, I’d like to sanity-check that no one needs the existing feature. (Fair warning: This is some nerdy, slightly esoteric stuff.)

In Photoshop 6 and earlier, it was simple to control the relationship between tablet input & brush size and/or opacity. The app featured two independent checkboxes, one meaning “pressure = size” and the other meaning “pressure = opacity.” Easy peasy.

In Photoshop 7, the brush engine became much more powerful, and in the process these options got a bit harder to use. Brushes gained many new parameters (scattering, hue variation, etc.), each of which had the ability to respond to many new inputs (pen tilt, rotation, stylus wheel, etc.). Therefore the two simple checkboxes had to give way, being replaced by a series of popup menus spread throughout the Brushes panel. The placement was less obvious, but the power was much greater.

The real usability snag, however, came from the lack of clarity around brush presets (which include pressure settings & more) and brush tip shapes. People click presets, thinking they’re just changing brush tip, and they end up changing other settings as well. (From this screenshot, you can see why it’s easy to confuse the two.) The results sound like this:

“Okay, where the heck is the setting for pressure = size? [rummage, rummage] Okay, found it. Now, switch to a different brush… Wait, the pressure setting turned off. WTF? Switch it on again, then switch brushes and… [insert stream of profanity]”

At least that’s what I imagine. And that brings us to the feature in question, brush locking. In Photoshop 8.0 (CS), we tried to make things better by adding a little lock icon next to each set of parameters. The idea was that you could set some parameters (e.g. pressure = size), then lock them down so that they wouldn’t change when you applied different brush presets. That is, the locks would override whatever settings the presets included.

Locking was never a great solution, but it was what time permitted back in the CS cycle. Since then I’ve heard less complaining, but I don’t think that’s because people are using locking. (Am I wrong?) I think it’s simply a matter of folks eventually figuring out how things work or learning to live with some strangeness.

In any case, we think we can do better in the future. Photoshop could offer a pair of checkboxes on the Options Bar (the thing that runs below your menus) that control “pressure = size” and “pressure = opacity,” overriding whatever’s set in the Brushes panel. We also have some thoughts about better differentiating brush presets from brush tip shapes.

So, if you use brush locking in Photoshop and see a good reason to keep it around, please speak up. Otherwise it’s toast.



Blogging upgrades coming

For the last four years, Adobe Blogs ran atop a sputtering ColecoVision powered by toejam biomass–or at least that’s what it felt like. Everyone who experienced timeouts while commenting & other weirdness knows a bit about that.
Now, however, we’re finally running on a modern setup. We’ll move shortly to Movable Type 4.25, and I’m looking forward to some nice upgrades. In particular, it should be possible to enable threaded commenting, making it much easier to track back-and-forth conversations. (I’ve never liked jamming my replies into the middle of others’ words, so hopefully this’ll offer a better way.) It’ll also be possible to subscribe to comments via RSS, and I’m looking into spam-resistant ways to enable immediate comment publishing.
I’m thinking of moving Feedburner so that I can gauge how many people subscribe via RSS (would you believe I’ve never had any idea?). I won’t pull the trigger on that, though, until I’m sure you won’t be asked to change your feed subscription more than once.
If you have any requests or suggestions about this whole process, please let me know.

Adobe BrowserLab accepting more testers

Just a quick note: BrowserLab, Adobe’s cool hosted app for comparing the rendering of HTML pages across browsers, is currently open for more testers to join. (Because the service is being tested right now, membership is limited to a fixed number of members.) If you’re interested, sign in now.
[Update: Well, that didn’t take long: they’re closed again. In case you didn’t make it in now, don’t worry: more slots will open up in July. Thanks to everyone for their interest.]

Sunday Motion: Chips, dips, bloops, & blips

  • The art for Frito Lay’s “Made for Each Other” spots seems way too good for (and almost entirely related to) chips n’ dips. Check out the companion site for more.
  • I know the Panic Sale! is over, but video lives on in hilarity. (From the echo to the green-screen spill, that’s some serious A2detail, all simulating inattention to detail.)
  • Bloopy things undulating in space:
  • From the ongoing tilt-shift chronicles:

The Photoshop Marketplace is live

Adobe has just launched the Photoshop Marketplace, designed to offer the most up-to-date listing of Photoshop resources–everything from plug-ins & books to communities & events.

According to the site, Marketplace:

  • Allows you to discover a variety of companies, products, services, events, and communities related to Photoshop
  • Provides information about each offering, including number of click-throughs, ratings, reviews, and comments
  • Enables you to share an offering with a friend directly from Photoshop Marketplace
  • Gives you various ways to browse and search for offerings
  • Enables you to rate and review offerings
  • Offers easy access to updates via RSS feeds

Anyone can publish information about solutions related to Photoshop, including details about events, hardware, software, training (for example, books or DVDs), communities, etc. For more info, click on the “Become a Publisher” box on the main page. (The site admin suggests reading through that section in the FAQ.) [Via Allison Goffman]

Unintended humor

Occasionally I have to laugh at–not with–the comments I receive here. This week’s gem:

can i have the full version of adobe photoshop cs4 for free,cause this is our business that’s why i need it.

Wow, that’s awesome. It’s for your business? Well, coming right up, then!

Coincidentally, from the “having no concept of/respect for others’ intellectual property” department, reader Torben Brams passed along this little gem.

Customers & Bullet Holes

In talking with painter James Christensen, Photoshop engineer Jerry Harris picked up an anecdote I found interesting:

During World War II, Allied bomber losses were high, so the powers that be demanded a fix. The engineers set out to eyeball every bomber they could, gathering great statistics for each bullet hole. After a long study they decided to add more armor plating to the areas that had the highest concentrations of holes. A bit after these improved planes were deployed, they received some startling news: more planes were going down than before. At this point I thought, “Did they make them too heavy?”

Then the light bulb went on for someone: they had measured every bullet hole in every plane at their disposal, but they’d failed to realize it was the ones that they did not have access to that mattered. It was the ones that did not return that needed to be scrutinized. They needed to improve the armor in the places that the returning planes had no bullet holes.

Sounds like it might generally relate to product marketing, and user studies: go investigate the customers that don’t return for seconds, i.e. upgrade.

I can’t vouch for the story’s veracity, but the lesson seems sound. This is part of why one needs to listen to customers, but only up to a point: they’ll tell you how to please the customers you have–but not the ones you don’t have.

If a chip architecture fell in the forest…

…would anyone hear it? Not if it’s PowerPC, apparently.

I’m kind of amazed at the absolute lack of discussion of the fact that Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) will be the first Mac OS in fifteen years not to support PowerPC. The one mention I’ve found was a CNET article. Jeez–nobody wants to pour one out for the dead homie*?

I dunno; maybe I’m just a little sentimental. For what it’s worth,

  • I remember being a freshman in college & hearing about this amazing new RISC design–seeing a chart showing the 601, 603 & 604, and finally the 620 aiming higher and higher. Mac über Alles!
  • We named the 7100/66 in our computer lab “Rocket Sled”–66MHz of musclebound fury, suckkaz.
  • I just about danced when Exponential announced the oh-my-God-533MHz X704 chip in 1996. I even printed out their press release & hung it on my door to shame my Mac-hating friends. (God, I was totally mental…)
  • Being a real fanboy, I talked up the “megahertz myth” to anyone who’d listen (and to everyone else for good measure).
  • Years later, working on Photoshop, I knew PS performance engineer Chris Cox had some sort of incredible machine in his office (could it be the mythical “G5”?), but of course it was hush-hush and only he could see it.

Ah well. It was a good ride. Thanks to everyone at Apple, IBM, Motorola, Metrowerks, all the independent software vendors, and everyone else who made it all possible.

One last thing: I have to laughing at all the articles cheering Snow Leopard’s 6GB** reduction in install footprint, all without mentioning the loss of PowerPC support. At it happens, we could cut the installed size of Photoshop on Mac in half by dropping PPC support. (Of course, packaging 32- & 64-bit binaries together will push it right back up. Too bad those first Intel Macs had 32-bit chips.)

*Quite a difference from when Adobe got crucified for going Intel-only with Soundbooth. And yes yes, I know that time changes things, but I’m still picking carbonized bits out of my hide on that one.

** I hate bloat, and everyone likes getting storage space back. Of course, 6GB of storage will set you back roughly 50 cents at Fry’s.

Cool recent infographics

Roll your own After Effects plug-ins, sans coding

I’m always intrigued by visual tools that let non-coders assemble their own filter effects.

If this sort of thing is up your alley & if you use After Effects, check out Effect Builder AE. It’s “a development kit for building Adobe After Effects plug-ins from Quartz Compositions on Mac OS X. With Effect Builder AE and Quartz Composer, you can quickly create your own effects like generators, filters, and transitions without programming knowledge.” [Via]


  • Filter Forge is a Photoshop plug-in used for creating your own filters.

Wednesday Photography: Memescenery & more

  • The world without us:
    • Danish decor of the 70s as seen through, um… cinema. (It’s all well cropped, safe for work.)
    • Memescenery: Andy Baio says, “I had this silly idea to isolate the backgrounds from famous Internet memes, removing all the subjects from every photo or video.”
    • Richard Perry’s Made in NYC project deliberately omits people, finding “little bits of elegance and beauty in the objects themselves.” [Via]
  • Bespoke objects:
    • One can now order custom sonogram cufflinks. You know, I’d kind of like to buy things like this off the rack. Walking through a mall once, I was tempted to buy a t-shirt featuring a little girl (who clearly couldn’t be mine) with the caption “Daddy’s Favorite.” I knew people would fail to know I was kidding, though. [Via]
    • You can similarly order Photo Shower Curtains. Noting the price ($149-199), Bryan Hughes remarked, “Someone’s cleaning up…and it isn’t the person in the shower ;-).” [Via]

PS Automator Actions v4.0 Beta now available

Photographer/author/developer Ben Long has posted a new beta of his Photoshop Automator Actions. He writes,

This 4.0 collection currently only supports CS4 and has a number of bug fixes, and 6 new actions.

Like previous versions of the Action Pack, this collection of Automator Actions lets you drive Photoshop from Apple’s Automator. These are not actions that you can run from within Photoshop’s Actions palette. This is a Mac-only product that allows you to build automated workflows that can go beyond what Photoshop’s built-in actions provide.

Ben is looking for feedback (bugs, etc.) on the new version. For more info on what the Action Pack does, see his earlier post.

Monday Illustrations: Monsters, luchadores, and more

New AspectFrame Flash panel: tester wanted

Photographer & developer Thomas Menath has whipped up AspectFrame, a Flash panel for Photoshop CS4, and he’d like to get help testing it. (The Flash UI can also run as a dialog inside Photoshop CS3.) According to Thomas,

This tool is just for drawing rectangular frames around images and optional adding additional space to get the standard ratios of 4:3 and 3:2 with an optional cutting line.

For more info & to download the panel and submit bugs/feedback, go to the product page.

RetouchPro Live with Steve Caplin this Wednesday is hosting another live session: “Perfecting the Montage” is slated for this Wednesday at 12 noon Chicago time (other time zone info).

Watch live in your Web browser as internationally recognized photo-illustrator Steve Caplin creates an original photomontage and answers your questions about masking, compositing, and anything else that happens to come up.

Check out the site for more info & to sign up for future session notifications.

Monitor lust

(which I don’t mean as a complete, imperative sentence)

  • “Sharp has developed a full HD LCD panel that mixes the hue of each pixel from a palette of five colours rather than the usual three. The result, the company claimed, is the ability to render faithfully the colour space of the unaided human eye.” Each pixel “not only has the usual red, green and blue colour elements but also cyan and yellow sub-pixels too.” This news led to a long email discussion among Photoshop engineers about rods & cones, the Purkinje effect, the hard-wiring of mouse brains, and so on. (I’m not kidding, and it’s one of the reasons I love working on the team.) [Via Jerry Harris]
  • NEC’s huge CRV43 LCD display offers a gently curving, 43-inch, 2,880 x 900 resolution panel–for a mere $8,000. Looks really cool, though I’m surprised the resolution isn’t higher. (My 17″ MBP offers 30% more vertical resolution.) [Via]

Instant-turnaround feature requests

a.k.a., Stuff that already works as requested.

Thanks for all the great feedback on our JDI initiative. We’ve been combing through 300+ individual sets of suggestions (!), plus many hundred additional responses. I hope to get a chance to comment on more suggestions via blog comments, and maybe via a dedicated post discussing notable ones.

In the meantime, I’m seeing quite a few requests for things that Photoshop already does. On one hand I’m always happy to tell people that they can get what they want right now–no waiting, no fee. On the other, it’s a bit of a bummer that people don’t find features, much less answers, on their own (and we’re talking about people savvy enough to find this blog).

I thought you might find it useful to have some of these requests, plus their solutions, listed here.

  1. “PLEASE PLEASE stop the open doc window resizing when I zoom in or out, just leave it alone.”
    • This has been a preference since the dawn of time: “Zoom Resizes Windows.” For some weird historical reason, by default it’s enabled on Mac & disabled on Windows.
  2. “Allow resizing of the Curves display” [in the CS4 Adjustments panel]
    • It’s the little button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel, second from the left.
  3. “Curves: Let me Cntrl-click to set a point on the curve again! The on-image editing is fine, but old habits die hard.”
    • You’re referring to using the Adjustments panel instead of the Curves dialog box. Using either one you can Cmd-click/Ctrl-click with either the Eyedropper tool or the on-image adjustment tool.
  4. “Adjustment layers that can limit to groups: right now they affect everything below them. Be cool to drop them in a group and have it only affect that group.”
    • That capability has been there since layer sets/layer groups were introduced: put the adjustment layer into the group, then set the group’s blending mode to Normal. (By default it’s set to “Pass Through.”)
  5. “Ability to remove tools from Toolbar, like the 3D tools.” Also: “Unhide the tools. The pop-out tools is a hold over from when monitors were 640×480.”
  6. “Where is ContactSheet II in PhotoshopCS4? I want it back!”
    • It’s right here: Mac, Win.
  7. “Merge visible into new layer, instead of having to create a new layer, hold down option key, and then choose merge visible.”
    • Hit Shift-Cmd-Opt-E/Shift-Ctrl-Alt-E. (Update: Sorry, made a typo the first time around.)
  8. “Change the default layer stroke color to something usable (Black?)”
    • Haven’t tried CS4, then, eh? What we really need, though, is either to make the Layer Styles dialog sticky (so that the next drop shadow you create starts with the last one’s settings), or to let you set your own default values (your preferred starting point for each adjustment–e.g. global light off).
  9. “Close all other tabs” command, similar to browsers”
    • Cmd-Opt-W/Ctrl-Alt-W; also File->Close All.
  10. “Add smudge tool (with strength slider) to brush presets.”
    • Brush presets don’t record the values in the Options Bar, which would include the Strength slider. You can create a tool preset (via that icon at the left of the Options Bar–the one you never click) that does the trick, however. (Think of tool presets as a higher level of brush preset: they capture everything the brush preset would–brush tip shape, dynamics, etc.–plus whatever’s in the Options Bar.)
  11. “Enable the Save For Web dialog to allow for exporting just selected slices.”
    • The feature is there: Inside the S4W window, select the slices you want & hit Save. In the subsequent dialog (save location/options), choose “Selected Slices” from the “Slices” menu at bottom (screenshot).

And just on keyboard shortcuts:

  1. “Please, enable user to adjust his own hotkeys. I’m using photoshop since 1.0”
    • Yes, but apparently not one who values this capability enough to have chosen Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts at any point in the last four versions. (Sorry, this sort of thing gets a bit depressing. And please let’s not say, “Well, it wasn’t intuitive or discoverable where you put the command…” Sure it is.)
  2. “Cmd-H should hide Photoshop”
    • That’s debatable. In any case you can (on Mac) choose Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts, then open the Photoshop menu, choose Hide Photoshop, and hit Cmd-H. (JDI-wise, I’ve added a request to have Photoshop ask what to do the first time you hit this command.)
  3. “Bring back Ctrl+1-4 channel shortcuts for good (new are too stretchy)”
  4. “Give an option for the Adjustment Layers Palette to automatically hide, perhaps by hitting some hot key.”
    • A) You can choose “Auto-Collapse Iconic Panels” via preferences.
    • B) You can assign a keyboard shortcut to the Adjustments panel, then use it to hide/show the panel.
  5. “Add a shortcut to show/hide current layer.”
    • You can assign one to Layer->Hide/Show Layers.
  6. “Switch Cmd-Z and Cmd-Opt-Z shortcuts.”
    • Bet you know what I’m gonna say! 🙂

You can stop asking for an "Add" mode in Photoshop

…because it’s already in there: “Linear Dodge (Add).” Seriously. Please tell a video-editing/compositing friend. 🙂
I’m not entirely sure about the naming history–that is, why Photoshop doesn’t just call Add “Add.” I think it has something to do with the fact that Calculations in PS already has “Add” and “Subtract” functions, and at the time the blending mode was introduced, the team didn’t want to cause confusion with Calculations.
Of course, confusion has ensued regardless, so maybe it’s time to simply switch the blending mode name to be “Add (Linear Dodge).” Just know that if we do that and people still ask for Add, my head may literally explode.

Feedback, please: Photoshop JDI — "Just Do It"

Every version of Photoshop needs to turn heads with exciting, breakthrough technology. Aiming high, however, can’t mean forgetting the “small” stuff*. Each version has to deliver lots of small, solid, impactful changes.

With that in mind, next week the Photoshop team is going to try something new: By and large we’re going to take a break from working on big, long-term projects (Cocoa conversion, etc.), and instead all the engineers will focus on fixing small, irritating things about the program. It’s a short, intensive run at low-hanging fruit.

We’re targeting the kind of stuff that makes you (or us) say, “Man, if only someone took a little time to change X, things would be so much smoother.” They’re the kind of changes that you see listed in our “CS4: Sweating the Details” post.

So, what would you like to see the team do?

We’ve pulled together a list of 30 or so candidate ideas for you to rate. There are of course hundreds, if not thousands, of feature requests on record, and rather than trying to list everything, we’ve tried to whittle down to a reasonable set. You’re of course welcome to write in your own suggestions (and don’t feel like you have to rate everything).

For this exercise it’s good to think in terms of very focused changes. Many times things that seem simple are complicated, but we’ll sort through the ideas & determine which is which. Example suggestions:

  • More helpful:
    • “Make the layer styles dialog remember last-used settings, or let me set the default values”
    • “Give the Info panel a readout for current zoom level”
    • “Let me rotate guides”
    • “Let me adjust color temperature in Photoshop just like in Camera Raw”
  • Less helpful:
    • “Let me save all my history states in files” (huge, kind of impossible)
    • “Make Photoshop work like Lightroom” (too vague)
      • Better: “Provide rule-of-thirds overlays when cropping”
    • “Bring back dialogs for adjustment layers” (out of step with the app’s bigger direction)
    • “Quit changing keyboard shortcuts”/”Make everything consistent” (obviously running counter to one another, and both vague & absolutist)
      • Better: “Change X shortcut in PS [and maybe other apps]”

Thanks, and looking forward to hearing your thoughts (via comments here and/or the survey),


* As I’ve noted previously, when I started on Photoshop, PS7 had just shipped. The two biggest applause grabbers were the Healing Brush (crazy Buck Rogers image science) and being able to rename a layer inline in the Layers palette (a completely humble change, one that saved literally zero clicks, but one that just felt totally right). It takes both kinds.

PS–In the spirit of sharing, here are the survey responses that have arrived so far.

PPS–Props to the After Effects team for establishing the “JDI” process at Adobe, something they’ve used to make tons of small enhancements.

Logos a-Go-Go

Wednesday Illustrations: Lines, holes, & more

  • Line Art:
    • Air Lines is “an art project showing worldwide airliner routes. Every single scheduled flight on any given day is reresented by a fine line from its point of origin to its port of destination, thereby forming a net of thousands of lines.” [Via]
    • Simplicity rules these ads for the Ikea Assembly Service. (I wonder if they have a service for gluing all that shattered MDF back together again.)
  • On the street

Hidden power: Mirror your Clone Stamp

Adobe engineer Pat Wibbeler wrote me today with a good suggestion:

The idea is simple: Instead of cloning the region exactly, clone the mirror image of a region. I wanted to do this when repairing an ear in a recent photo. I’d like to have simply cloned the opposing ear in reverse. I accomplished this by copy, pasting, reflecting the “good” ear and then cloning from the mirrored copy. It seems like it would be pretty straightforward to do this automatically and that it would be useful for other applications as well.

What if, I replied, I told you the feature was already in Photoshop, as of CS3? You’re pretty much guaranteed never to find it, though.

Open up the Clone Source panel, then specify a negative number for the width value (e.g. just put a minus sign in front of the “100”). Now Photoshop will flip the source data so that you can clone a mirror image. You can also use the panel to scale & rotate source data without having to select/copy/paste/transform it. This all works with the Healing Brush as well.

For more info & to see the technique in action, check out this video tutorial from Russell Brown.

Image science radness o' the day

“This is your Healing Brush.
“This is your Content-Aware Scaling.

“*This* is your Healing Brush & Content-Aware Scaling on (really good) drugs…”

Adobe researchers Eli Shechtman & Dan Goldman, working together with Prof. Adam Finkelstein from Princeton & PhD student Connelly Barnes, have introduced PatchMatch, “A Randomized Correspondence Algorithm for Structural Image Editing.”

No, I wouldn’t know a randomized correspondence algorithm for structural image editing if it bit me on the butt, either, but just check out the very cool video demo. More details are in the paper (one of the 17 papers featuring Adobe collaboration presented at SIGGRAPH this year).

So, what do you think? [Via]

Flash Catalyst now on Labs; free training available

If you want to turn Photoshop & Illustrator designs into interactive compositions quickly, without coding, Adobe Flash Catalyst is designed for you. Catalyst imports PSD, AI, and Fireworks PNG files, then lets you assign behaviors including animations & 3D effects. A beta of the app is now available for download from Adobe Labs.

To get up to speed quickly, check out Mordy Golding’s free Flash Catalyst Beta Preview video training course. It’s an hour of solid material broken into task-oriented pieces, covering everything from designing in Photoshop to publishing your output. (Props to Mordy & the team for making this great resource available for free!)

Alongside Flash Catalyst, Adobe Labs is hosting public beta releases of Adobe Flash Builder 4 (formerly Flex Builder) and the Flex 4 Framework. Here’s the official blurb:

Flash Builder 4 is the next evolution of Flex Builder, and includes a long list of feature improvements, new data-centric development features, and a new design-develop workflow with Flash Catalyst. Flash Catalyst, also now available in public beta, is a new interaction design tool for rapidly building application user interfaces without coding. Both Flash Builder and Flash Catalyst are based on the updated Flex 4 framework, also available for beta download.

Check it all out on Labs.