Polishing the Adjustments panel in CS5

The introduction of the Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS4 marked a big step in making the Photoshop interface less modal, more browsable, and geared toward non-destructiveness. Unfortunately, in moving from dialog-based forms of the adjustments to a non-modal panel, we traded away a couple of niceties:

  • In the dialog versions of Levels, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, etc., the first available text field is either automatically selected (i.e. it has keyboard focus), or you can hit Tab to select it. From there you can hit Tab additional times to cycle through text fields.
  • In the dialog version of Curves, the eyedropper tool is automatically selected, so you can immediately click on the image to see/set points on the curve.

Thus the feature was a bit polarizing. To make things a bit smoother in CS5, we’ve made some enhancements:

  • Auto-Select Parameter” (available via the Adjustments panel flyout menu) puts keyboard focus on the first field in an adjustment layer, much as you’d get with the dialog form of the adjustment. In other words, you don’t have to click onto a text field in the panel before you can start typing in numbers.
  • Auto-Select Targeted Adjustment Tool” (available via the flyout menu when a Curves, B&W, or Hue/Sat layer is active) automatically switches to the on-canvas adjuster (aka “TAT”) when you select a layer with which it can be used. With this option active, creating or selecting a Curves layer produces an experience more akin to using the modal dialog box, where you can immediately click and drag on the document surface to set/adjust curve points.
  • You can assign a shortcut to the Targeted Adjustment Tool via Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts.

None of these options are active by default, because each has a downside:

  • We didn’t want PS to put keyboard focus onto adjustment parameters automatically, as doing so is very subtle and people would start saying, “Photoshop is buggy, because randomly I can’t select tools via the keyboard.” (They wouldn’t understand that having focus on the panel would mean that the letter they typed were being entered as adjustment values. Hopefully that makes sense.) We wanted this to be a conscious, opt-in behavior.
  • Same goes for auto-selecting the TAT: we didn’t want PS to be seen to be “randomly” changing the active tool based on changes to the active layer. (There’s no existing precedent for doing so.)
  • Keyboard shortcuts are in short supply, so the TAT doesn’t get one by default.

Ah, and one other thing: To put keyboard focus onto the first field in Adjustments, you can hit Shift-Return on the keyboard. This is independent of the preferences mentioned above, and it offers a way to change focus without clicking. (Call this one the Deke McClelland memorial feature, as it was his suggestion. [Update: Deke isn’t dead–or if he is, he hasn’t told me! I was just looking for a funny turn of phrase and didn’t dream that anyone would read much into it.])

30 thoughts on “Polishing the Adjustments panel in CS5

  1. so when is the demo coming out, we had a guy here who can’t get any work done because you take the CS4 trials down the second you announce something new.

  2. Um… to be clear, you are doing business with trial versions of software you know you need? So, you don’t think you need to pay for a full license?
    What’s more expensive: buying the license; letting a worker sit and wait and not be productive? Do you have customers waiting on this guy? What do they think of your cunning business strategy?

  3. I had (and still have) big issues when the Adjustments panel shifted from the pop-up to the non-modal panel, as I invariably like to toggle the preview checkbox on and off to see a before and after, while I’m still in the process of adjusting things.
    Also, I cannot *cancel* an edit (in an existing Adjustment layer, that is).
    And if I’ve made several dozen tiny adjustment tweaks and then decide I actually preferred it how it was before, then I have to faff about with my History panel.
    Call me weird, but I preferred the old pop-version, just as Layer Styles is now. (Please don’t change the Layer Styles pop-up to be a non-modal panel!!!)

  4. Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, it sure would be swell if there was a way of knowing which key combinations are available, rather than what I gather is the current method of trial and error until one finds an available combination. Could this be a JDI target?
    [Good suggestion, Rob. It’s more than JDI work, probably, but it could be done. Of course, there are a great many KBSC-related improvements that I’d like to see but that haven’t yet been made. In the meantime, note that you can hit the “Summarize…” button to dump out a list of all shortcuts as HTML. Maybe that would help. –J.]

  5. Geez, you made my day!! 🙂 Although I have had the option to work with Photoshop CS4 since it was released, I never really did. Just because of this stupid bug. I love keyboard shortcuts more than anything else and Phoshop’s non-modal “feature” mercilessly killed my workflow. So I’m very very glad to hear that you noticed this issue and fixed it.

  6. P.S.:
    There’s absolutely no chance to use this auto-focus-entry-field-behaviour from PS CS4, isn’t it?

  7. For me, Layer Styles were always the thing I DID want to access via a palette/panel. I always felt it was one of the best features in ImageReady.
    [Agreed. –J.]
    No matter where I end up moving the current dialog box, it’s inevitably going to be in the way the next time I bring it up.
    Of course, everyone works different, and the option to use both would be ideal, but still, I would love to see this one day.
    [Doing it both ways would just trigger more complaining about Photoshop being bloated, offering too many ways to do the same thing, yadda yadda–and that’s not taking the ongoing maintenance/testing cost into account (i.e. time taken away from other things people want done). –J.]

  8. John made a “configurator” plugin that allows the Curves Panel to open as it’s own (traditional modal) box in CS4. I think we’ll be able to do this with many adjustment layers in CS5, but we’ll have to do it ourselves.
    [Yes, and I meant to point that out (and to find/repost it). If you have a link handy, please go for it as I’m in other meetings. Thanks. –J.]

  9. Good stuff; thanks.
    What causes focus to leave the text field? Pressing Enter on the numeric keypad?
    While this is much appreciated and will be helpful, I still miss being able to drag a slider in the Levels dialog, then refine its position with the up/down cursor keys. The Shift-Return functionality will come close, though; I’ll just adapt (I’m finally to the point where Opt-3 feels “right” for choosing Reds in Selective Color adjustments, etc., and the old Cmd-1 feels “wrong”).

  10. Hi, I’ve been waiting for this topic. I’m another one who didn’t use CS4 b/c of the adjustment panel here –
    1. can you hit enter to commit the adjustment and close the panel? like in CS3?
    2. if i was in the middle of making an adjustment and i wanted to completely cancel it – can i hit escape and completely delete the adjustment, the layer and close the panel like in CS3? in CS4 i tried to assign an F-key to close the panel but it left the adjustment layer that was not needed.
    3. I found those new icons in the panel odd. can we make keyboard shortcuts for all of them? not just a few like CS4. i really missed the trick of holding option to bring up the reset button in CS3.
    4. another thing that always bothered me was when in hue/sat or selective color when looking at the drop-down menu for red, yellow, greens, etc. there is no way to know if any of those have been adjusted unless you click through each of them. working in a retouching studio it would be helpful to quickly see if those channels/colors had changes made from the default settings. like an asterisk.
    same goes for layer style blending options. the other effects show an icon in the layer panel but not blending options which i use alot. sorry off topic.

  11. “read much into it”
    You spotted the smiley face, right? 🙂
    [Oh yes, but a dude on Twitter said I’d used “poor wording,” so I thought I’d try to nip things in the bud. –J.]

  12. I’ve always liked AE’s implementation of Adjustment Layers, and wished that it would come to PS someday.

  13. No you moron we’re waiting for fucking thing to come out, which is when the trials do so we can buy it not just preorder the cunt

  14. One thing that bothers me in CS4 and I’m guessing it will be the same in CS5 is the adjustment panel presets. It’s taking up so much space that I can hardly have few more panels below or above. It would be really nice if there was option to turn the presets on/off. It’s not such a huge deal when working on a 26″ – 30″ monitor but on 15″-16″ laptop it makes a world of difference.
    [I hear you, but what would happen if you turned off the presets? The panel would be smaller until you applied an adjustment, at which point it would get bigger, until you clicked onto another layer, at which point it would get smaller. That kind of panel-dancing would be really distracting, we think. –J.]

  15. Excellent command of the language and basic logic you have there. And I’m very impressed that you realized you shouldn’t talk that way AND put up a real name or link.
    Read your original post – it implies that you are holding up work because you can’t get a trial version of the previous release. You said nothing of wanting to try out CS5 before purchasing, nor anything about pre-orders.
    If you’re going to bother with epithets, have the balls to post your real contact info.

  16. There’s no button to make the Curves panel modal again, not that I’ve seen. Please explain further if you know how to do it (aside from using this plug in).
    [Check out item #2 here. I’ll work on turning this into a new blog post so that it’s easier to find. –J.]

  17. In Curves, is there a way to use control+tab to toggle through the curve points (like in CS3)?
    [Yep, just use the + and – keys. See my previous post for other shortcut changes made in CS4. –J.]

  18. I have just started working with the trial and came upon a strange behavior with the Curves Panel.
    I have an action that has the F2 shortcut Key assigned to. When I’m standing on a Curves layer and the Curves panel is open, hitting the F2 key activates the TAT instead of the action.
    Can’t find anyway to turn it off.
    Am I doing something wrong here?

  19. >You can assign a shortcut to the Targeted Adjustment Tool via Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts.
    Where would that be John? I don’t see any such option in Keyboard Short Cuts>Panels Menus>Adjustments.

  20. Never mind, thanks to help from the NAPP forums, someone pointed it out under Tools (silly of me to think it would be located under Panels where the tool lives).

  21. »Ah, and one other thing: To put keyboard focus onto the first field in Adjustments, you can hit Shift-Return on the keyboard«
    Plenty late for the party, but is it possible that this behaviour does not actually work for Curves Adjustment Panels?
    If so, would this be remedied eventually?
    [It appears you’re correct. I don’t know whether it’ll be fixed, but I’ll work on logging a bug. –J.]

  22. I have limited screen since since I work on a 15 inch MacBook Pro. It’s not that small, but limited nonetheless. So I collapse the adjustments panel since it’s a ridiculously huge waste of space when I’m not using it. However, when I make an “Invert” adjusment layer, the adjustments panel pops open, only to display “this adjustment has nothing to set” or something like that, which makes sense since invert is not something that can be customised. But then why the hell does the adjustments panel pop open? This stupid bug was in CS4 and was still not fixed in CS5… Does no one notice these?

  23. Hi John – this is possibly not the forum for it, but I found that the F5 keyboard is assigned by default to the Targetted Adjustment Tool when the curves dialog is active. This was a frustration for me because I had F5 assigned to something else, but if the curves dialog was open, my assignent didn’t work! I have now assigned a letter to TAT and my F5 keyboard assignment is back in business.

  24. I have an issue with text input field in any photoshop panel that it doesn’t stay focused.
    It works for a while after launching Photoshop but after a while when I click on one to type in, after 2 sec. it’s focus goes back to photoshop main window that I cannot type anything in the field.
    I use flex3.4 panels with CS5 on Windows XP but does anybody know how to get around this?

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