Monthly Archives: August 2009

Feedback, please: Task-based workspaces in Photoshop

Ever wish that Adobe made a “Photoshop for Photographers?” Or maybe a version with just what you need for Web design, or video?

If so, I’m guessing it’s because Photoshop is so packed with features that the ones you need are needles in a stack of needles. The sheer volume of choices can be paralyzing, and people don’t feel they’re doing things the best way.

Most customers use only a fraction of Photoshop, yet every part of Photoshop is used by a lot of people. Therefore it’s difficult and painful to remove any features. How, then, can we make Photoshop fit your needs precisely without disadvantaging others?

Here’s an idea. We could revise Photoshop’s approach to workspaces with two goals in mind:

  • Present a more streamlined interface (“everything you need, nothing you don’t”), showing only the tools and commands that are relevant to the task at hand
  • Present best-practice guidance on how to accomplish specific tasks (“not just yet another way to do something, but the *right* way”)

We plan to use an upgraded version of Configurator to create custom panels that are associated with each workspace. Please see this PDF walk-through (note the explanatory annotations) and let us know what you think.

Let me be clear up front: This feature needs to be valuable to pros, not just beginners. For some reason people see “help” or “guidance” and think “newbie,” but there’s much more to the story here.

So, what do you think?

[Related philosophical background: Photoshop as seen through Johnny Cash]

Fixing Adobe's broken customer service

The quality of Adobe customer service has really taken a dive lately (I know: I end up fielding/escalating a lot of cases that come in through blog comments). Now company VP Lambert Walsh has posted an open letter to customers (PDF), saying in part

Our customers have experienced a level of service that is inconsistent with what they expect and deserve. This is unacceptable and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused. We are working diligently to resolve these issues.

Lambert provides a little background on what happened & offers some email addresses for getting help while the system gets fixed.

Saturday Infographics: Delicious-nasty coffee & more

Notes on CS/Snow Leopard compatibility

Some additional info is available regarding Adobe applications & Snow Leopard:

  • The FAQ I posted earlier in the week has been updated to mention that Acrobat users should apply the Acrobat 9.1 update, and that a couple of third-party After Effects plug-ins don’t work correctly on Snow Leopard.
  • The product managers of After Effects, Flash Professional, Illustrator, Fireworks, and AIR have posted more info about each app on their respective blogs.
  • The tech support team has posted a couple of technotes:
    • 50654: Applications crash when saving to file servers through SMB protocol (Mac OS X 10.6)
    • 51110: Files may not open in original authoring application (Mac OS X 10.6)

For the sake of tracking related info, I’ve created a Snow Leopard category on the blog.

That’s all I have at the moment.

Information about Photoshop CS3 on Snow Leopard

I’ve done some more research into the history of Adobe’s work with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). I can’t speak for product teams besides Photoshop, and in the interests of time, I’m sharing what I’ve found out so far.

It turns out that the Photoshop team has tested Photoshop CS3 on Snow Leopard, and to the best of our knowledge, PS CS3 works fine on Snow Leopard.

Apple and the Photoshop team worked together closely during the development of Snow Leopard, as we do during the development of every OS revision. The Photoshop QE team reported a couple of dozen problems to Apple, and I’m happy to say that Apple has fixed all the significant issues we found. Here are the remaining open issues we know about:

  1. The blue highlight ring around PS windows displayed by Exposé is too heavy.
  2. When using arrow keys to nudge the values in text fields up and down, the values now change more slowly on a Japanese OS.

So, why didn’t we say all this from the beginning? Read on for details.

It has always been Adobe’s policy not to go backwards and do dot releases on software that is no longer shipping. This isn’t some kind of ploy to force people to upgrade; rather, it’s a recognition that resources are not infinite, and we need to focus our efforts on current and future technology*. When we say that we officially support a specific OS, you can trust that we’ve done very extensive testing on that platform. If we haven’t done that level of testing, then we simply won’t say that we support it. That’s why the FAQ reads as it does.

That said, none of us like to inconvenience customers, so the reality is that we *do* actually perform some amount of testing on older product if we believe that there are a significant number of customers using it. So does Apple.

As I say, we have reason to expect that all meaningful issues of running Photoshop CS3 under Snow Leopard have been resolved. However, because we have not done the level of testing that true certification demands, we need to stand by our statement that we don’t officially support CS3 on Snow Leopard.

Hope that makes sense,


* For what it’s worth, Mac users are especially familiar with these trade-offs. Apple has been among the most aggressive companies when it comes to dropping support for old tech in order to move forward. Remember the furor about the iMac having no floppy drive? I could cite many more examples (dropping Classic, PowerPC support, etc.), but you get the idea.

A comment on comments

Thank for all the feedback about CS3 on Snow Leopard. Comments are arriving faster than I can approve them, much less respond to each, so please don’t be upset if I can’t answer every question.
I’m sorry if my replies have offended or upset anyone. That’s never my intention. I’m not someone who finds it easy to get attacked personally or professionally, particularly when many of the commenters obviously haven’t read other comments or my previous replies. It all feels like screaming into the wind.
I (and others) have tried to supply some reasoned responses, and I’ll continue to try to do so (amidst dealing with my regular day job helping to build Photoshop). I’m going to take a little break from the fray, however. The goal of sharing useful info isn’t well served by getting emotions further pumped up.

Adobe Snow Leopard FAQ

The Creative Suite team has put together info about Adobe app compatibility with Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). It should be live on shortly, but in the meantime, here it is in PDF form.
Apple and Adobe have worked closely together (as always with new OS releases) to test compatibility. As for CS4, everything is good with the exception of auto-updates to Flash panels (which I guarantee you’re not using*) and Adobe Drive/Version Cue (which doesn’t work at the moment on 10.6). CS3 & earlier haven’t been tested. Please see the FAQ for additional info.
* The auto-update part, I mean
[Update: No one said anything about CS3 being “not supported” on Snow Leopard. The plan, however, is not to take resources away from other efforts (e.g. porting Photoshop to Cocoa) in order to modify 2.5-year-old software in response to changes Apple makes in the OS foundation.]
[Update 2: The Photoshop team has tested PS CS3 on Snow Leopard and found no significant problems.]

Vintage Mograph: After Effects 1.1 demo reel

In 1993, my freshman year in college, I attended a meeting of the Notre Dame MadMacs user group. I can’t tell you a single other thing about that evening, but I remember that they played a video (on a computer! no way!!) from a company I’d never heard of. On screen an animation depicted a hand opening up to reveal (as I remember) an eye on its palm. “Imagine what you can create,” read an arcing line of text above the hand. And below, “Create what you can imagine. Adobe.” Whoever these guys are, I thought, I have to know more.
I don’t know whether that piece was done in After Effects*, but there’s a good chance it was. Now Todd Kopriva from the AE team has posted an AE 1.1 demo reel from ’93:

You’ve come a long way, baby. [Via]
* AE became an Adobe product the following year

Photoshop & 64-bit registers

When reading about the advantages of 64-bit computing, you’ll sometimes hear that 64-bit chips offer more processor registers, and that using these registers will make apps faster. As I wrote last year when revealing Adobe’s 64-plans for Photoshop, PS does see a slight performance gain in 64-bit mode:

In our testing, when the app isn’t using a large data set (one that would otherwise require memory swapping), the speedup due to running in 64-bit mode is around 8-12%.

I asked some of the senior Photoshop engineers for background on why the impact of extra registers is pretty low.

“Most of the code we’ve identified as performance bottlenecks was long ago optimized, and in some cases hand-optimized,” replied Jon Clauson. “Such code really doesn’t get any faster because the processor/compiler has more registers to play with. We were happy we saw a general 8-12%.” He also noted that in many cases, Photoshop is not processor-bound, but rather memory bandwidth-bound.

Photoshop architect Russell Williams offered a bit longer answer:

Much of the performance-critical code is tuned not just for few general-purpose registers, but to use SSE, and those registers don’t change size with the move to 64 bits: SSE registers are still 128 bits.

The speedup on compiled C code when going from 32 to 64 bits on Intel varies widely depending on how much the compiler needs those extra registers and how much of the cache is taken up by pointers and bigger ints. Even when it looks like you ought to be getting a bigger win because of the extra registers, the win is less than you’d think because of the heavy hardware and compiler emphasis put on optimizing the loads and stores generated by temporary register spillage. (They’ve been trying to minimize the impact of that limited register set for a long time.)

Russell also pointed out some ExtremeTech benchmarks showing a mixed bag for running real-world apps in 32- vs. 64-bit mode.

Again, to be clear, none of this means that 64-bit isn’t great. It is. It’s just not some magic can of go-fast juice.

[Note: All my 64-bit-related posts, including coverage of third-party Photoshop plug-ins ported to 64-bit so far, are in this blog’s 64-bit category.]

A 64-bit reality check

To the less technically-knowledgeable folks out there: Please stop asking for a 64-bit version of iTunes or DVD Player or Fireworks or whatever, blindly assuming that “number of bits” equals “goodness.” This is, of course, all coming up as Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard release is due shortly. Let’s refer to Apple’s developer documentation on the subject:

From Apple’s MacOS X Technology Overview:

For many developers, however, compiling their code into 64-bit programs may not offer any inherent advantages. Unless your program needs more than 4 GB of addressable memory, supporting 64-bit pointers may only reduce the performance of your application.

Not convinced? Let’s try Apple’s 64-bit Transition Guide, “Common Misconceptions”:

Myth: My application will run much faster if it is a “native” 64-bit application.

Fact: Some 64-bit executables may run more slowly on 64-bit Intel architectures because of increased cache pressure.

On Intel-based Macintosh computers, you may see some performance improvement. The number of registers and the width of registers increases in 64-bit mode. Because of the increased number of registers, function call parameters can be passed in registers instead of on the stack. The increased register width makes certain performance optimizations possible in 64-bit mode that are not possible in 32-bit mode. These improvements will often (but not always) offset the performance impact caused by increased cache pressure.

It bums me out that I’ll be seen as “The 64-Bit Wet Blanket Guy,” especially when Adobe has been way out ahead of the pack on the Mac*, shipping the 64-bit-native Lightroom 2 for more than a year. I think 64-bit is great, and it can yield huge performance gains in Photoshop–sometimes 10x or morewhen you’re using huge files that demand very large amounts of RAM (4+ GB). But I’m not willing to blow a bunch of smoke on the subject, nor do I like seeing developers–Apple, Adobe, or otherwise–get browbeaten due to ignorance.

By the way, someone will pop up momentarily to talk about how having access to more processor registers makes apps faster. That’s true in some cases (e.g. Apple touts that you can open PDFs 20% faster in 64-bit mode), but it’s not a big win for a highly tuned application like Photoshop. I’ve supplied more details about that in a separate post.

* Up until now (the release of Snow Leopard), who else is even shipping 64-bit Mac apps? My searches have turned up almost nothing.

Photoshop Podcasts: 64-bit, Martinis, & Meth

A pair of new podcasts with Photoshop team members are now online.

First, Photoshop Architect Russell Williams sat down with Photoshop Creative:

Host Simon Skellon and Russell discuss the development of Photoshop as it pertains to Adobe’s work culture and technological advancements, including the transition from Carbon to Cocoa and 64-bit support for Mac. Williams describes his role at Adobe and notes that designing a program as massive as Photoshop requires finding a balance between fixing bugs and creating new technology.

Williams and Skellon also discuss some of the most important additions to PS over the history of the program including Layers, the History panel and the Healing Brush tool, as well as upcoming additions from JDI. Williams concludes by noting that the program’s wide range of use is so massive it takes an incredibly diverse team to successfully design the program, and explains, “There is always something to learn in Photoshop.”

Elsewhere, “Adobe’s own patient and talented Jeff Tranberry, Senior Quality Product Specialist,” joined Deke & Colleen for Martini Hour:

Some of you may recall that Jeff was the one who (despite trying to have an evening out with friends) helped Deke write his free Channels & Masks Configurator panel, which houses all the tools you need to do the tasks delineated in his Photoshop CS4 Channels & Masks One-on-One book.

Jeff says simply, “I was happy I was able to slip the term “meth lab” into the conversation…”

Camera Raw 5.5 now on Adobe Labs

Over on the Lightroom Journal, Tom Hogarty reports that the Camera Raw 5.5 and DNG Converter 5.5 Release Candidates are now available on Adobe Labs. He writes,

The release includes new camera support for the following models:

        •        Nikon D300s

        •        Nikon D3000

        •        Olympus E-P1

        •        Panasonic DMC-FZ35

Of course you’ll also be able to read raw files from the new Ricoh GR Digital III but because they’re DNG files you didn’t need to wait for this update.

This release also includes a correction to the demosaic algorithms for Bayer sensor cameras with unequal green response.

Please provide feedback on your experience with the Camera Raw 5.5 plug-in and the DNG Converter on the Camera Raw User to User forum.

MythBusters on Adobe Bridge

Adam Savage digs Bridge CS4:

Bridge, which Savage calls “crazy useful,” helps him manage the tens of thousands of images on his Mac, both those he’s acquired from other sources to squirrel away for later reference and those he’s shot with his Canon 5D Mark II. He’s up to Adobe CS4 and wouldn’t give up Bridge without a serious fight. “I hated the first version of it, because it was choking up blood on my computer. With 40,000 photos, start asking something to look at them all, it starts dying. The functionality has improved so much since then.”

Cool! [Via Tom McRae]

Camera Raw updates to continue for CS4 PPC

Evidently the Creative Suite FAQ addressing Adobe’s plans to discontinue PowerPC support in future versions of the Suite isn’t quite clear enough regarding Camera Raw updates.
This article states that Adobe will no longer be issuing Camera Raw updates for PowerPC customers, but that’s not the case: updates will continue for all Photoshop CS4 customers during the CS4 life cycle, just as in previous releases.
Tom Hogarty from the Camera Raw/Lightroom team is touching base with Tom Nelson, the author of the article, to provide clarification. In the meantime, I thought you’d like to know the scoop.

Cool interface demos o' the day

  • SLAP Widgets are “real live plastic and silicone objects that are used in conjunction with a multi-touch table to allow users to control interface values through physical push buttons, sliders, knobs, keypads and keyboards.” Here’s a very cool (albeit slow-loading) video of the system in action*. (Can Slap Chop integration be far behind?)
  • Fontplore is “an interactive application designed for searching and exploring font databases… It does all that on an interactive table, using tangible objects to navigate and control actions.” The site includes a brief video demo.

I keep wanting to see great font exploration & management built into Adobe apps. TypeDNA offers a cool Photoshop-plug-in, using optical character recognition to determine a given font’s name, suggesting font harmonies, and more. I’d like to see these concepts taken even farther, offering browsing, comparison, activation, and purchase in all Suite apps via Flash panels.

* Who knew that Frustrated Total Internal Reflection is a multitouch technology & not just the story of my teenage years (okay, most of my years).

Sunday Illustrations: Creepy ads, Fruit cannibalism, & more

(rt) Interesting Miscellany

"One day, I'll Photoshop you out…"

A little Friday comedic brilliance from Colin Nissan at McSweeney’s: It’s Weird To Think That One Day I’ll Photoshop You Out Of These Very Vacation Photos:

I feel like you and I are entering such a fun, playful phase of our relationship − I really love getting close to you like this. Speaking of which, you’ve been pressing our faces together in a lot of shots, which is so sweet. The thing is, you have no idea how many more hours of clean-up that generates…

[Via Craig Ferroggiaro]

(rt) Illustration: Mad Men, illusions, & more

Goodnight, Suite RISC…

It’ll probably come as no surprise that Adobe is following Apple’s lead & going Intel-only with the next generation of the Creative Suite. That is, CS4 is the last version that’ll run on PowerPC-based Macs. You can read the details in the FAQ on

By the time the next version of the Suite ships, the very youngest PPC-based Macs will be roughly four years old. They’re still great systems, but if you haven’t upgraded your workstation in four years, you’re probably not in a rush to upgrade your software, either. Bottom line: Time & resources are finite, and with big transitions underway (going 64-bit-native, switching from Carbon to Cocoa), you want Adobe building for the future, not for the past.

[Previously: My fond reminiscences on PowerPC.]

PS–More info about other Adobe apps (Flash Player, Adobe Reader, etc.) will be available soon. [Update: The Lightroom team has confirmed that the next Mac version of LR will be Intel-only.]

More new PS panels: Sharpening, blending

Photographer/coder Glenn Mitchell has posted a new set of sharpening actions panels for use with Photoshop CS4. (He’s excited about scripting & panel development for PS: “From a programmer’s point-of-view, Photoshop CS4 offers extraordinary opportunities to modify and extend the user’s experience with Photoshop… Well done!”)

Elsewhere, Mike Hale took the blending modes panel I mentioned yesterday and upgraded it* to handle multiple selected layers at once. You can download it here (see also Mike’s release notes).

On a related note, in case it’s useful, here’s a list of blending mode keyboard shortcuts.

* Potentially interesting explanation: You can use Configurator to open up & remix any Configurator-made panel: just double-click the .GPC file in the exported panel’s folder (Photoshop CS4/Plug-Ins/Panels/{your panel’s name}/). That is, the XML file used by a panel at runtime equals the source code for that panel. Anyway, I suggested that Mike remix the panel by applying his code to the buttons.

New Photoshop & Lightroom videos

I’m passing along a few Adobe TV links you may find interesting:

Shortcut to BrilliantMarcus Bell: Tonal Curves

Renowned photographer Marcus Bell talks about the tools he uses to capture those fleeting and precious moments in everyday life.

Shortcut to BrilliantMarcus Bell: Blending Modes

Renowned photographer Marcus Bell talks about the tools he uses to capture those fleeting and precious moments in everyday life.

The Complete PictureTimesaving Features in Lightroom 2

Join Julieanne Kost as she shows you a multitude of Adobe Lightroom 2 features that can make a huge difference in your overall workflow in this Lightroom 2 tutorial.

Photoshop for VideoNon-Square Pixels

Instructor Richard Harrington explains how to mix images with square pixels and non-square pixels in Photoshop. Brought to you by Creative COW.

[Via Karl Miller]

Housekeeping: Threaded comments, Tweeted headlines

  • I’ve now gotten threaded commenting enabled, so it’s possible to reply to a specific comment & have your remarks appear right below the target comment. (Here’s an example.) I haven’t gotten to fool with any formatting options, so suggestions from CSS/Movable Type ninjas is more welcome. Thanks to Pavel Ushakov from Firmdot for getting me this far.
  • I’ve started experimenting with Twitterfeed, using it to auto-tweet titles & links when I post an entry here. I’m still finding my way, so I hope you find this practice useful, not obnoxious. Comments & suggestions are always welcome.

Neat 3D sketching tools

  • According to Gizmodo, “By using a ubiquitous interface metaphor (the Etch-A-Sketch), Sketch-3D allows anyone to participate in generating stereoscopic imagery in a way that is simple and engaging.” Very cool, though what’s nerdier than an adult playing with an Etch-a-Sketch? An adult playing with an Etch-a-Sketch while wearing those glasses. [Via]
  • The always intriguing Amit Pitaru created Rhonda, a 3D sketching tool that’s best understood through the short video on the site. Apparently they’re looking for beta testers as they move forward.
  • I could swear I’ve blogged previously about the even more ambitious ILoveSketch, but I guess not. Developer Seok-Hyung Bae has visited Adobe to demo the app & discuss ideas for the future.

Tutorial: Creating diptychs in Lightroom

I often create little diptychs & triptychs in Lightroom. I find them a great way to share small image sequences via Web galleries–without, I hope, overwhelming viewers as multiple independent shots might do.

Now photographer Jay Watson has created a handy 7-minute video tutorial on creating diptychs in Lightroom, saving templates, and importing the results to your collection:

Watch the video in full-screen mode or via Jay’s blog to see higher resolution.

Linked Smart Objects (kinda)

Geoff Badner, the art director to whom I owe the start of my career, recently asked a good question:

I know I can do multiple iterations of the same Smart Object within the SAME document and have it change all instances, but what about Smart Objects placed across DIFFERENT documents? That would be pimp.

I ask because I’m designing an iPhone app and it uses the same modules over and over across different screens. There are dozens of screens and each time I needs to change a button or text field in a module, I need to fix it one at a time in each file. Sucks!

I know. My quick advice: You can convert any layer to being a Smart Object (or place a file as one), then choose “Layer->Smart Objects->Replace Contents…” That way you can suck in another file as an update/replacement. If it’s a command you perform frequently, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to it.

Upshot: Edit your external file, then hit Shift-Cmd-R (or whatever) once per Smart Object instance to replace each. Kinda clunky, I know, but depending on the edits you do per SO, this approach may be more efficient.

Someday Photoshop needs to support proper linked files, period. (Dirty-ish little secret: it already does, in the form of video layers; your MOV, etc. source files are never embedded in a PSD.) For that to happen, it needs the right infrastructure–a Links panel, the ability to resolve broken links, etc. None of that is rocket science, but it’s worth taking the time to get right.

Thursday Infographics: Maps as fashion & more

Videos: Photowalks, Meet the Engineers

  • The Lightroom team is working on a series of videos that briefly introduce team members & share a bit of their history and perspectives. First up is Web module developer Andy Rahn. To meet more team members, check out Jeff Schewe’s visit with the Lightroom engineers.
  • From all accounts, the recent Worldwide Photowalk was a great success. Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty led the SF walk while Photoshop PM Bryan O’Neil Hughes led the one in San Jose. Here’s a brief taste of what went on. (Hope to see you there in person next year.)

Deke's "Photoshop Top 40"

Our old friend & true Photoshop guru Deke McClelland has begun posting his list of the top 40 features in Photoshop–beginning with #40 and working up to #1–one weekly video at a time. The folks write, “Some are tools, others are commands, still others are conceptual. All are invaluable. Learn these 40 features and you’ll know Photoshop.”

Deke posts a new video each Tuesday. Check out this page for an updated list of everything that’s gone live so far.

Masking & Smart Filters

When you’re using Smart (re-editable) Filters in Photoshop, you can apply a single mask to all the filters on an object. Why, then, doesn’t the app let you mask each one independently? This question came to mind when photographer Ellen Anon said,

But my main request is that each Smart Filter needs its own mask. PLEASE!!!!

I know. There’s no question about the desirability of this support. The details are tricky, however.

The fundamental problem here is how to make filters live-update as you alter their source data. If you’ve read my post on The Secret Life of Smart Filters, you know that we purposefully chose to impose some indirection, making it harder to feel like you should be seeing filters updating in real time as you paint.

Let’s say you’ve created a Smart Object, and you’ve applied Filter A & then Filter B. The source data that B will process depends on the results of A (including A’s mask, if one existed). If each filter had its own mask, then painting on A’s mask would demand one of two things:

  • B either has to keep running/updating as you paint (read: slow, at least in a lot of cases) or
  • B must be shut off while you’re painting, then later re-enabled (when?).

The more filters you stack, the more demanding they are, and bigger your brush and/or file, the more processing wallop would be required to keep things interactive. And even if it were all infinitely fast, there’s the big challenge of how to deal with filters that transform/offset pixels (see aforementioned post).

These aren’t impossible problems, but they aren’t easy to solve, either. We don’t want to set you up for a crappy experience.