I’ve had a Beta (pre-production) copy of Adobe’s flagship image editing program for a couple of weeks now, so I’ve had a bit of time to play with it and explore the new features and improvements. I was generally impressed by the amount of work that had gone into it, but it wasn’t until I met up with product managers Bryan Hughes and Kevin Connor on Adobe’s stand at Photokina, and spent nearly two hours being given a full guided tour of the program, that I came to realise that I hadn’t seen half of it. There's a handy little feature under the Basics button in the top right corner of the interface called What's New In CS4, which adds a highlight to all the menu options that have new or improved features. Here's what it looks like on just the File menu:
If you look at all the menus, and bear in mind that there are numerous sub-menus which also have new items, they look like the image below. As you can see there's a lot of new stuff.
When Photoshop CS2 and CS3 were launched there was some criticism that the updates were of a very minor nature, and some felt that the high cost of the program was not justified by the level of the upgrade. However there is no way that those accusations can be levelled at CS4. Virtually the entire program has been upgraded, with many new functions and features added, and major improvements have been made to many others.
I'll be writing a full review of the retail version hopefully in a few weeks, but for now here's a preview to highlight some of the many changes and improvements to this industry-standard program.
The most obvious improvement is to the interface itself. Taking a cue from the latest web browsers, the main work area now uses tabs, so that it’s much quicker and easier to find the picture you want, especially if you have several images open at the same time. There is also a new option to arrange two, three or four open images in a number of default patterns, such as vertical or horizontal tiling, three-up, four-up etcetera, very useful if, like me, you regularly have to compare several similar images side-by-side.