As well as new creative features CS5 has also seen some improvements to the user interface. Like previous versions CS5 comes with the Adobe Bridge file browser, in itself a powerful and extremely useful program for sorting and cataloguing your photo library, but it now also includes Mini Bridge, a cut-down thumbnail browser that opens in the main workspace. Other interface enhancements include instant switching between custom workspaces, such as design, photography, painting, or the general-purpose default essentials. As a further bonus, a separate program called Configurator 2.0, available for free download from Adobe, allows you to create your own custom panels.
An interesting new addition is CS Live, a web link that is built into the interface but which connects via your web browser to a section of Adobe’s website, where you’ll find help files, tutorials, a user forum and other resources to help you get more out of the program. The content is a bit limited at the moment, with more promotional pieces on other Adobe products than actual Photoshop content, but hopefully this will improve over time.
For those lucky enough to be able to afford CS5 Extended there are additional features there as well, including Easy 3D Extrusions, better 3D performance and workflow, and better use of realistic 3D materials. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a copy of CS5 extended, so I can’t really say much more about these features.
The overall performance and stability of the program, admittedly not major issues in the previous version, have also been improved, although the program is now noticeably slower to launch. CS4 could be up and running in as little as six seconds, but CS5 takes closer to nine seconds on a second launch. I think you’ll agree that the extra three second delay isn’t a big price to pay for all the additional features. Users of 64-bit systems will also notice improvements in performance, as CS5 is now a native 64-bit application.
Photoshop CS5 further cements the reputation of this already legendary program as simply the best image editing and manipulation program available, and by such a wide margin that it really has no competition. Yes, it’s enormously expensive, and yes, it can appear dauntingly complicated to novice users, but if you want professional results there really is no alternative.
With the launch of version CS5, Adobe Photoshop remains what has always been, by far the best and most comprehensive image manipulation program available. A couple of the new features are a bit gimmicky, but most are immediately and immensely useful, and all are superbly implemented. There are enough improvements to make an upgrade from CS4 not just worthwhile, but essential for anyone who uses the program professionally.