BACK, AND BETTER THAN EVER

The classic use of Photoshop is for editing photos. Though there are lots of programs for doing this, Photoshop does it better. The new version goes wellPhotoshop Extended beyond editing photos. Of course, you have to pay for that.

Photoshop CS3, the latest version, has a list price of $649, and $999 for an “extended” program that would be valuable to people who work in publishing, advertising, architecture, engineering, medicine and many of the sciences.

New to both versions are “smart filters” that let you preview changes without altering your photo and “quick select” tools for doing things like cutting a person out of a mundane scene and placing him at the Taj Mahal. The “workspace” has also improved; there’s more room to view your work without losing sight of your tools.

Photoshop can create detailed illustrations and handle problems in animation or video, frame by frame. A game designer with Electronic Arts claims that 98 percent of all computer games are created with Photoshop. That’s somewhat misleading because games are created using several programs and Photoshop isn’t always the most important. But being able to create and/or edit pictures, whether still or motion, is important in many professions. As a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory told us one time: Equations are nice, but being able to visualize a process is very important.CS 3 Master Collection

Photoshop CS3 also comes packaged with other programs in really big-ticket boxes that range in price from $1,199 for the standard design suite to $2,499 for the “master collection.” If you’re a professional, you would want that; if you’re not, consider the price.

Either way, the knock against Photoshop and other programs packaged with it is that they have a long learning curve. That’s largely true. If you’d rather use a photo editing program that is much cheaper and does most of the work for your automatically, we’ve had good results with Ulead’s PhotoImpact, Microsoft’s Digital Image Suite, Adobe’s own Photoshop Elements, and Picasa, a free program from Google.com. The results are good, but not as good as Photoshop. You can see a notable difference, for example, with a feature called “fill flash.” This brightens photos that are too dark to see clearly by re-creating them as if they had been shot using flash bulbs. Photoshop is awesome at this.

Photoshop CS3 Extended offers some great new tricks: Most impressive of all is the ability to import video into Photoshop and edit with all the program’s tools. There’s an enhanced “vanishing point,” which lets you put text and pictures on the side of a building in the same perspective as a receding wall. You can add scaled graphics to any picture. In other words, if you want to add a character or object anywhere in a frame, it will be scaled to that perspective.

This is an extremely impressive program. There are special routines for medical illustration and image enhancement, and tools for other professions as well. According to a test conducted by labs at CNET, the new version runs twice as fast as before on Windows XP and even faster on the Macintosh.

If you are a student or member of the faculty at any school, you can get away from the $999 list price and buy Photoshop CS3 Extended for $290. Go to AcademicSuperstore.com for the special pricing. Finally, you can cut the pain of the learning curve by using tutorials from Lynda.com. This is the best Web site we’ve found for training videos on many topics; there are 19,000 of them. Lots more info on CS3 features can be found at Adobe.com.

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