Perhaps the most stunning achievement Adobe managed to put into Photoshop 7.0 is the Healing Brush. (No, it won't quite salvage a poor-quality photo or bring back to life a corrupted image file. Whoever figures out how to put that into a software package might be considered for sainthood!) What it does do, however, is allow users to clone textures while using the colors surrounding the spot that's being "healed."
Basically, the brush works much like a combination of the cloning tool and the now-defunct airbrush tool. For example, it can easily be used to remove utility lines from an image with sky in it. By cloning another, smooth and uncluttered, portion of blue sky and "painting" over the object you want to erase, the Healing Brush pulls the texture from the spot you choose to clone, while drawing the color from the area surrounding the object you want to make disappear. It works equally well with dust specks, if you're still using film.
That bring up a potential drawback for users looking to make the switch. OS X doesn't fully support SCSI devices yet, which could pose a problem if you're using a scanner or other device with a SCSI interface. However, System 9 and Windows users shouldn't have any difficulty. (This won't noticeably affect photographers who are 100 percent digital.)
Also, Photoshop plugins by third-party developers won't necessarily work in OS X. While many companies that produce the plugins are reportedly working to port, or "carbonize," their products for OS X, users might want to check with those companies before making the switch to 7.0. Again, PC users and those still running System 9 shouldn't experience any such obstacles.
Right out of the box, Photoshop remains a powerful application that now, more than ever, acknowledges many of the needs of web developers who prepare images for a specific need. The software suite includes Adobe ImageReady 7.0. The new enhancements make it easier to create roll-over images and cut the time it takes to produce the look that more web sites boast nowadays.
The Patch Tool works in a similar manner as the Healing Brush, creating consistent gradations in a given selection. We'll explore this area further in our look at the non-beta version of Photoshop 7.0.
Another tool that proves invaluable, especially with the growing popularity of digital cameras, is Photoshop's new File Browser.
Although it takes a second or two to load a page of thumbnails from a folder of 2.0 megapixel images, the File Browser seems such a logical addition that users will wonder how they ever managed to navigate a disk of digital images before.
Using the Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) data that digital cameras embed along with images, the File Browser allows users to sort images by a number of criteria. But what's even more useful is the ability to assign rankings to the files, such as "proof" or "final."
Although photographers aren't usually equally adept as painters, Photoshop 7.0 greatly improves the application's ability to put digital paint on canvas, or most other preferred media. A wide variety of brushes simluate charcoal, pastels and real paint on real brushes on different surface textures. It's not quite Painter, but it represents a quantum leap for Adobe, sort of like the missing link of Photoshop's evolution.
Finally, Adobe caught on to an issue that seems to have affected most photographers. In the combined experience of members of the Fotophile.com review team, the single most common problem in many a photographer's day-to-day work is spelling. To address this concern, Adobe added a spell-check tool Photoshop for the first time. It works across an entire document, including multiple layers, making word goofs a thing of the past. This, too, will be seen as a time saver but only if it's as widely used as gaussian blur.
Overall, Photoshop 7.0 represents a solid, significant leap that many users, especially those who have swapped their film for memory cards, might want to consider. OS X users, especially, have the most to benefit from the new operating system's protected memory and Velocity graphics engine that will make converts out of many and instill envy in the rest.
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