Should You Upgrade to Photoshop CS4?

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cs4Adobe Photoshop came out with CS4 in late 2008, improving upon the immensely powerful CS3. I, like many other CS3 users I know, have been undecided about upgrading. It’s hard to imagine any functionality that I would need that is NOT contained in CS3. There is a ton of information (and opinions) out there, making research on the subject a little overwhelming.

I’ve listed a handful of sources at the end of this article, and I’ve summarized some of the key points that I’ve discovered (note: in this article I’m covering changes in “CS4″, NOT “CS4 Extended”). Hopefully this will help condense the information overload.

- The overall program opens and functions at a faster rate than CS3 (which is somewhat dependent on the processor speed of the computer, as well – if you have an older model computer, CS4 might not be for you).

- There have been some changes in menu organization and application toolbars that make navigation and multi-window work easier.

- Depending on the graphics card in your computer (OpenGL capabilities), CS4 has smoother screen refreshes and clearer previews/zooms.

- The creation of the “Adjustments Panel” (“panel” is the new name for “palette”) is an improvement over having to go into Image/Adjustments menu over and over again.

- The creation of the “Masks Panel” (which is in the “Layer” menu of CS3); again, an improvement over menu navigation.

- “Content-Aware Scaling” analyzes the photo and automatically re-scales it according to the subject of the photo.

- An enhanced ability has been created, to stitch progressive photos into a panorama using “Photomerge”.

- An extended “Depth of Field” feature has been added which allows photos of different focal lengths to be merged into a single focused image.

- Various improvements have been made to tools and brushes including live previews and easier on-the-fly adjustability. Max brush size has also been increased.

- Adobe Bridge has been enhanced for better performance (file opening, thumbnail processing, 1:1 preview).

- Camera Raw 5 has been enhanced to improve functionality. More powerful editing capabilities, including additional presets, bring a lot of the features of Lightroom 2.

My verdict – It seems to me that CS4 doesn’t offer any new overwhelming capabilities – “evolutionary rather than revolutionary”, is the phrase that I came across a few times, and I agree. CS4 seems to just make it easier to do some things, that you can still do in CS3 with more steps and knowledge of the program. Still, I’ll probably upgrade at some point in the near future, especially if it makes the leap to CS5 (which is rumored to bring significant changes when it comes out) easier and more intuitive.

Sources:
- What’s New in Photoshop CS4 on GraphicSoft.About.com.
- Adobe Demos Photoshop CS4 Content Aware Scaling on Tuaw.com.
- Comparison of Photoshop CS3 and CS4 on Photoshop Tutorial.
- What’s New in CS4 on Photoshop News.

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