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The File Browser

Managing your digital images sometimes takes more time than editing them. You must sort through meaningless file names, rotate portrait shots, and review multiple versions of the same scene. For years, less-expensive image editors, including Adobe's $99 Photoshop Elements, have addressed this problem by offering image browsers, windows that let you preview entire folders of images. Now Photoshop includes one as well. The File Browser feature offers an efficient way to view, manage, and select your files without ever leaving the program.

Getting the Big Picture As in Photoshop Elements, the File Browser palette in Photoshop 7 is resizable, and you can dock the File Browser when it's in the way. But this is where the similarities end. Whereas Photoshop Elements' browser is bare-bones and difficult to navigate, Photoshop 7's is full-bodied and handy, giving you a folder explorer that shows all of the thumbnails for a selected file (with three options for thumbnail size), as well as the ability to view metadata and EXchangeable Image File (EXIF) data imported from your digital camera (see "Rank and File" below). The latter is especially useful for digital photographers, since it can contain everything from the date and time an image was captured to the exposure and flash settings.

Controlling Your Photos Photoshop 7's File Browser also helps you manage your files. Instead of having to repeatedly switch between the Finder and Photoshop, you can now move and rename your files from within the File Browser. You can sort thumbnails by several different criteria (such as the date modified or color profile), or you can assign your own ranking values--useful when you're trying to sift through proofs and compare the best shot with several close runners-up. You can also rotate a portrait shot so that it's upright; Photoshop then automatically rotates the image when opening it. There's one problem: Photoshop 7 saves all the information from its File Browser in an independent cache file linked to the folder name, so if you rename the folder, all the thumbnails--as well as ranking and rotation instructions--are lost. This is bad news for designers who share networked volumes: ranking and rotating applied from one computer on a network cannot be seen by others.

To address this shortcoming, Photoshop 7 lets you save a separate browser catalog for a folder of images. Networked Photoshop users can use this catalog to access previews and ranking and rotation instructions. You can also include the catalog with your images when archiving them to a CD. Although this information is readable only by Photoshop, it ensures that any work performed inside the File Browser won't be lost later.

Workspace and Presets

You may spend a lot of time moving palettes, adjusting tool settings, and generally tweaking your environment, especially if you occasionally change your monitor's resolution, as when you're gauging artwork for the Web. To expedite these housekeeping tasks, Photoshop 7 lets you save workspaces and tool presets for easy access anytime.

When you save a workspace, Photoshop records the locations of all on-screen palettes and toolboxes. This means that you can set up multiple workspaces, each customized to a specific task, such as file browsing, retouching, or Web design. Workspaces come in handy when you're sharing a computer with one or more coworkers.

Tool presets can save you even more time. These let you store a tool's settings for reuse later. For example, say you have a printer that creates 3.25-by-4-inch snapshots. Rather than manually setting these specifications with the Crop tool each time you want to print, you can just select the appropriate preset. Likewise, you can use presets to store custom brushes, clone settings, selection modifiers, and more. Presets also let you keep a record of how you create an effect, so you can replicate it without a lot of fuss.

Rank and File In addition to image thumbnails, Photoshop 7's File Browser provides a navigation tree (top left) and access to EXIF data saved with digital photographs (bottom left).
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