Photoshop Upgrade Gets Web Savvy

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When Adobe Systems (800/685-3612, ) released Photoshop 5.0 last year, many users thought the company had made a big mistake. Rather than add enhanced Web-graphics capabilities to its image-editing powerhouse, Adobe chose to place those features into a new program called ImageReady. The problem–aside from weaknesses in ImageReady itself–was that you still had to use Photoshop to begin many of your Web-graphics projects. Meanwhile, Macromedia introduced FireWorks, a much more successful program that integrated most of the functions needed to create images for the Web.

With Photoshop 5.5, Adobe appears to have recognized the error of its ways. Many of the Web-graphics features previously found in ImageReady have been incorporated into Photoshop. Other functions, such as animation, image slicing, and JavaScript rollovers, are available in a new version of ImageReady that is bundled with–and tightly integrated with–the image-editing package. Instead of using separate programs to create Web animations and other graphics, you can now do it all in Photoshop. Adobe will no longer offer ImageReady as a separate program.

Web Features

Photoshop's new Web savvy is apparent in many areas. For example, in addition to displaying an out-of-gamut warning when you specify an unprintable color, Photoshop 5.5 can display a warning when you specify a color outside the 216-color Web-safe palette. If you're working on a transparent GIF image, Photoshop can now display the transparency.

The color-reduction and optimization features previously available in ImageReady have been rolled into the big program: a new Save For Web dialog box lets you experiment with different color palettes and visually compare up to four versions of an image. You can lock colors, so they are not affected by palette-reduction operations, and sort the palette based on how often the colors are used. As with FireWorks, you can also specify a targeted file size and have the program apply whatever compression is needed to achieve it. A gamma preview lets you see images as they appear in Windows or the Mac OS (images look darker in Windows).

If you want to slice or animate the image, you can launch ImageReady 2.0 from within Photoshop.

Going to Print

The upgrade includes other enhancements, most notably new masking functions that duplicate many features found in Extensis MaskPro, ChromaGraphics MagicMask, and Ultimatte Knockout. A new Background Eraser makes it easier to remove backgrounds, and you can create complex masks by drawing inner and outer boundaries along an object's edge.

New Actions in Photoshop 5.5 automate the creation of Web photo galleries, complete with thumbnails and HTML links to full-size photos. You can also produce photo packs that include multiple sizes of a single image.

Adobe plans to ship the $610 package by the time you read this. Upgrades from Photoshop 5.0 or ImageReady 1.0 will cost $129; upgrades from earlier Photoshop versions will cost $199. Adobe also plans to offer a retail version of Photoshop 5.0 LE for midrange users. The software, which lacks CMYK, color-management, and channels functions, will sell for less than $200. Previously, Adobe offered Photoshop LE only as bundled software for scanners or digital cameras.

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