Adobe unveils Photoshop Elements 4.0

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Adobe on Monday will unveil the latest release of Photoshop Elements 4.0 for Mac, the company’s consumer-level photo-editing application. Elements 4.0 includes many new features that will help consumers with their everyday photo needs. Adobe also said the application was not being released as a Universal Binary for Intel Macs because of time constraints.

Many of the tools included in the new release allow Elements users to accomplish tasks that would have required painstaking work in the past. For instance, if you wanted to enhance the color of one object in an image, you can now use the Magic Selection Brush to choose that object.

To use the Magic Selection Brush you just click and move your mouse on the object you want to highlight. Photoshop Elements will then extrapolate from your selection which object you are trying to select. Fine tuning controls are also available if you need them for your selection.

A similar tool, the Magic Extractor, offers similar functionality, but for a completely different purpose. If you have ever wanted to take someone out of one photo and paste them into another, then you’ll appreciate the Magic Extractor.

As with most functions in Elements, instructions for using the Magic Extractor are spelled out and very easy to follow. First, you select the item or person you want to extract and then you select parts of the image you do not want to extract. Photoshop Elements then determines which object you want and removes the rest of the image.

“We hope that this will open up a whole new level of functionality for our users,” Mark Dahm, Senior Product Manager for Photoshop Elements, told Macworld.

Another new feature fixes several problems at once. The Skin Tone Adjustment allows consumers to get more realistic skin colors, but it also fixes problems that some people were finding with the color of their images as a whole.

“A lot of people would recognize the color of a photo wasn’t right when the skin tone was wrong, so we decided to focus in on that problem,” said Dahm. “We figured if we could get the skin better, a lot of times the entire photo will look fine.”

The auto red-eye functionality has also been improved in Elements. Using some type of facial recognition, Elements can analyze an image, know where the faces are and automatically adjust the color to remove red-eye for everyone in the photo.

“We really want to make some of the mundane aspects of photo editing no big deal, so that users can move on to do the things they want to do,” said Dahm.

Other changes in Elements 4.0 include expanded 16-bit editing and basic Camera Raw support for non-destructive photo editing.

Adobe Bridge in Elements

One of the biggest changes Elements users will notice in the new version is the addition of Adobe Bridge. While many people have heard of Bridge as the replacement to the file browser in Photoshop, until now you needed to own one of the pro applications to experience it.

Bridge is a visual file browser that lets users browse, organize and process images on your hard drive. With Bridge, you can preview multi-page PDF files, drag and drop from floating Compact Mode windows, process images with built-in Camera Raw 3.0, and edit and search for Adobe XMP metadata.

The version of Bridge that comes with Elements is a little different than the pro version, but if you install Creative Suite 2 (or already have it installed) you will get the pro version, not the Elements version.

“If you don’t have anything installed prior to Elements, we will install a version of Bridge,” said Dahm. “There is a slight difference between the version of Bridge you get with Elements and the one you get with Creative Suite 2. We have basically removed some of the non-consumer things like scripting control, access to Adobe Stock Photos and Version Cue. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same functionality.”

Not a Universal Binary

Photoshop Elements 4.0 is not being released as a Universal Binary. Adobe said it simply came down to bad timing.

“It [Elements] is not a Universal Binary,” said Dahm. “We would love to have done that, but it would have really delayed the delivery of the application to market. The timing of things wasn’t such that we could do it.”

Paying attention to the users

Adobe said that they really focused on the new problems that users were facing as more people gain experience with digital cameras.

“There is a lot of functionality [in Elements], but part of making really good products for customers is paying attention to what their needs are,” said Dahm. “As people have more history with digital cameras, they are beginning to fall prey to file bloat. Adobe Bridge really helps the workflow — good technology is not the exclusive domain of professional users, it’s also great for people who are working at home.”

Elements requires a G3, G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS X 10.3 or 10.4, 256MB RAM and 750MB of hard disk space. Photoshop Elements is expected to be avialable in March and will cost $89.

This story, "Adobe unveils Photoshop Elements 4.0" was originally published by PCWorld.

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