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7 December 2015

The new sign-on screen -- Paradise in the Future by Ruben Alvarez -- is a hint. This version of Photoshop is turning away from the detritus of the past and stepping into a radiant future.

Alvarez. The future appears to be glowing.

Or, if you've been working with Photoshop for a while, you might be tempted to say it's setting up shop in Chernobyl.

Adobe has published a list of the changes in this version of Photoshop. But take a walk with us through a few of the new features for photographers to see for yourself.


Ever since the Creative Cloud became an integral part of its desktop applications, Adobe's software has taken a long time to launch. This version of Photoshop launches even more slowly than ever. [Chernobyl]

Apparently the drag-and-drop integration of Adobe Stock assets plus the previous Creative Cloud Libraries access requires online access during launch. This has also been a real issue for Lightroom users who sync Collections to Creative Cloud.

We can almost get the spiffy old behavior back in Lightroom by turning off all our syncs. Not so sure about Photoshop. But it's on our list.

Access to Adobe Stock and Creative Cloud libraries would seem to be optional for photo editing, so it would be nice to have an option to disable loading them on launch.

We do have to report getting an error message when quitting Photoshop involving a segmentation fault. This has been a sporadic problem for others for a while now. But now the bug has bitten us. [Sigh]


When we finally get to the new start screen, our fears about Chernobyl seem confirmed.

Instead of the inspiring blank canvas we're used to, it displays a panel of recently opened files, Creative Cloud libraries, presets for new files and a row of links to resources like tutorials, Adobe Stock (ah, there it is) and library downloads. [Chernobyl]

But the little gear in the top right tells you how to banish this approach from future launches (it's an option in Preferences>General). Could it be that simple? Nice of them to ask, anyway. [Paradise]

It was faster without the new start screen but it still took at least 35 seconds and sometimes almost a minute to launch on an 8-GB machine. Part of that time was loading our plug-ins, which (like our Actions) survived the update.


We processed last Friday's slide show images in the new Photoshop but oddly none of those iPhone JPEGs showed up in the Recent Files menu listing. Hmmm.

We did have a full list of Recent Files on the start screen. We accidentally discovered you can scroll that list. The only visual clue that you might have to scroll, though, is a limit line, which just looks like a divider. You can thank the "flatter" design motif for that. [Chernobyl]

But back to the missing Recent Files issue. We did find a fix. Reset the list (from the menu command). After we did that, it started populating again.

Lloyd Chambers reported a similar problem when using Camera Raw, which he said Adobe is aware of and will patch promptly.


We shudder every time we read a familiar user interface has been updated. We feel a little like the blind person who has memorized their environment. And manages just fine, thank you, until some nut comes in and moves all the furniture around.

In the world of the user interface, this usually means the elegant Mac interface has been dumbed down. It's just a question of how far down. Down to cartoonish Windows or barely functional common widgets.

The goal is usually to use the same widgets whether the user is running OS X or Windows.

We don't think that's what's going on in this update, though.

Adobe seems to have decided to just keep the focus on the image, not the tools. So it isn't, thank all the deities, cartoonish. But it is spare. Spartan, even.

The buttons, for example, pick up the interface color theme (one of those shades of gray) for the body with the thinnest of lines indicating buttoness around the text. Pulldown menus are indicated by angles not triangles.

We could blame iOS for this trend, which we could call the minimalization of widgetry. Everything is less obvious [Chernobyl] because you already know what you need. Right.

There's also a touch interface aspect to this, which may be of interest to Microsoft Surface Pro users. That's what those buttons drawn next to the toolbar are all about. But they don't show up on non-touch devices.

Touch gestures have been around since 2014 on the Windows version. Oddly enough they still aren't supported on OS X despite the almost universal use of a trackpad.


You can now arrange the toolbar however you like and save the configuration to a workspace. The default set of workspaces has been streamlined to provide access to only the tools you need.

There's an ellipsis button at the bottom to edit the toolbar, as well as an Edit menu item.

Customize Toolbar. Drag the commands into the arrangement you prefer.

In the following video clip, Julieanne Kost explains how to customize the toolbar:

You can rearrange and eliminate commands but you can also set different keyboard triggers for the various commands. And you don't have to worry about conflicts because Photoshop will just display a subset of the commands triggered by any conflict, much like Keyboard Maestro.

We did peek at this briefly but its utility escapes us. We have everything we need in the toolbar and its all accessible on our monitor, so it isn't clear why we would want to eliminate anything or reorganize the tools.

But it's nice to know that if Adobe themselves devises a different configuration, we can always return to the classic one we know blind.


Adobe crippled its Export option in the previous release as it introduced a more efficient JPEG option. It wasn't more efficient that ImageOptim (which we rely on here) and it had the deal-breaking problem of dropping all metadata, including your copyright information and any color profile.

This time around, Export has a few useful preferences you can set to retain copyright metadata and output JPEGs as sRGB (the color profile used on the Web).

Export Preferences. Metadata and Color Profile retained.

Here's Julieanne Kost's walk-through of the new options:

So how does it compare to ImageOptim now?

We exported a 500-pixel image using the Quick Export option and the legacy Save For Web. Both saved JPEGs at a quality setting of 80 with an sRGB color profile and copyright metadata.

The legacy JPEG was 131K while the Quick Export was 140K. Running the legacy JPEG through ImageOptim (which is what we normally do) compacted the image to 125K, a 4.5 percent savings.

Just for fun we ran the Quick Export through ImageOptim. It yielded a 127K file, saving 9.1 percent but still not smaller than the legacy export.

So we're still not seeing Quick Export as an improvement over the legacy export.


Just walking through the various preference options is bewildering. It's a nice kind of bewilderment, though. You may not know what all the options are but when you run into a problem, it's comforting to think there may be a preference to handle it.

But there are still two options we'd like to see that are missing: Open Files points to last directory Open Files used and Save points to last directory Save used. They're always different around here but Photoshop still only suggests one.


Among the less advertised changes, we found:

  • The Oil Paint filter has returned. But it's been rewritten. Julieanne Kost gives a quick demo:
  • There's a new Graphic & Web workspace.
  • With some GPUs and large monitors you can enable 10-bit channels:

GPU Settings. Not everything is available for every GPU.

  • The Healing Brush now has a Diffusion option to reduce artifacts.


A number of new features are not particularly relevant to photographic retouching and image editing, although if you dabble as a designer, they're certainly useful tools.

Adobe Stock

We do dabble in design but we're loathe to use stock photography.

It's great to have access to treatments you created on your phone, though, accessible in Photoshop. We like to use Adobe Shape to great simplified photo treatments of common objects.

Design Space, Artboards

And Design Space optimizes the workspace for app and Web site designers. Multiple images, multiple treatments.

You might think that would be useful for image editing, comparing two edits side by side. But you could always align two files in the workspace so we don't see the value. Ditto for Artboards.

Adobe Fuse

With a model created in Adobe Fuse CC (Preview), you can apply poses and animations in Photoshop CC from the Creative Cloud 3D Animation (Preview) area within the Properties panel. Composite characters into any Photoshop project from a layout to a video, or print them with a 3D printer.


You can now tag individual fonts as favorites to make them easier to find. You can also narrow down a search by filtering fonts by classification, like serif or sans serif, or by similarity.

The Glyphs panel lets you see and insert your most recently used glyphs and sort glyphs for faster browsing. [Paradise]


We haven't worked with this release long enough to tell where Photoshop is going. Chernobyl or Paradise.

As disappointed as we are in the Export performance, we're happy to say we feel comfortable doing what we've always done in the application. There was even a moment when we wondered which version we were running.

And that's not a bad thing at all.

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