"A Wonderful Webified Program"

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Adobe Photoshop has long set the standards for an image-editing program for output to print. Now, Adobe brings this professional image manipulation program into the Internet era with the release of Photoshop 5.5, an integrated suite that includes ImageReady 2.0. The combination of these programs provides a comprehensive environment for designing both print and Web graphics, eliminating the need to use a hodge-podge of different programs. Photoshop and ImageReady are still separate applications (though ImageReady is no longer available separately), but now you can toggle between the two by clicking a button in either program. The interface of both programs is Photoshop Interfacevery similar, and the palettes are nearly identical, so it is easy to switch from one to the other without a steep learning curve (see image to the left for Photoshop interface, and see image on the right for ImageReady interface). With ImageReady, you can create advanced Web graphics using sliced images, sophisticated JavaScript rollovers, dynamic animations, and image maps. ImageReady InterfacePhotoshop 5.5 also has powerful new Web functions such as optimization features to help you create high-qualtiy Web graphics with the smallest possible file sizes. By using the Save for Web command, you can preview your graphics under various compression levels (up to four) or check how a graphic will appear on both the Mac and a Windows PC. The program supports GIF, JPEG, PNG-8, and PNG-24 formats. Also there is a Lossy GIF feature which gives you 10-50% smaller GIF files, with minimal loss of image quality. Also new to version 5.5 is support for the PDF 1.3 format, making the program fully Save for Webcompatible with Adobe Acrobat 4. Some of the other new features or tools include: a button on the color picker dialog that only displays and lets you pick Web safe colors; an Art History brush that lets you apply painterly effects to your work; a smarter Eraser tool that lets you choose to erase all pixels or only those similar to the one you select; an Extract Image feature that helps in masking objects and backgrounds by pulling out an image you specify while minimizing the "haloing" that sometimes makes compositing obvious; and improved text tools.

Available for both PC and Macintosh. Price: $610 for all platforms. Registered users of Photoshop 5.0 and later and ImageReady 1.0 can upgrade to version 5.5 for $129. Registered users of earlier versions of Photoshop can upgrade to version 5.5 for $199. The Adobe Web site has a wealth of information on related software. Great place for beginner users to peruse for general information, step-by-step instructions on many features, upgrades, free downloadable demos, Adobe Magazine subscription, and other downloadable files. There is also an extensive selection of cool tips and tricks, available from the site as well. Web site: http://www.adobe.com

Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced computer users. Photoshop can be fun, and it is not as complicated as you might think. Considering the complexity of functions it allows the user to perform, it is user friendly. Beginners might want to start with Photoshop LE (Photoshop Limited Edition) which provides the features hobbyists and small businesses need, but lacks the high level production elements graphics professionals use. And the price is less. For individuals who just want to delve right in, there are many great on-line classes, learning videos, and books for all level users.

What's New in Photoshop 5.5

  • Save for Web Dialog Box--Allows two-up and four-up previewing of images in different Web graphics file formats and with different file attributes.
  • New Web Features--Optimize images for the Web in GIF, JPEG, and PNG file format, create background transparency and background matting, and preview and control dithering.
  • Magic Eraser Tool--Erases solid-colored areas to transparency with a single click.
  • Background Eraser Tool--Erases areas to transparency by dragging. This tool is useful for assigning transparency to the background around hard-edged objects.
  • Extract Command--Extracts foreground objects from their background. Designed to isolate objects with wispy or intricate edges.
  • Art History Brush Tool--Paints with stylized strokes that approximate the look of different paint styles.
  • Automated Export of Multiple Images--Three new or enhanced commands automate the export of multiple images: Contact Sheet II places a series of images as thumbnail previews on a single page; Picture Package places multiple copies of a source image on a single page, similar to the photo packages traditionally sold by portrait studios; Web Photos Gallery exports a collection of images as a Web site, automatically creating the required HTML files.
  • Auto Contrast Command--Lets you adjust the highlights and shadows of images automatically.
  • Contiguous Option--Restricts the action of the magic wand or paint bucket tool to pixels immediately adjacent to the area clicked. Deselecting this option allows all eligible pixels in the image to be selected or filled.
  • New Type Options in the Type Tool Dialog Box--Let you apply simulated type styles, choose from various anti-aliasing methods, and better control the placement of low-resolution type. Indexed Color Options
  • New Indexed Color Options Under the Indexed Color Command--Let you control dithering, the color table, and assign background transparency. In addition, you can use the color table to assign transparency to a specified color in the image.
  • GIF and PNG Transparency Support--Provides direct support for transparent areas in indexed-color images. In addition, GIF directly supports transparency in RGB images.
  • Direct GIF Support for RGB Images--Lets you save RGB images directly in GIF format using the Save a Copy command now.
  • Expanded TIFF Support--Opens (in Photoshop) TIFF files that have been saved using the Deflate and JPEG compression methods.
  • New JPEG Save Options--Let you control the appearance of originally transparent areas, compress file sizes further, and preview the size and download time of the file when saving as JPEG.
  • PDF Color Support for CMYK Images--Lets you embed ICC profiles when saving a CMYK image in PDF format.

What's New in ImageReady 2.0

  • Improved Optimization--ImageReady allows two-up and four-up viewing of images, and Optimizationautomatically generates smaller optimized versions of the current image. You can also save and apply named optimization settings. The graphic on the right shows an image in ImageReady using a 2-up view.
  • Slicing--Sophisticated slicing capabilities enable you to divide a document into sections, making it easier to arrange multiple elements (such as buttons, banners, and graphics) and selectively optimize selections of a document.
  • Rollovers--You can create rollover effects in which different states of an image are activated when a user rolls over or clicks a slice, for example. You can display images or animations as rollover states.
  • Improved Animation--It is easier to select frames (including multiple contiguous or discontiguous frames), to specify delay or duration, and to optimize animation files. You can also import QuickTime-compatible movie formats, including MOV, AVI, and Flic to view and edit.
  • Layer Effects and Styles--ImageReady includes layer effects--automated effects that youLayer Styles can apply to layers. ImageReady includes pattern and gradient fill effects, as well Layer Effectsas all the layer effects available in Photoshop. You now have drop shadows, glows, beveling, embossing, and solid color fill. ImageReady also includes Styles--sets of layer effects that you can save and reapply. The image to the left shows various layer effects you can choose from in ImageReady, and the image on the right shows the styles that you can choose.
  • Shape Tools--New shape tools, including the rectangle, rounded rectangle, and ellipse tools, let you draw basic shapes on an image. Like the line tool, the shape tools create bitmap shapes (not vector objects).
  • Type Enhancements--ImageReady editable type is now fully compatible with Photoshop type. New options in the Type tool dialog box let you apply simulated type styles, choose from various anti-aliasing methods, and better control the placement of low-resolution type. You can also add type directly on the type layer in an image (rather than in the Type tool dialog box).

Tight Integration of Photoshop and ImageReady: The link on the Tool Box in each program makes it easy to jump from one program to the other. Once you click the Jump To button in Photoshop, the file is automatically imported into ImageReady with the layers and paths intact, basically preserving all aspects of a standard .psd file. Once both programs are open, you can go back and forth between them, keeping the same file open, thus no closing and saving the file, no reopening in the other program, no dragging between windows. You can even use the History palette to erase steps performed in the other program.

Save for Web Dialog Box and Web Features: The new Web features make this upgrade a must for anyone creating Web pages. The Save for Web option offers a choice of 2-up or 4-up views for comparing the original image with optimized versions. The image quality can be compared across JPEG Optionswindows while scrolled or zoomed to any point in the image, since all four side-by-side windows scroll and zoom together. Also, the image can be viewed as it would appear with Netscape or Internet Explorer, using standard Macintosh or Windows color settings. For JPEG images compression settings (see image to the left), you can select among low, medium, or maximum image quality or specify a number between 1 and 100 for more subtle control; a blur can be specified to reduce artifacts; a matte background GIF Optionscolor can be selected for semi-transparent pixels progressive display can be enabled or disabled; and optimization can be applied. You can also specify a target file size, and Photoshop will try different quality JPEG settings and match the desired file size while optimizing image quality. For GIF images (see image to the right), you can control the color table size and makeup; method of dither used; degree of loss; use of interface; and can specify a matte color for semitransparent Photoshop source image pixels.Presets This color table can be the standard Web table, an adaptive table of specified size, selective, perceptual, or custom. Each view displays details about that view such as format, file size, download time, number of colors, compression, and more. There are preset GIF and JPG combinations that offer quick optimization in both Photoshop and ImageReady (see image to the right). You can also add custom combinations to the Optimization Named settings.

Extract Command: This tool is great for isolating a foreground object from its background. It works well with objects with wispy, intricate, or undefinable edges. The Extract Command Optionsfeature is easy to use, with a variety of options in the dialog box to give you control over what you are doing. And you can preview and refine your results of extraction as many times as necessary before performing the final action. I think the feature streamlines the process of making a transparency, and does a good job of "decontaminating" the edge pixels which effectively removes the tint of background color or halo Extract Commandeffect. Inexperienced users of Photoshop or transparency techniques should find the Extract command a useful feature. Experienced users could use it and then refine their work further using Photoshop's Background Eraser, Cloning tool, or History brush. On the left is the Extract command dialog box, and on the right is a graphic showing a photo with a background and then the same photo after extracting the background. I really liked the Extract feature, and was surprised at the excellent job it did on wispy hair.

Magic Eraser Tool: The Magic Eraser Magic Eraser erases sections of a layer--creating transparency--with a simple click of your mouse. You can control whether it erases all pixels on a layer that are similar in value to the one you first clicked or only similar pixels that are contiguous to the one you first clicked. You can also set tolerance levels that define how close in value other pixels must be for the magic eraser to make them transparent. The graphic on the left shows an original photo and then the photo after using the Magic Eraser tool. This tool is perfect for removing a color from a hard-edged object.

Background Eraser Tool: The tool works similarly to the Magic Eraser tool, except you make pixels transparent by dragging rather than clicking. As you drag the mouse across an image, the Background Eraser Toolbackground eraser dynamically erases pixels. In addition, you control Using Backgroun Eraserwhether dragging with this tool erases all the pixels you drag over, only those that match the first pixel sampled, or only pixels that match the current background color. You also determine whether dragging erases contiguous or noncontiguous pixels that match your masking criteria. Other options let you control the tool's brush size (or the size of the swathe you create as you drag), as well as set the tolerance and the relative softness or hardness of the remaining object edges. Like the Extract command, this tool "decontaminates" the edge pixels, thus removing the tint of background color. The image to the left shows the dialog box for the Background Eraser tool, and the image on the right shows a before and after image. Sometimes you might want to use a combination of eraser tools, and you can switch between the Eraser, Magic Eraser, and Background Eraser tools by pressing Shift+E. The Magic Eraser, Background Eraser, and Extract command work well with backgrounds of relatively homogeneous colors.

Art History Brush: This brush lets you paint stylized strokes on an image, using the source data Art History Brush Optionsfrom a specified history state or snapshot. You can control size, fidelity, tolerance, and stroke style options for the brush, which all affect the Art History Brushresults of the paint simulation. You then simply move the Art History brush around on your image, interactively creating realistic paint strokes, and you don't have to specify colors or apply careful strokes. Once you learn the basics of the Art History brush, you can combine it with other Photoshop tools with artful results. The image to the right shows how the Art History brush can bring life to a rather ordinary photo. It is a fun tool and easy to use.

Auto Contrast Command: This is a great command for a quick contrast adjustment. It lets you adjust the highlights and shadows of an image automatically. The command maps the darkest and Auto Contrast Commandlightest pixels in the image to black and white, causing highlights to appear lighter and shadows darker. When adjusting the contrast, Photoshop ignores the first 0.5% range of both the white and black pixels in the image. This clipping of color values ensures that white and black values are representative areas of the image's content, rather than extreme pixel values. The graphic on the right shows a an image before auto contrast and the same image after the Auto Contrast command has been applied. I used the Auto Contrast command for a quick enhancement on all the photos in this review.

Creating Multiple Image Layouts: Photoshop 5.5 automates the creation of contact sheets, picture packages, and navigable HTML pages, saving you the time of creating them by hand.

Contact Sheets--Using the Contact Sheet II command, you can display a series of Contact Sheet Optionsthumbnail previews on a single page. You can choose whether to Contact Sheetarrange thumbnails horizontally (front left to right, then top to bottom) or vertically (from top to bottom, then left to right); enter the number of columns and rows that you want per contact sheet; label the thumbnails using their source image filenames; and specify a caption font. The image to the left shows the Contact Sheet II dialog box, and the image to the right shows a contact sheet.

Picture Packages--With the Picture Package command, you can place multiple copies Picture PackagePicture Package Boxof a source image on a single page, similar to the photo packages traditionally sold by portrait studios. You can choose from a variety of size and placement options to customize your package layout. The image to the left shows the Picture Package dialog box, and the image to the right shows an example of a Picture Package.

Web Photo Galleries--The Web Photo Gallery command lets you export your images Web Gallery Dialog Boxas a gallery Web site, complete with a thumbnails index page, individual JPEG image pages, and navigable links. Photoshop automatically processes the images and HTML code to simplify the task of publishing your images online. The image to the left shows the Web Photo Gallery dialog box. If you click on the image to the right, you can view a Web Gallery that I created from some of the photos used in this review. This feature is really easy to use and fun!

Type Options: Several new options in Photoshop and ImageReady, in the Type tool dialog box let you apply simulated type styles, choose from various anti-aliasing methods, and better control the placement of low-resolution type. Anti-aliasing lets you produce smooth-edged type by partially filling the edge pixels, and can make Type Dialog Boxsmall type sizes appear more readable when viewed online. The new anti-aliasing options now enable you to select from three levels of anti-aliasing to modify the appearance of type online: crisp, strong, and smooth. You can also choose none to apply no anti-aliasing. Photoshop now includes simulated type styles for bold, italic, and underline type, allowing you to apply these styles to any type, even type created with font families that do not include these styles. Photoshop and ImageReady display type using fractional character widths. This means that the spacing between characters varies, with fractions of whole pixels between some characters. For type in small sizes that are displayed online, fractional character widths can cause type to run together, making it difficult to read. You can now turn off fractional character widths. The image to the right shows the three levels of anti-aliasing, type styles, and fractional widths check box.

ImageReady: The program offers a variety of advanced controls for creating Web graphics. You can perform such tasks as JavaScript rollovers, animations, sliced images and image maps and Temple and GardenImageReady will write the JavaScript and HTML to make your task easy. One of the best features is the ability to optimize slices individually. This feature is especially helpful if your image includes both text and photos, since you can save the text as a GIF, and save the photos as JPEGs. The graphic to the left shows an image that was sliced and then different formats and compression settings were used on each area. You can drag and drop to apply the different settings. For anyone wanting to create sophisticated graphics for the Web, without knowing any HTML, this is the perfect program.

Wish List: Here is the list for the next version.

  • Putting some of ImageReady's features right in Photoshop;
  • Ability to use Actions macros between ImageReady and Photoshop instead of creating them in each program;
  • More tools for generating masks;
  • Ability to type in the name or partial name of a font, as in Illustrator, rather than use a font selection "pull down" menu;
  • Similar handling of text editing in both programs;
  • More types of strokes for the Art History brush;
  • Ability to have custom titles for captions in Web photo gallery;
  • Frame options for Web photo gallery.

When I first installed Photoshop 5.5, I thought, "so, what's new. The interface looks basically the same, and there are not a slew of new features as you had with the release of 5.0. But there are significant differences to make Photoshop 5.5 a wise upgrade. The focus of this release is on Web features, and serious Web designers will welcome these features. The control you have when saving graphics for the Web allows for easy multipurposing of graphics content, keeping the original file in Photoshop native format for optimal quality, future flexibility, and integration into other Adobe programs. And the improvements to basic tasks, such as batch processing with Photoshop, make this a must program for print designers as well. The "Automate" menu that includes multi-page PDF output, Web Photo Gallery production, and Picture Package will save individuals who design for print considerable time. The integrated programs with shared common commands, tools, palettes, and keyboard shortcuts provide for a more efficient workflow. My recommendation: Buy it! Use it! And Enjoy!

I want to thank Global Exchange for sponsoring the trip to Israel/Palestine: http://www.globalexchange.org Also, I want to thank my fellow travelers for letting me take their photos and putting them in this review.



Pentium or faster Intel processor
Windows 95/98/NT4.0 or later
64 MB of RAM (96 MB of RAM or more to run Photoshop & ImageReady concurrently)
125 MB of available hard disk space
256 colors (8-bit) display adapter (24-bit color recommended)
CD ROM drive
Sound card recommend for viewing interactive tutorial files


PowerPC based Macintosh computer
Apple System Software 7.6 or later
64 MB of RAM (96 MB of RAM or more to run Photoshop & ImageReady concurrently)
125 MB of available hard disk space
Color monitor with 256 colors (8-bit) or greater video card (24-bit color recommended)
CD ROM drive

Graphics: Adobe ImageStyler & Adobe Photoshop 5.5
Web Page Editor: Dreamweaver 3.0
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series
Trip Sponsors: Global Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.org