September 29, 2008

What’s new in Bridge CS4?

In this cycle our goal was to unlock the power of Bridge.  Bridge was already a highly capable, feature-rich application, so instead of slathering it with new features, our first task was to get more people to discover and use what’s there.  That meant changing the bang for the buck: raising the discoverability & usability of existing features while lowering the barriers to use (speed, launch time, memory usage).  We also wanted to add some key features that would help photographers while broadening the appeal of Bridge for all creative professionals–things like Web gallery creation & upload, and PDF contact sheet creation.


Adobe evangelist Julieanne Kost hast posted a great 30-minute tour of the new version:


A higher-res version is available on the Adobe TV site, and Julieanne has posted an excellent 5-page PDF overview that covers the details.  If you’re looking for a quicker bulleted list, read on.


  • Faster performance, supporting thousands of images per view
  • Refined work environment: The Bridge interface sports numerous tweaks that make it easier to find and access functionality, from the customizable workspace switcher bar to the "trail of breadcrumbs" navigation bar.
  • One-click full-screen previews: Tap the spacebar and Bridge will fill your screen with the selected image.  Click anywhere on the image to zoom in to 100%.  Use arrow keys to navigate among images, or tap the spacebar again to leave the full-screen view mode.
  • Collections: In addition to Bridge’s existing ability to save a query as a collection, the app now support more free-form collections–virtual folders into which you can drag any combination of assets.  A file can live in multiple collections, and the contents of collections can span multiple folders.
  • Greater control over previews and caching:
    • Sometimes, when doing a first quick pass through photos, you don’t need or want to spend time rendering the raw data for display.  Instead, just looking at the JPEG embedded by your camera is enough to make a keep/reject decision.  Bridge now supports an option to display just embedded JPEG data when browsing images.
    • On the flipside, sometimes you’d rather spend a little extra time building full-size previews of your images, so that when browsing you can immediately check image details.  Bridge now supports options for building full-size (1:1) previews and for caching these on disk for reuse.
  • Spotlight/Windows Desktop Search integration: Bridge is, at heart, a file browser, meaning it has a very direct connection to your file system.  File systems, however, are becoming more database-like in their ability to search quickly across tens of thousands of files.  By tapping into the operating system search mechanisms, Bridge can provide a front end to a whole disk (or a number of volumes at once).
  • Review Mode for refining selections: This carousel-style view lets you step through a series of image, whittling down your selection by knocking out non-keepers by pressing the down arrow.
  • Built-in Web gallery creation and upload:  Back in the day, my Web design team would inevitably find itself racing to gather a bunch of assets (Illustrator files, PSDs, etc.), conver them to JPEG, knit together a series of HTML pages, upload them to a server, adn then call the client for review.  Now you can greatly simplify the process by selecting files in Bridge, tweaking and previewing settings, and uploading everything directly from Bridge.  Templates include Flash & HTML options.
  • Built-in PDF contact sheet creation: Similar to Web gallery creation, PDF creation is part of the Output workspace and offers a much more interactive creation environment than the earlier Photoshop Contact Sheet plug-in.
  • List view enables viewing and sorting by a variety of criteria (rating, file type, etc.), and it works especially well with the much faster Filter panel.
  • Thumbnail grid view, a.k.a. "Grid Lock," makes it possible to keep images from appearing halfway on/off the screen while scrolling.  This facilitates image review for those who like to use a grid of thumbnails.  (This one’s the Jeff Schewe Memorial Feature.)
  • 3D file format previews: Bridge now provides an animated preview of the 3D formats (3DS, OBJ, U3D, and Collada) supported by Photoshop Extended.
  • The option to auto-launch at login helps ensure that Bridge is already set to go when you need it.  Additionally, on Windows Bridge is able to return to a sort of "stealth mode" when quit, meaning that it eats a very small amount of memory but can relaunch extremely quickly.
  • Auto-collection of HDR and panorama images: This is probably my favorite little "mint-on-the-pillow" feature.  Bridge can look at a selection of images, analyze both their pixels & their EXIF metadata, and automatically stack together components of panoramas & HDR merges.  Once it has built these stacks, you can choose "Process Collections in Photoshop" to have PS batch-create panos & HDR files.  I’ve really been enjoying using this one after walking around on vacation.
Posted by John Nack at 9:59 PM on September 29, 2008
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