March 19, 2009

Adjustments & the future of the Photoshop UI

The new Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS4 is a polarizing feature. Some people love it; others, not so much. My job is to help improve things as we move forward, so I want to hear your feedback.

Just asking for comments in a vacuum, however, isn’t going to produce useful results. Therefore I’m planning to publish three related posts:

  1. The bigger picture of where we’re going with the Photoshop interface, and why
  2. An overview of the advantages Adjustments provides right now
  3. Some ideas on how to improve it in the future

As for feedback on this post, for now please focus on the big picture. The subsequent posts will provide a chance to gather specific, actionable feedback about the current & future versions of the panel. Preamble aside, please read on in this post’s extended entry.


Let’s start with some pretty uncontroversial statements:

Wherever possible, software should do the Right Thing automatically, as its default behavior.

  • Keeping one’s work flexible, so that it’s possible to revisit a decision later & to adjust settings that were previously applied, is generally preferable to having to make a hard-and-fast decision. That’s why things like layers in Photoshop & metadata-based editing in Camera Raw/Lightroom are popular. We often call this style of working “non-destructive,” in that data isn’t being transformed in a way that can’t be reversed, but “re-editable” or simply “flexible” might be a better adjective.
  • Browsing among controls on screen is generally preferable to “menu-diving” (accessing a range of independent dialogs one at a time). Again, browsability is one of the nice things about Camera Raw & especially Lightroom: you can see numerous parameters at once, freely tweaking them & seeing their interactions (screenshot).
  • Working non-modally (that is, without needing to enter/exit a special editing mode) generally beats working modally. For example, grabbing a brush and just painting an image beats having to go into a special brushing mode and/or window, do your work, and then come back. The pros and cons are a little more mixed on this point, but generally speaking, it’s nice to edit things immediately & directly.

So, in an ideal world, Photoshop would apply filters, adjustments, and transformations non-destructively by default, and it would let you browse and adjust the parameters through a non-modal interface.

Of course, this is not quite an ideal world. When Photoshop started life, little if anything in it was re-editable. There were no layers, no non-destructive adjustments, no re-editable type, no Smart Objects/Smart Filters, etc. Just about everything was driven through dialog boxes–something that’s remains largely true today.

Therefore it’s been necessary to retrofit PS to support more efficient, flexible ways of working. You’re seeing a work in progress, a migration from modal/destructive/menu-driven to non-modal/non-destructive/browsable. Perhaps needless to say, this is hardly an overnight process.

The richness that’s possible in a PSD file (deeply nested layers, Smart Objects within Smart Objects, placed raw data/vector art/3D files/video layers, re-editable filters & layer effects, advanced blending options, and so on) totally outstrips the Layers panel‘s ability to display & control it. Instead of simply displaying & adjusting the structure of your document, Layers tries to show just about everything. And for simple lack of screen real estate, it just can’t do the job.

Photoshop needs a properties inspector, a panel that lets you view & adjust the parameters of the selected object. (See examples from Illustrator, Fireworks.) Such a panel can supplant & control other dedicated panels, making it possible to display more info & yet fewer panels on screen. (There’s generally no need to show Character & Paragraph controls, for example, unless you have a text object selected.)

New panels in CS4–Adjustments, Masks, and 3D–represent movement in this direction. Adjustments in particular is a properties inspector: it displays & adjusts the parameters of the selected adjustment layer, changing its contents according to selection. It facilitates browsing both presets & adjustments already applied.

To set expectations correctly, I have to say that we’re not planning to deliver a grand unified properties inspector in the next version of Photoshop. Moving Photoshop from Carbon to Cocoa has to take priority, and it’s a lot of work. As long as the team is reworking large swaths of code, however, we’re rewriting the UI to be much more flexible. (That rework was always on the roadmap regardless of Cocoa.) That’ll support the vision I’m describing & much more in time.

I wish I could show you a mockup of how Adjustments & other controls (type, layer styles, filters, etc.) fit into a larger properties inspector in Photoshop, but we’re not yet at that point. Trust me, though: I expect the fusion to be elegant & powerful.

I need to mention all this now so that you can view Adjustments in the context of the bigger picture. The panel provides real benefits now–which Bryan O’Neil Hughes will detail in the next post–and it’s part of a long, important migration towards a more streamlined, efficient Photoshop.

Posted by John Nack at 6:52 AM on March 19, 2009

Comments

  • Klaus Nordby — 7:31 AM on March 19, 2009

    Wow, this is One Major Posting, John — it’s fascinating reading, and I’m looking forward to the next episode, same time & same channel!

  • James Hebert — 9:50 AM on March 19, 2009

    I lean toward the word “editable” rather than re-editable… seems leaner and cleaner, plus it’s just plain true (grin).
    Semantics aside, thanks for the 30,000 foot view. Nice to know you have long-term plans and are looking at ways to take steps toward them, plus not to expect it all in the next version.
    I have to admit I’m not keen on the new Adjustments panel, primarily because I haven’t really got a grip on how to work with it efficiently. I understand it, but I don’t “get it” yet, and that slows me down.
    If what you’re referring to as Illustrator’s “Appearance” palette is a possibility for Photoshop’s future, I find that particular palette powerful but confusing, and all too often I forget about it (my attention is on the work) and only end up returning to it when I remember to think about it. I wish it were more usable by folks who are not daily AI users, like me!
    One aspect of pop-up panels and windows that *is* a benefit you might keep in mind… when it appears, the eye is drawn to the motion, and there’s no time lost “hunting for that control.” In a more palette-oriented world, if there were a way to home in something, even if it momentarily flashed or glowed or grew, it might help alleviate the pain of working with the newer tools and their newer modes of use.
    Thanks, John.
    James
    [Good feedback all around, James–thanks. We’ll get to the topic of using Adjustments more efficiently soon enough. –J.]

  • Thomas — 9:53 AM on March 19, 2009

    Earlier this year i’ve started reading and studying sources about software development to gather more understanding about this highly complex topic.
    the most beautiful thing i’ve realized reading perspectives of a software developer is the love to details in every pixel of a UI, how it behaves, what purposes it has to fulifill do and which not, how much information should a dialogue contain, waht fint and size it should have, etc…
    I love it. Those people speak right out of my heart whenever using software which is powerful under its hood but wondering about what the heck the UI-developer did intended creating such a wasted unintuitive UI and its commands using it…
    besides programming software itself is something highly to respect, i think designing UIs and streamlining for better user experience must be truly a kind of passion and love that someone is putting into its work..
    Go for it!
    Best regards,
    Thomas

  • Jim Pogozelski — 10:05 AM on March 19, 2009

    Thanks for writing all this.
    Big picture — make it optional to use pop-up (modal) boxes or LR-style always-on panels. Both ways are useful for different situations.

  • Allen Gambrell — 10:33 AM on March 19, 2009

    Please add the abilty to click on the spot you want to move the slider to. It is very distracting having to drag the slider every time in the adjustment panel.
    [Can you elaborate? I just tried clicking the sliders on various adjustments & it worked as I’d expect. Are you asking for the hit regions to be larger? –J.]

  • MikeD — 10:45 AM on March 19, 2009

    Not sure if it’s topical, but it sure would be nice if PS could run batched processes minimized…on a Mac it keeps restoring itself and wanting to make itself the active application. Not “pixels-related” UI, but UI nonetheless.
    …Mike
    [Yeah, that’s all tied into the rearchitecture work we’re doing. We want to split the UI away from the guts of the app, so that the two can be separated/combined much more flexibly. –J.]

  • James Darknell — 11:07 AM on March 19, 2009

    I’m all for non modal panels. it would be great to have a properties/attributes panel that displays the pertinent info for the selected object. If you have a text layer, the text settings should show, a image layer should display something else.
    [Exactly. –J.]
    I obviously haven’t thought about it as much as you but I do like the direction its going. I’m not a fan of the icons for adjustment layers though as i never know what they are, even though I use Photoshop some 8+ hours a day.

  • john renfrew — 11:26 AM on March 19, 2009

    The other thing to remember is that keyboard use is a LOT quicker than mouse use for many, particularly repetitive tasks, and there still needs to be a way to programme all my lovely function keys with those simple but oh so time saving tasks when it all goes non-modal.
    M, shift M help us to select the right tool easily so something needs to also be in place when lots of STUFF is gathered into one mega-‘panel’ to do simple yey borad navigation.
    Ths other issue is about visual junk on screen – see the work of Edward Tufte – It’s why I have lower case tabs turned on in InDesign – which also needs to come to PS btw – because just having all the available adjustment buttons on screen every time you want to make ‘one’ does not neccessarily make the one you want quicker or easier to find.
    This blog is a fantastic insight into stuff that really matters to those of us who pay for the software to use in our every day jobs – thanks.

  • Coerv — 11:49 AM on March 19, 2009

    Thanks for letting us know something about how photoshop is going to develop. That makes me really curious. I’m sure youll make a good job.
    I haven’t worked with CS4 yet, I’m still with CS3. But I think I wouldn’t use the adjustment-panel. It takes so much space, for something that the little Icon on the layers-panel did, as well.
    Though I like the idea of an apearance-panel like in illustrator, to unclutter the layers-panel.
    Please don’t make a properties inspector, like in Flash, Dreamweaver or Fireworks. It is so huge and with panels, timeline and toolbar turned on, the canvas ist obstructed from all sides. And its often either almost empty or very untidy, because it offers me too many things that I don’t need.
    I always prefered the Adobe-Way, with the elegant and slim context-sensitive bar at the top of the application, that only contains the functions I need and the other ones are given a specific place, so I can go and get them, when I need them.
    I hope you could understand something of what I have written here. I’m not a native english-speaker, so sorry for all the mistakes.
    Greetings from Berlin

  • Scott Valentine — 12:05 PM on March 19, 2009

    John – would moving globally towards properties inspectors also imply you could automatically switch or display tools and options based on the active object type? I’m imagining something that looks like a Configurator panel that is ‘aware’ of the active/selected object and presents custom (or a customizable selection of) tools – 3D, type, vector – so you don’t have to pack so many variations into the main toolbar.
    I’ve really enjoyed the panels, though I do find myself still double-clicking on an adjustment layer and being confused for a moment that the dialog doesn’t pop up… Old habits, I suppose. So, the idea of a dynamic inspector tied to a layer would be an amazing work flow enhancement.
    I love to see software focused on “doing it well” ahead of “doing more”. It would be interesting to see a list at some point of all the cool stuff that never made it to production because the level of quality couldn’t be guaranteed.

  • Rich MacDonald — 12:23 PM on March 19, 2009

    The only drawback to the panel implementation I can think of is that the modal versions had easier keyboard shortcuts; now the shortcuts need to not conflict with all the other shortcuts usually available. The properties/attributes panel might alleviate this as the same shortcuts could be used for different purposes depending on what was currently selected.

  • Sean Curry — 3:09 PM on March 19, 2009

    John, Thanks for your blog and ongoing conversation on Photoshop. I am a “medium” user – conversant with most features but not an expert (yet). I find the new Adjustments and Masks panels very helpful, Masks in particular. I find myself using Masks a lot more now, and more effectively, than in CS3. I think that’s a vote that PS is headed in the right direction. I suspect that some of the negative comments come from the real experts, but remember that the PS user community has a lot of folks like me!

  • Stephen Best — 5:08 PM on March 19, 2009

    Modeless panels create a number of issues with keyboard shortcuts and how individual edits marry with the History, something that CS4 hasn’t fully got sorted.
    I’d much rather see Adobe puts its efforts into threading each document so I can be working on one while saving another (for example).

  • David Plummer — 6:20 PM on March 19, 2009

    Please could you get a grip on your icons as they are really starting to confuse me. You have some icons which toggle functions and display status, some which are buttons to trigger actions and others with pop up menus. Also, the icons are so small and many pictures do not give a clear indication of the function that they drive.
    A good example of poor UI is the toggle button on the main adjustment panel (three circles lower right) which changes the default behavior when adding an adjustment layer – either as a clipping layer on the layer below or to all layers below. It took me three weeks to find out that this button was driving different behaviors in the UI between 64-bit and 32-bit Vista.
    NB Can we have a common config file for 64-bit and 32-bit Vista on Windows and a switch to choose which version to launch from Bridge. It’s frustrating trying to keep the workspaces in sync and make sure that the right version launches (not all plug-ins are 64-bit yet).

  • Robert Barnett — 7:15 PM on March 19, 2009

    I really used to like the fact that when you added a new and improved way of doing something in Photoshop that you left the old way of doing as well.
    However, over the last couple of updates to Photoshop it has becomes very confusing and messy because of this.
    I think it is a good idea that when for example you added adjustment layers that you left the old way of applying those adjustments so that people can still get work done while learning the new and improved way of doing things. The new better workflow. However, I think it is time for Adobe to start to remove these old ways so that Photoshop doesn’t become more and more cluttered and confusing.
    I also think based on what some friends have said and watching them use CS4 that by leaving the old ways in Photoshop that it gives them an excuse not to learn the new better ways of doing things.
    Sure people will complain when the only option for levels or curves, etc. has to be done through adjustment layers but this will force them to learn the new and improved workflow a modern workflow that once they adjust will see it is a better way.
    I have a couple of friends that have upgraded to every new version of Photoshop but still only use the features that were in CS 1. When I asked them about why that is it is because they can. There has been no incentive for them to learn the new ways because they can do it the old way.
    Non-destructive editing is the future no doubt and Adobe should be proud that they are the founding father of this. But is time to remove some of the old ways and move Photoshop in to the future without becoming a big message of features that all do the same thing but in slightly different ways.
    Robert

  • Michael Adler — 8:08 PM on March 19, 2009

    Having used the modal adjustment layers for adjustments in the past, I have to say I really dislike the new non-modal versions. Interestingly, it is mainly because of a different interpretation of your reason #1. Being able to revisit a decision is important. The clear meaning of “undo” with the modal versions of the dialogs makes it easy to undo a change to an adjustment layer. In the non-modal version the history states that are preserved are much less clear and undo is unpredictable.
    Given the claimed desire to allow for greater configurability and the fact that the modal dialogs remain in the code I really don’t understand why the choice between modal and non-modal dialogs isn’t a global preference. This especially since you admit it is polarizing. Aren’t preferences supposed to deal with such polarizing decisions?

  • Toby Fairchild — 9:28 PM on March 19, 2009

    Great topic for discussion. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the adjustment layers (and masks) panel in Photoshop CS4. Mostly on the good side though. My only gripe is that while Adobe has, in my opinion, moved mountains both in terms of what we the end users see and the under the hood stuff we can’t see, Adobe has done a less than stellar job (early on) in getting us on board with these time saving improvements. Just to help clarify my point, here is an example. I was quite puzzled at the new adjustments panel when I first saw it. I knew it was there for a reason. I could kind-of make it work….but I didn’t see any real advantage to it one way or another. Then some 4 or 5 months go by and having seen a number of tutorials on these panels…I still didn’t get it, and apparently neither did the tutorial instructors. Not until I saw Julienne Kost’s demonstration on her site of the masks and adjustment layers workflow….bouncing back and forth between different adjustment layers and their corresponding layer masks…did a lightbulb go off. It was presented, for the first time, the way Adobe intended them to be used. Then and only then did it make sense to use them as opposed to how they would have been used in CS3 and prior. Adobe should do a better job of explaining how the new features will benefit the end user rather than just touting new features. To be fair, for the most part, most upgraded features are self explanatory but this particular example, I was never shown to any degree why this way was better or faster, nor did I have the time to try to figure out what Adobe was thinking by including it. Actually it WAS faster for me to do it the old way than to try to figure out “the NEW way” especially without even knowing if there was a payoff for learning the new way. I’m not sure what my 2 cents accomplishes, but I do remember having a very visceral thorn in my side about the panels. I do use them and have adapted my work flow now that I know how it can save me time. Every other instructor showed the “feature”….a new panel, but none that I saw showed the benefit of doing it another way.

  • Matt — 10:31 PM on March 19, 2009

    Thanks for the insight! I think there is no doubt that we all love non-destructive edits. Smart objects are awesome!
    However, I am a little disturbed by the idea of losing keyboard shortcuts. Losing Cmd-tab for changing selected curve-points HURTS. Not being able to Cmd-click to create an anchor point instantly HURTS. (I know you can click into the curve dialog to enable this, but you see the problem? More mousing!) I understand that moving to modal means some things must change, but it seems to me that shortcut customization has quite a ways to go.
    I would love to see EVERY action in photoshop short-cut able. Each user has their own quirks, and applications that favor customization often win out over those that don’t.
    Thanks!

  • Luke — 11:17 PM on March 19, 2009

    Maybe off topic but, why isn’t Photoshop (and other Adobe products like Flash) not build on top of Eclipse? Adobe already seems to have some experience gained with producing Flex Builder. It seems like a good idea to use a Rich Client Platform like Eclipse to blur the line between different OS’es further.

  • Martin Schaefer — 12:06 AM on March 20, 2009

    [John Nack]Let’s start with some pretty uncontroversial statements:
    Wherever possible, software should do the Right Thing automatically, as its default behavior.[/John Nack]
    My personal preference is that software should NOT try to know or anticipate what is “right” for me. My experience is that software fails to know what I want.
    I wholeheartedly hate the trend to let software do things automatically by default.
    [That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about “Brushy the Talking Airbrush” saying “Howdy, pardner! Looks like you’re tryin’ to retouch a *photo*!” I just mean that where possible, Photoshop should default to working in the most flexible, non-modal way possible. –J.]
    Bottomline:
    I doubt that this very first statement is as uncontroversial as you say, John.
    [Sorry if I wasn’t as clear as I should be. –J.]

  • Benny Thaibert — 2:50 AM on March 20, 2009

    I enjoy the new adjustment panel. The option I miss: Turn off the presets dropdowns. They take up a lot of space and they should be optional. That would make it more slick.
    Another cool thing: When I clik on the adjustment layer icon in the layers panel – it will turn adjustment panel on. Cool. When I then click on the Mask panel … I start wondering when an update comes.

  • Michael Madsen — 4:31 AM on March 20, 2009

    Hi
    As always, an interesting post looking forward…
    As others have pointed out, the crucial dealbreaker when going towards working modally is shortcuts… An area that still needs HUGE improvements – especially for all of us europeans and other non-us residents using non-english keyboards. The current implememtation is a PITA and it’s only made worse in CS4.
    Total control over shortcuts is far more important (when you charge by the hour :-) ) than wether you work modally or non- modally or whatever you choose to call it…
    On a second note, despite my love for all things Adobe and the incredible new features in every new iteration of the suite – I still think way to much effort is put into new features compared to how much work (IMHO) that should go into fixing long standing issues and under the hood improvements… like the handling of channels that hasn’t been giving an overhaul in years …
    speed is king – time is the devil….

  • fiddlergene — 5:42 AM on March 20, 2009

    great post. I just hope you keep in mind that the path to making things in PS simpler is NOT to make them more complicated.

  • Trevor Morris — 5:53 AM on March 20, 2009

    John (et al),
    Regarding the Adjustments panel, I wish I could bind shortcuts to the non-modal adjustment. Sure, I can assign shortcuts to the New Adjustment Layer menu items, but those bring up the layer properties dialog (which I always dismiss/accept with the Enter key). Conversely, when you select an adjustment from the Adjustment panel, no dialog appears.
    For now, I’ve bound my adjustment layer shortcuts to the equivalent ScriptListener output from the Adjustments panel. Not ideal, but it works.
    Some other minor points (feature requests) for working with adjustments:
    * Holding down the Alt/Opt key when adding an adjustment via the menus should skip the layer properties dialog (both for consistency, as well as convenience).
    * I want to be able to assign shortcuts to the adjustment commands that appear in the Adjustment panel (and at the bottom of the Layers panel), since they bypass the layer properties dialog. (This point would be moot if the Alt/Opt key mentioned above were implemented).
    * It’s my understanding that the ellipsis following a menu command indicates that a dialog will appear. If that’s true, then the adjustment commands in the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” button (at the bottom of the Layers panel) should not have an ellipsis, since they add an adjustment without showing a dialog.
    [Thanks an interesting semantic point. The ellipsis indicates that you’ll be prompted for parameters. Historically that’s meant a dialog, but I think that having a panel show up seems conceptually quite similar to me. –J.]
    Finally, while I like the Adjustment panel, it’s taking me a while to get used to the new shortcuts (especially those for the Curves adjustment). I refuse to install the “restore old shortcuts” plugin, because I know we’re not going back, so I might as well get used them. :)
    [Good man. :-) –J.]
    Thanks as always for listening, and for sharing these insightful posts.

  • Trevor Morris — 6:02 AM on March 20, 2009

    For what it’s worth, I love the idea of a Properties Inspector — and always thought Photoshop should have one. Back in the day, even ImageReady had an inspector, and as mentioned, Illustrator has a very useful inspector as well.
    I’ve always been more excited about the “little things” in Photoshop (and other applications) than the marketing-worthy additions. For example, scrubby sliders are way more useful (to me) on a daily basis than Vanishing Point. Anything that helps me get the everyday stuff done faster, more efficiently, in fewer steps, with less resources, etc., is of greatest value to me.
    I look forward to seeing what the future brings.

  • David Zarzecki — 6:40 AM on March 20, 2009

    John, to echo what others have said, thank you for this overview of where we’re headed, and why it’s a good thing.
    Of course, with change comes adaptation and adjustment, and I think the time to convince users about this is BEFORE it happens, and not after. When we jump into a new upgrade with our eyes wide and expectations high from the marketing hype and soundbites that have teased us in the pre-launch extravaganzas, it’s like the disappointed kid on Christmas morning finding out that their new toy doesn’t behave in reality quite like it did on the commercials on Saturday morning.
    I guess what I’m saying is, I want to, and I do believe you that this is a good thing, but don’t tell us this months after we’ve installed CS4, and grown to loathe the Adjustments panel, and find it annoying and actually slowing my work (Speaking only for myself).
    I know there will always be users who jump right in, and the moment that something is non-intuitive, shout from the high heavens how Adobe doesn’t listen to the average user, and is only looking for some new flashy but useless in the real world feature to tout in a marketing video… I for one WILL take the time to explore and understand a new feature, but there has to be a payoff in a reasonable amount of time. Here we are, 5 months after the CS4 rollout, and I still feel uncomfortable with Adjustments, even though I use it every day…
    When you’re a parent, it’s ok to tell your kids to “just trust me and do what I tell you because I know better”, and most of the time they’re right, but it goes a long way to tell us what to expect AND how to get the most out of it BEFORE we’ve been set adrift, and formed a negative opinion that could have been avoided by a little proactive introduction and training…
    Dave

  • Jerry — 7:18 AM on March 20, 2009

    Since I’m usually complaining (lets call it adovocating) for something, let me take a break from that and say that I’m impressed by how seamless and useful the non-modal adjustment layer panel is.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Amadou Diallo — 8:08 AM on March 20, 2009

    One thing I would like to see with the Adj panel is a way to see all of your applied adj layers( with the ability to edit them) in a single expanding column. Right now you have to go to the Layers panel to see what you’ve added, but then clicking on a layer takes you back to the Adj panel. It feels too divorced from the Layers panel. Yes you can use “opt-]” to move between layers but I think the place where you see all of your layers simultaneously should be the same place where you can edit them.
    Going with the LR approach, the Adj panel could be something where you click a disclosure triangle to view and edit all of your adjustments, easily moving from one to the next. I get your point that this is only a first step in what is I’m sure a well-thought out big picture plan. But right now the Adj panel feels too much like an add-on. Those of us with long-ago established workflows, particularly ones that make use of shortcuts, aren’t seeing a lot of benefit today outside of the on-image tools, which are great. But this just makes a comparison to LR’s UI stronger, in a way that makes PS feel relatively clunky. It feels like we’re bolting on another piece instead of redesigning a more efficient app. Of course a PS redesign would make you about as loved as an AIG exec cashing in his bonus.

  • Jim Pogozelski — 9:53 AM on March 20, 2009

    I agree with “Martin Schaefer” about it being annoying when software assumes it’s “doing the Right Thing automatically, as its default behavior.” It really doesn’t kill me that Adjustment panel is visible even if I’m actually using, say, the Typography panels.
    By the way, isn’t the Options bar at top a ‘Properties Panel’?
    [That’s a properties panel for *tools*, not for *objects*. –J.]
    Hopefully it won’t get much fatter. The adobe panel (Illustrator) is much better than the MM versions (fireworks, dreamweaver, even CS4 flash)

  • Arnon — 10:28 AM on March 20, 2009

    Big picture: I find myself switching between Photoshop and Lightroom for doing post-work. I shouldn’t need to do that, and the lightroom adjustments are not visible in Photoshop. Moreover if I want to further adjust after adjusting in Lightroom I need to open in photoshop with lightroom adjustment – which produces another, flattened photoshop file.
    In generall, once I started working on an image in Photoshop I’d like to stick with Photoshop for the life of the image…
    So why do I go back to Lightroom after working in Photoshop? Simply because some adjustments work far better in Lightroom, and some have no equivalents in Photoshop (e.g. filters and some of the sliders). Most of these things can be accomplished in Photoshop, but with a lot more work and less ease.
    What would really work for me is a camera raw adjustment layer. This would bring all the power of camera raw (i.e. Lightroom) adjustments as a natural integration with Photoshop. Yes, it’s a much more complicated adjustment, and would not fit in the new interface – BUT it would make the workflow much better.
    Besides, it’s high time that camera raw should no longer be the red-headed step child. I see no reason why it should only be available as a first step in opening an image and not be treated as an adjustment layer. It’s like having an afterburner on my jet engine that can only be used on the ground…

  • Jean-Sebastien Monzani — 10:52 AM on March 20, 2009

    While I think that a non-modal interface might be an improvement, I’ve already raised a point that makes the Adjustment panel a major problem. I’m talking about *SPEED*.
    I’ve been an advocate of Photoshop for years but really, even with the PS4 update, there really is a problem in the GUI.
    Clicking on an adjustment layer to select also runs an *initial computation* required for this layer. I think Photoshop needs to gather some initial data before enabling the adjustment.
    When you work with *lots* of layers, modifications of the topmost adjustment layer makes the whole application slow: the required real-time refreshing of the adjustment panel slows down any modification of the layer: selecting layers, painting on their mask becomes really *slow*. Basically, *any* modification to this layer runs again a computation related to the adjustment layer. Furthermore, closing the panel doesn’t change anything, as the computation is still running.
    At the moment PS4 is still not usuable for me (tried on Mac and on PC).
    You really need to address this issue. By either refreshing the computation of adjustment layers from time to time or by speeding them up.
    I’ve already discussed this previously and you can test it with the file that I provide here:
    http://www.jsmonzani.com/bugcs4-300.zip
    Then open it in CS4 and change the image size from 300×300 to 3000×3000 pixels.
    Now, within the layers palette, click on the topmost curves layer and on the bottom one. On my computer, click on the topmost makes a lag while the bottom one is activated promptly. Similarly, painting on the topmost mask becomes slower than usual.
    This shows that there is a slowdow in the computation of adjustment layers.

  • Edward Caruso — 12:51 PM on March 20, 2009

    You mention some love the new panel and some don’t like so much, what about the many who hate it more than any other CS4 addition? I guess I feel that adjustment layers worked fine just the way the were in CS3. I have to use more effort to pull up layers, the icons in the panel are strange and obscure. It wouldn’t be so bad if the regular curves, selective color, etc panels from CS3 were now in the adjustment panel but now the entire look of every adjustment layer changed. If Adobe felt that the adjustment panel is the future but now is a work in progress, why would you change it completely now without giving the user an option to use the CS3 workflow? You say that its going to be great and elegant in the future but many of us experienced and longtime users need to work now and this adjustment panel impedes our workflow.
    And please don’t add more flashy stuff to the workspace.

  • Marky — 7:38 AM on March 21, 2009

    The new adjustments panel has many more disadvantages than advantages for experienced users. By experienced I mean people who have learned the most efficient ways to work already, NOT people who are stuck in their ways.
    Keyboard shortcuts are an essential part of any professionals workflow, allowing them to work at speed. To lose these completely in most cases, especially where Curves and Hue/saturation are concerned is a major problem. The inaccessibility of the curves Display Options, the loss of efficiency and operation of the scrubby sliders, are also problems. Not being able to reposition the panel around so easily also creates problems, but this is partly because of a pretty poor CS4 suite panel design, and not related to Photoshop alone.
    There are one or two advantages with the new setup – the TAT has some potential especially for adjusting Curves, but has not yet been implemented with efficiency, and is not as fast or as precise as the old point curves with the shortcuts . The ability to adjust mode and opacity of adjustments for some very limited types of work (visualising and design) has some minor advantages.
    I agree with everyone that has said about an option to keep the modal dialogs, because they are more powerful, more fluid, and more usable. A preference here would be much appreciated. I worked in a studio with 5 people all who do color correction all the time. Everyone except one doesn’t think the new panel is an improvement.

  • Scott Graham — 4:49 PM on March 21, 2009

    Re keyboard shortcuts:
    yes they are faster than a mouse, but…
    When I started to use a tablet I thought: “great for drawing, but will never replace my mouse”. Oh so wrong; I haven’t owned a mouse for years.
    So, I think that the keyboard should go next, except for heavy text. Think about your desktop. Mine was huge, but the easily reachable space is small.
    When using a tablet the keyboard, and its shortcuts, are just in the way. One hand (left for me) KB shortcuts aren’t too bad, but putting down a pen sucks (well slurps) time.
    So I still like the idea of tablet shortcuts using character recognition. And it opens the world to many more shortcuts—light and heavy pressure alphabetic characters and non keyboard characters or ‘figures’.
    Of course it could be a preference.
    A step in the right direction is great, but a stroke there is better :)

  • Klaus Nordby — 8:46 AM on March 22, 2009

    One area of UI frustrations to me are in the Hue/Saturation panel/dialog: I cannot see at a glance if I have changed any parameters for the individual colors, as this is “hidden” — until and unless I pick the Red, Blue, etc. dropdown control. The exact same problem exists also in the Selective Color and Channel Mixer, with a related one (radio-buttons) in the Color Balance adjuster.
    All these “hidden” adjustments have to go — let me please see EVERY adjustment I have made at a glance, withouth having to mouse and click everywhere. A well-implemented Properties system should deal 100% with this problem.

  • thinsoldier — 8:20 PM on March 22, 2009

    in addition to the adjustment layers (which rely on masks to indicate area of effect) there should be adjustments available as layer effects.
    And layer effects should be applied with the same concept as layers and allow us to drag the effects stacking order like normal layers.
    “The richness that’s possible in a PSD file … totally outstrips the Layers panel’s ability to display & control it.”
    Other apps have tried to deal with this by having multiple interfaces for working with the same data in multiple ways. For example Maya has it’s Hypervisor, Multilister, and Node Mapping Display, attribute editor, attribute spreadsheet. I still say there’s a hell of a lot of ideas in the 3d apps that definitely should be applied to managing 2d elements in apps like photoshop and ESPECIALLY ILLUSTRATOR.

  • David — 8:57 PM on March 22, 2009

    The gradient fill layer modal dialog boxes are terrible. They can go three levels deep, and there is no visual way to tell which one is active. This is especially bad when you have multiple monitors and one of the windows is hidden on a secondary monitor.
    There is the “Gradient Fill”, the “Gradient Editor” and the “Select stop color” windows. You can’t use the controls on a parent window without closing the child window.
    The Fill layers could be combined into the adjustments panel (though this would probably not be welcomed by some users)

  • George DeWolfe — 5:56 AM on March 23, 2009

    Many thanks for the update on the big picture.
    I’d like to add an admonition about working nondestructively. Many think that one can work willy-nilly without regard to the effect of workflow on an image. In other words, the Adjustment Panel and its successors will allow one to adjust anything at any time. This is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is that global and broad image adjustments can cause havoc on an image if done after local adjustments. Even in a nondestructive environment. There ought to be a discussion of workflow in this new PS environment so that this global before local law of physics has a chance to seat itself in everyone’s mind. The “sandbox” workflow, where you can do anything any time you want, is a chimera.
    George

  • George DeWolfe — 5:58 AM on March 23, 2009

    Many thanks for the update on the big picture.
    I’d like to add an admonition about working nondestructively. Many think that one can work willy-nilly without regard to the effect of workflow on an image. In other words, the Adjustment Panel and its successors will allow one to adjust anything at any time. This is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is that global and broad image adjustments can cause havoc on an image if done after local adjustments. Even in a nondestructive environment. There ought to be a discussion of workflow in this new PS environment so that this global before local law of physics has a chance to seat itself in everyone’s mind. The “sandbox” workflow, where you can do anything any time you want, is a chimera.
    George

  • T. Schmidt — 10:47 AM on March 23, 2009

    Thanks to renfrew for remembering Adobe that working with a keyboard is much faster than the mouse they seem to forget that on purpose.

  • Gabriel Marigo — 2:30 PM on March 23, 2009

    First of all, thanks for the update…
    But I just hate the new adjustments panel… It would be fine if it wasn’t the only option… I prefer to double click in the adjustment icon in the layers panel and adjust it in the popup window, rather than having a huge panel that pushes all my other panels in my secundary monitor to be able to use it in the expanded view…
    I used adjustments layers non destructively for years now, and would like the option to work with my old popup windows, rather than be stuck with a massive panel…

  • Stuart Murdoch — 12:06 AM on March 29, 2009

    I have had an application now for over 10 years that non-destructively edits in 16 bits, allows me to output to a variety of sizes and resolutions from the one file had a virtually no modal editing, it’s called ‘Live Picture’, I’m still waiting for Photoshop to catch up.

  • David — 7:05 AM on April 01, 2009

    I personally would like an option for turning off the list of presets on the adjustment panel. I personally do not use them and they take up a lot of space. I searched for a way to turn them off (and tried shrinking the size of the panel), but missed any solution if there is one.
    David

  • Bill OBrien — 8:31 AM on July 25, 2009

    I have been working at maintaining an application at work for about 15 years, hardware engineer turned code writer. Some things I have learned the hard way,
    1] If you can create a message that a mistake has been made you should fix it.
    2] Always have a place for the user to leave notes, in your case a small memo field that would stay with the file.
    3] Always have a way to do it manually and automatically.
    4] Help files should be on the web/etc as a last resort. Most users would like to see some instructions/explanation with out leaving the application. I use the color blue, if it is blue click it for help.
    5] PSD files are big but also contain a lot of information, would like to save all of them but just can not afford the infra-structure, there has got to be a better way.
    Have been using PS since ver7, great tool, I have learned a lot, long way to go. I really appreciate your approach and love the results, thanks Bill

  • Michael M — 4:15 PM on December 21, 2009

    I hate the new adjustments panel too. Larger curves panel PLEASE.
    [To make the panel larger, just hit the little button in the left hand corner (second from the left). –J.]
    It’d be just dandy if Photoshop could “do the right thing automatically” but, in the meantime, I’d like to be able to see what I’m doing.
    I’m also continually frustrated by CS4’s tendacy to automate itself into digital dashboard.
    [I’m not sure what that means. –J.]
    I like to open just the panels I’m using and position them as suits me at the time.
    And, how does one cancel an amendment to an adjustment??????
    [Undo. –J.]
    What was wrong with an okay and a cancel button.
    [You can’t cancel something that’s already been done; you have to undo it. (In the modal (dialog) form of the adjustments, the changes technically weren’t “done” until you hit OK, so you could cancel the process of creating them.) –J.]
    Regards,
    mm

  • Michael M — 5:21 PM on December 22, 2009

    I am using curves expanded.
    by dashboard, I mean they way panels arrange themselves. is there a way to turn off their snap to behaviour?
    thanks for the undo explanation. however, if you modify an adjustment layer twice without some other intervening step it is not recorded as separate history state. and, if you try a curves adjustment and don’t like it you now have to accept it (close the panel) and then delete the layer, or you have to hit ctrlZ then close the adjustment presets panel that appears. it’s a lot more long winded than just hitting cancel was.
    Gradients stil have cancel buttons, I take they’re not adjustments?
    mm

  • Mike "Pomax" Kamermans — 12:12 AM on March 14, 2010

    As a comment on the phrase “Wherever possible, software should do the Right Thing automatically, as its default behavior”, I’ve been using CS4 on windows for about a year now and the fact that every time I open it I get a mac program is, yes, still quite annoying.
    In a next version, please respect the differences in OS experience rather than forcing the UI concepts of one onto the other. A normal program with a normal title bar, an application frame, and OS dictated styling. Yes, that might be bland, but since when did application design turn into “one or the other”? Offer the windows look on windows, the mac look on mac, and then also offer the choice to change UIs. Too often does adobe go “we have something new. Have it instead of, rather than in addition.”
    I’d love to see photoshop for windows move back to being an application that respects the UI design concepts that virtually every other program respects (and we will ignore office 2007 and 2010. MS violating their own design principles is sadly their perogative). Give me the option of a CS3 UI, wrapping the functionality of a CS5, and you’ll have reearned the admiration of a probably large user group. (and yes, option. Redesign the UI as much as you like, but keep the old styling in there and let people pick)
    Until that happens, I’ll be suffering CS4. And only because Adobe doesn’t sell older versions of their software, regardless of whether it makes users happier than new versions for operations that haven’t changed (while understandable business practice, maddening when the previous version was a better user experience)

  • Erik Kambestad Veland — 9:25 PM on April 29, 2010

    How interesting that Windows users ALSO suffers from the NIH approach to UI Adobe takes.
    I remember this being an issue with the UI of the Windows version of Safari 3 as well. At least Apple listened to feedback and made it a native windows UI in 4.
    Unfortunately multi-platform developments will always suffer this issue. Instead of writing to a platform’s strengths you have to take the lowest common denominator approach. And the UI is the first to suffer. Adobe’s solution to this seems to be: “Let’s just make up our own GUI” to accommodate for this. Sadly this pleases no one but Adobe themselves.

  • Erik Kambestad Veland — 9:47 PM on April 29, 2010

    How interesting that Windows users ALSO suffers from the NIH approach to UI Adobe takes.
    I remember this being an issue with the UI of the Windows version of Safari 3 as well. At least Apple listened to feedback and made it a native windows UI in 4.
    Unfortunately multi-platform developments will always suffer this issue. Instead of writing to a platform’s strengths you have to take the lowest common denominator approach. And the UI is the first to suffer. Adobe’s solution to this seems to be: “Let’s just make up our own GUI” to accommodate for this. Sadly this pleases no one but Adobe themselves.

  • Erik Kambestad Veland — 9:55 PM on April 29, 2010

    How interesting that Windows users ALSO suffers from the NIH approach to UI Adobe takes.
    I remember this being an issue with the UI of the Windows version of Safari 3 as well. At least Apple listened to feedback and made it a native windows UI in 4.
    Unfortunately multi-platform developments will always suffer this issue. Instead of writing to a platform’s strengths you have to take the lowest common denominator approach. And the UI is the first to suffer. Adobe’s solution to this seems to be: “Let’s just make up our own GUI” to accommodate for this. Sadly this pleases no one but Adobe themselves.

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