April 26, 2010
Polishing the Adjustments panel in CS5
The introduction of the Adjustments panel in Photoshop CS4 marked a big step in making the Photoshop interface less modal, more browsable, and geared toward non-destructiveness. Unfortunately, in moving from dialog-based forms of the adjustments to a non-modal panel, we traded away a couple of niceties:
- In the dialog versions of Levels, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, etc., the first available text field is either automatically selected (i.e. it has keyboard focus), or you can hit Tab to select it. From there you can hit Tab additional times to cycle through text fields.
- In the dialog version of Curves, the eyedropper tool is automatically selected, so you can immediately click on the image to see/set points on the curve.
Thus the feature was a bit polarizing. To make things a bit smoother in CS5, we’ve made some enhancements:
- “Auto-Select Parameter” (available via the Adjustments panel flyout menu) puts keyboard focus on the first field in an adjustment layer, much as you’d get with the dialog form of the adjustment. In other words, you don’t have to click onto a text field in the panel before you can start typing in numbers.
- “Auto-Select Targeted Adjustment Tool” (available via the flyout menu when a Curves, B&W, or Hue/Sat layer is active) automatically switches to the on-canvas adjuster (aka “TAT”) when you select a layer with which it can be used. With this option active, creating or selecting a Curves layer produces an experience more akin to using the modal dialog box, where you can immediately click and drag on the document surface to set/adjust curve points.
- You can assign a shortcut to the Targeted Adjustment Tool via Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts.
None of these options are active by default, because each has a downside:
- We didn’t want PS to put keyboard focus onto adjustment parameters automatically, as doing so is very subtle and people would start saying, “Photoshop is buggy, because randomly I can’t select tools via the keyboard.” (They wouldn’t understand that having focus on the panel would mean that the letter they typed were being entered as adjustment values. Hopefully that makes sense.) We wanted this to be a conscious, opt-in behavior.
- Same goes for auto-selecting the TAT: we didn’t want PS to be seen to be “randomly” changing the active tool based on changes to the active layer. (There’s no existing precedent for doing so.)
- Keyboard shortcuts are in short supply, so the TAT doesn’t get one by default.
Ah, and one other thing: To put keyboard focus onto the first field in Adjustments, you can hit Shift-Return on the keyboard. This is independent of the preferences mentioned above, and it offers a way to change focus without clicking. (Call this one the Deke McClelland memorial feature, as it was his suggestion. [Update: Deke isn’t dead–or if he is, he hasn’t told me! I was just looking for a funny turn of phrase and didn’t dream that anyone would read much into it.])