It’s real.  A big, public beta of Photoshop CS3.  Now, if you own CS2, you can see what’s been keeping us so busy lately.

Now, you can read all about features on other sites – I don’t think this needs to be yet another me too list of features.  And this isn’t the place for reporting bugs or asking questions – use the Labs forums for that, I’ll be there along with some of the other engineers, time allowing (hey, we have to finish this thing).

We are doing this mostly because we wanted to get the Macintosh Universal Binary of the product into your hands as soon as we could.  It really wasn’t possible to do that with an updated CS2, it really did take that much effort, and it really wasn’t ready until recently.  But then, it wouldn’t be fair to do just a beta on the Mac side and not let the Windows users along for the ride.

This is a beta, but I think it’s in pretty darned good shape.  Part of why is that as a development team we broke free of the old waterfall methodology.  If you’re a developer, visit Waterfall 2006.  I find it pretty funny, maybe that’s just me – I’ve been living the waterfall nightmare for so long, the laughter comes from a dark place…

What it means is that we’ve kept the bug count low the entire cycle – especially the nastiest bugs.  Now, your "favorite" long-time bugs and annoyances may or may not be fixed (yes, we do listen, I keep a list, and we get to as many as we can), and after all, this is still a beta, there will be dragons there, but for the most part for something still this far from release, it’s in pretty good shape – and this wasn’t a special, lots-a-pain bug-fix build, but pretty much just pulling out a daily.  Yeah, I know, some of you developers will be going "but we’ve been doing things that way for a long time".  Hey, around here, a lot of the groups fall right back into waterfall at the first sign of trouble.  Nasty.

A couple of notes – due to the platform rules, the Macintosh version when running native on an Intel-based Macintosh will not load and run PPC-only plug-ins.  You’ll have to run under Rosetta to access those old scanner plug-ins. Or better yet, just use the scanner software in stand-alone mode.  Also, brush-sized cursors aren’t working when running Macintosh Intel native yet (they do work in Rosetta).  With a little help from Apple, the replacement for the old framebuffer-fiddling methods are well underway, but they didn’t make the beta.

The new UI can test Windows XP video drivers a little more, so you may want to make sure you have those updated, especially if you see some problems.  I like the new palette panes, but they do take getting used to, so give them a chance.  There are legacy workspaces in there if you really need the floating palettes back.  Vista support is in there, too.

As for performance, you should see start up times that are much lower than for CS2.  We’ve really worked hard on this – there’s more to go, of course, this is just a beta.  Oh, and as for comparing performance between platforms now that they use the same chip and we’re a Universal Binary on the Macintosh, well, I just don’t think such comparisons are valid – there are so many variables involved: number of processors, system memory bandwidth, disk I/O bandwidth, OS scheduling, API performance.  So if you see sites claiming that one platform or the other performs better, take it with a big grain of salt – I do.

So, if you’ve got the time and inclination (and Photoshop CS2) go ahead and grab the beta from Adobe Labs tomorrow and see what we’ve been up to.

[Edit – 12/15/06 9:30amPST – The links still aren’t live on the labs pages yet. It’s being worked on. – Scott]

[Edit – 12/15/06 12:15PST – They’re live now. Visit the forums at Adobe Labs for more help and info.]