October 16, 2008
Shortcut changes in PSCS4
By and large, keyboard shortcut changes suck. Mature tools are like musical instruments, and you don’t go moving the piano keys or cello strings without a great need to do so. It’s painful. We know.
Sometimes, though, a little pain enables much better things. In the CS4 release, we have made some improvements that result in a few shortcuts needing to change. First, the improvements:
- Photoshop is now consistent with both Mac & Windows shortcuts for switching among open documents. The Mac-standard Cmd-~ (technically Cmd-`) now cycles from one open document to the next. Adding Shift cycles in reverse order. These shortcuts work on both Mac & Windows. In addition, Photoshop continues to support Ctrl-Tab/Shift-Ctrl-Tab on both platforms, just as it always has, for the same function.
- The app is now consistent with other Suite tools (Illustrator, InDesign, Flash) in setting the zoom level to 100% via Cmd-1/Ctrl-1. (PS will continue to support the existing Cmd-Opt-0 as a duplicate shortcut.)
- You can drag-resize any brush cursor by holding down Ctrl-Opt (Mac)/Alt-right click (Win), then dragging. Add Cmd (Mac)/Shift (Win) to the combo to adjust brush hardness instead of size.
- People doing video work in Photoshop strongly requested single-key shortcuts for moving among frames. You can switch these on/off via the "Enable Timeline Shortcut Keys" command that lives in the Animation panel fly-out menu.
- Photoshop supports what we call spring-loaded shortcuts, enabling you to jump from any tool to any other temporarily.
Some of these enhancements necessitate some other changes. This all gets pretty esoteric, so I’m putting the nerdery into this post’s extended entry. Read on for that.
Photoshop now offers various adjustments (Curves, Levels, etc.) via an Adjustments panel. This means that instead of dancing into & out of dialogs, you can view and edit your adjustment settings simply by clicking each layer and using the panel. In particular, this means that you can adjust layer opacity, blending, and masking while continuing to work with the adjustment. Instead of jamming yet more things into dialogs, we made it possible to use those things while using the adjustment. Give it a little time & you’ll like it.
The move to panel-based adjustments means that we can’t completely replicate the shortcuts that work in the modal (dialog-based) versions of those adjustments. That is, because a dialog is its own little world, it can use shortcuts that would conflict with those used in Photoshop "proper." When we put things in a panel, we no longer have that isolated context.
- Pressing the = and – keys (what most users will think of as plus and minus) puts focus on curve points, then cycles through the curve points. Previously this behavior was handled by Ctrl-Tab on both Mac and Windows, but as mentioned above, that shortcut is already taken in Photoshop proper, so it won’t work with the Adjustments panel-based version of Curves.
- Displaying a channel in Photoshop was previously assigned to Cmd-1, 2, 3, etc. Cmd-1 would show Red, Cmd-2 would show Green, etc. Those shortcuts, along with the shortcut for showing the composite channel, have now shifted two places to the right. Therefore Cmd-2 shows the composite, Cmd-3 shows Red, Cmd-4 shows Green, etc.
- Targeting a channel in Curves, Levels, Channel Mixer, and other adjustments was previously assigned to Cmd-1, 2, 3, etc. Cmd-1 would target Red, Cmd-2 would show Green, etc. Just like the shortcuts for displaying channels, those shortcuts have all shifted two places to the right. To avoid a conflict with Cmd-2, etc. when using the panel-based adjustments, the shortcuts have changed to Opt-#. Therefore Opt-2 targets the composite, Opt-3 targets Red, Opt-4 targets Green, etc.
- The Hue/Saturation and Selective Color commands are slightly different as they don’t map to just RGB/CMYK, but the same general rules apply: Opt-2 selects the Master channel, and Opt-3, 4, etc. select the subsequent items in the list.
- To load luminosity as a selection, use Cmd-Opt-2.
- Tapping \ (backslash) cycles between normal view & displaying the mask on a layer. Holding backslash, however, displays a temporary preview of the unadjusted state of a document. (It’s like unchecking the Preview checkbox temporarily.) Because of the need to distinguish a tap from a hold, there’s a slight delay before the results of the hold behavior become visible.
Having read all this, you might reasonably say, "Fine, but Photoshop offers a keyboard shortcut editor, so let me switch things back if I’d like." That’s not possible, for a couple of reasons. One, the change from modal dialogs to non-modal panel simply means that some commands would now conflict (e.g. hitting Cmd-1 can’t both display a channel & target a channel), so just restoring the old behavior isn’t an option. Two, the shortcut editor frankly isn’t robust enough to handle certain special-purpose keys (numbers, tilde, etc.), and we didn’t have time to enhance it for CS4.
We have, however, created a solution: you can download a file containing a plug-in (Mac)/registry entries (Windows) that remap the channel keys. That is, you give up using Cmd-~ to switch among open documents, and you lose Cmd-1 for zooming to 100%, but tilde will go back to selecting the composite channel and 1, 2, 3, etc. will go back to selecting/targeting the first, second, third, etc. channels. The Mac plug-in just needs to be dropped into your Photoshop plug-ins directory, and on Windows you can enable/disable the behavior by double-clicking the reg entries.
We’re providing these tools to help ease people into using CS4, but my advice is to try using the new system for a while.