Nothing else comes close.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
New Photoshop is faster, more powerful

Aug. 26, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   If you want a fine automobile and don't mind the cost, you can buy a BMW or a Lexus. Or maybe a Mercedes-Benz or a Jaguar. You have many choices.
   But you're looking loneliness in the eye if you're looking for the same kind of choice for digital photo editing. You have Adobe Photoshop and that's all. Nothing else comes close -- because nothing else is available. In terms of advanced photo-editing software that can be installed on both Windows PCs and Macs -- if you leave out all the Windows-only and Mac-only programs, in other words -- Photoshop is all there is.
   This one-horse race would be a bad thing if Adobe tried to lock computer users into Photoshop the way Microsoft tries to lock users into Windows. But Adobe's monopoly is different, and the company has continued to augment Photoshop year by year without trying to stifle possible competitors.
   The latest evidence of Adobe's improvements to its photo software is Photoshop CS3 -- Creative Suite 3 -- which costs between $500 and $1,000, depending on the discount and on whether you choose the regular version or an "Extended" edition that has features helpful to architects, engineers and multimedia pros. The Windows and Mac versions cost the same and have identical features.
   Those two price tags aren't misprints -- Photoshop is serious software and costs a lot -- but there are ways to soften the blow. Students can get big discounts and Adobe also offers a cut rate to anyone upgrading from a previous version. Go to www.adobe.com/products/photoshop for more information on the two versions. You can download a trial version of either one, too.
   (Adobe also makes a stripped-down version of Photoshop called Photoshop Elements. It's much cheaper, selling for $70 to $90, depending on discounts. It has many of the important features of Photoshop and is a good choice if you don't want to pay for all the fancy functions in its big sibling.)
   I installed the Mac version on our 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro. Adobe says both the Mac and Windows versions need at least 512 megabytes of memory on your computer, but no one would want to run Photoshop on a system with such paltry RAM. Our MacBook Pro came with 1 gigabyte of memory -- enough to run Photoshop, but not enough to run it while I was doing anything intensive at the same time -- so I added another gigabyte for 2 GB total RAM.
   The extra memory sets Photoshop free, so to speak. The MacBook Pro has a dual-core Intel processing chip (the CPU) and is very fast. I was easily able to run Windows at the same time I was running Photoshop. (Modern Macs are able to run Windows natively. Here's more info: www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec042207.html.)
   Some of the changes in CS3 are minor. The graphical interface is a little cleaner, for example, and it matches the interfaces in Adobe's other programs better. Photoshop starts up faster and, at least on Intel-based Macs, runs much faster than before.
   Other changes include a better Camera Raw module -- "raw" photos come out of a camera without any preprocessing -- and some improvements to the brightness adjustment and the way Photoshop converts color photos to gray-scale pictures (so-called "black and white" changes).
   Printing is easier in CS3. The Print dialog has been redesigned (a long-overdue change) and PDF creation has been brought up to date, too.
   Long-time Photoshop users probably don't need encouragement to upgrade. But if you've never tried the program, you can download a trial copy for free from www.adobe.com/downloads.